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Concepts and prototypes : ItalDesign Kensington

In 1990, world-renowned carrozzeria ItalDesign unveiled its Kensington – a very Italian take on how the next Jaguar saloon should look like.

Could producing it for real given Jaguar its 2010 XJ moment 20 years earlier?

Words: Keith Adams

Redefining the leaping cat

A very Italian cat...

A very Italian cat...

One of the best known Jaguar prototypes produced by an Italian styling studio remains the striking Jaguar Kensington. When it was unveiled in 1990, it looked developed enough to be put into production, sitting as it did on an XJ12 floorpan, and being powered by Browns Lane running gear. But the project, drawn-up by Giorgetto Giugiaro and his team wasn’t sanctioned by Jaguar, and was considered very much a case of being ‘not invented here’ by the British company.

But it remains a fascinating concept, and one, which at the time was not considered ‘Jaguar’ enough in its overall appearance by most marque enthusiasts. But in light on Ian Callum’s XF and XJ revolution of the 21st century, we can look at this neatly styled car with a fresh perspective, and contemplate what would have happened had Jaguar put the Kensington into production during the early 1990s.

Certainly as the images in the gallery below clearly show, from certain angles the Kensington remains a very handsome car. Giugiaro was careful to ensure that it featured prominent ‘haunches’, a design signature that was consistent on all post-war Jaguars, barring the XJ-S. Inside, too, there was enough wood and leather to satisfy the most plutocratic owner/driver, but it was presented in a much more contemporary style.

Of course, the quad-headlamps were dropped, and that would have been controversial back in the 1990s – but again, as the XF and XJ have proved, it’s possible for a Jaguar to do without this feature.

So, what do you think? Would this car have done well, had it arrived on the scene in 1993 instead of the X300? Would it have set Jaguar on the course it’s now taking, but nearly two decades sooner? Or would it have been shunned by buyers who wanted Jaguars to look like Jaguars…?

Let us know what you think.


Frontal aspect is very neat, but is it Jaguar enough?

Frontal aspect is very neat, but is it Jaguar enough?

'Gothic' rear lamp clusters from the series 3 XJ carried over in spirit.

'Gothic' rear lamp clusters from the series 3 XJ carried over in spirit.

The Jaguar three-quarter haunches are very evident here.

The Jaguar three-quarter haunches are very evident here.

Definitely dramatic enough to be a Jaguar - in profile...

Definitely dramatic enough to be a Jaguar - in profile...

You can see how this design evolved into the Daewoo Leganza from this view...

You can see how this design evolved into the Daewoo Leganza from this view...

Interior is swoopy and looks similar to the 1989 Lotus Elan, but steering wheel retains the Jaguar character.

Interior is swoopy and looks similar to the 1989 Lotus Elan, but steering wheel retains the Jaguar character.

ItalDesign’s twins

Daewoo Leganza.

Daewoo Leganza.

Lexus GS300 Mk2.

Lexus GS300 Mk2.

Keith Adams

Keith Adams

Editor and creator AROnline at AROnline
Created in 2001 and built it to become the world's foremost reference source for all things BMC, Leyland and Rover Group, before renaming it AROnline in 2007.

Is the Editor of the Parkers website and price guide, formerly editor of Classic Car Weekly, and launch editor/creator of Modern Clsssics magazine. Has contributed to various motoring titles including Octane, Practical Classics, Evo, Honest John, CAR magazine, Autocar, Pistonheads, Diesel Car, Practical Performance Car, Performance French Car, Car Mechanics, Jaguar World Monthly, MG Enthusiast, Modern MINI, Practical Classics, Fifth Gear Website, Radio 4, and the the Motoring Independent...

Likes 'conditionally challenged' motors and taking them on unfeasable adventures all across Europe.
Keith Adams

Latest posts by Keith Adams (see all)

16 Comments on "Concepts and prototypes : ItalDesign Kensington"

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  1. Will M says:

    The Seat Toledo (mk2) is a close cousin?

  2. Neil Rapsey says:

    Front head lights are very Daewoo Nexia in style

  3. bangernomics says:

    Overall I like it, but the front’s painfully bland and the big front overhang makes it look FWD. The GS300 looks like they took the same designa and grafted on a shoddy imitation of the lights from a W210 E-Class.

  4. Jaguarundi says:

    The problem with this design is that it doesn’t undisputedly look like a Jaguar.

    It is possible for a Jaguar to look progressive (as opposed to archaic and retrograde) and also look like it deserves the leaping cat logo. The XF manages it very well, though I’m not too sure about the X351 XJ.

    The XF takes inspiration from the current Jaguar sports car/GT, the XK. The original XJ started out looking like an E-Type saloon. The Kensington, on the other hand, does not closely resemble Jaguar sports cars, past or present. To my eyes, it simply looks like an unremarkable 1990s executive saloon with certain Jaguar design elements – the grille, the taillights, the swage line, the haunches. Some of these elements are good, but together they make it look like an unremarkable Lexus GS with Jaguar X300 detailing.

    Certainly, Jaguar should have gone down a different route than the archaic design theme demanded by nostalgic old gentlemen in the Eastern United States. Retro design simply wasn’t going to cut it with the world’s new money professionals who eventually became loyal to BMW, Audi and Mercedes-Benz vehicles. However, Jaguar needed a unique selling point; its cars needed to look like Jaguars.

    An XF-style four door coupe would have been an interesting development at 1990s Jaguar.

  5. daveh says:

    I always thought this was a missed opportunity by Jaguar. The front end needs work but there is the flowing lines that Jag had. Compare this to the S Type and this wins hands down. Its funny how this was shrunk into the Daewoo Leganza, which could have also been a good looking motot had they been bothered to do a decent job on the nose.

    Jag also missed another opportunity with what became the Xedos. Both cars were rumored to have been designed by an ex Ford designer (a rumor rife at Dagenham and Dunton) as possible new Jags. These were rejected and he supposedly then sold them to Mazda. Not sure how true this is.

  6. gaz says:

    just looks American to me.

  7. Frankie says:

    I think it looks very Lancia/Alfa to me. I wonder what happened to it?

  8. Mikey C says:

    The front is a bit bland, but overall that would have made an excellent S type

  9. John McAllister says:

    The front looks like a Rover 800 and the tail like a Rover 75. Its a pity they didn’t launch this instead of the Mondeo…..sorry I mean the X Series.

  10. Chris Baglin says:

    Not a bad looking effort- but I am a bit of a traditionalist when it comes to Jag styling, although I accept that the familiar Jag ‘look’ dead-ended with the X and S types, and the first of the aluminium bodied XJs.

    The present Jags are fine looking cars, and are arguably better styled than their immediate predecessors, but like this prototype, they have had to become more anonymous in order to move on. This was a Jag that morphed into a Lexus, and the latest Jags are Lexii that have morphed into Jaguars.

    I think the last truly great looking Jag was the X300 (and closely related X308). Whilst the latest XJ is probably the most desirable of the current crop of Euro Luxo-barges, I would still rather have an X300, or pepperpotted Series 3.

  11. Richard M says:

    Gotta stop looking backwards folks! Pepper potted Series 3’s…really? The current XJ looks marvellous on the road and looks unlike anything else. Precisely what Ian Callum was looking for.

  12. Nate says:

    In a way the Italdesign Kensington looks like it would have been better off forming the basis of post-1990s Triumphs (were they not discontinued) rather then Jaguars though it would have still needed more dramatic styling.

  13. James says:

    screwed up face looks like it’s sucking a lemon. Not pretty from any angle

  14. Michael Otto says:

    Ugly…..No way….No elegance….No style….Nothing you would remind on….

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