Behold the Kensington, an early 1990s interpretation from the pen of the great Giorgetto Giugiaro of how future Jaguar saloons should look.
The car appeared as a styling model at the 1990 Geneva motor show and was later turned into a swooping prototype based on the chassis and mechanicals of the Jaguar XJ12 Sovereign HE.
Peter Robinson, at the time Autocar’s European editor, had the opportunity to drive the Kensington but was taken more with its technology than with its on-road manners or looks.
“Forget the controversial styling for one moment and consider Giugiaro’s Kensington Jaguar as perhaps the greatest automotive party trick of all time,” he wrote.
“You walk up to it holding a small device barely the size of a cigarette packet. On it are six small buttons. Stand 15ft away, point the control box at the car, press the appropriate button and there’s a mild clunk as the doors unlock.
“Nothing unusual in that – except this time it’s followed by a whirr and a click as the driver’s door begins to open. Believe me, it’s an eerie sensation, watching a car door extend out from the body, unaided by human hands.
“What happens next is even more bizarre. Squeeze another of the buttons and almost simultaneously the starter motor whirrs, as the Jaguar V12 engine fires up before quickly settling down to a smooth idle.
“You stare, not believing what you know to be true. The door is open, the engine running and your eyes tell you there’s nobody in the driver’s seat.
“No, it’s not done by trickery, just modern electronics. And both features can be expected to reach production cars during the coming decade.”
Driving the Kensington was broadly similar to driving contemporary V12-engined Jaguars, but the styling was a radical departure.
“What you’re most aware of with the Kensington is the startling change in interior ambience. In his quest to build a contemporary Jaguar, Giugiaro has forsaken the traditional timber interior.
“The sweeping, moulded plastic dashboard is massive, running off to the base of the windscreen and down a very wide, bulky console which contains a battery of LCD controls.
“The front quarter-light window is almost as wide at its base as the door’s opening window. In fact, the A-pillars are so long and steeply angled that you sit well back from the base of the windscreen. You see little of the bonnet, while rear visibility is also poor.”
Robinson reported that Jaguar executives had examined the car but had made no further contact.
“Giugiaro insists a ’90s Jaguar should look like the Kensington. Jaguar has its own interpretation of the future, but we won’t be allowed a preview of that until 1995 at the earliest,” he concluded.
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