November 17, 2006
What you see here is the next generation of Jaguar coupes and convertibles…and it’s a lot different than we expected. For one, we’ve never burned rubber in a Jaguar before. Well, okay, that’s not true, but at least in the new XK it seemed like the right thing to do, but more on that later.
The new XK has an aluminum structure and body and, as is usually the case with aluminum, the car is uncannily rigid. Tight as a drum, stiff as a pole, a unibody forged by God’s own Viagra. You get the idea. Top up or down there was never a single squeak or rattle – even over Toronto’s worst roads and that’s saying something. If there was a screw loose, it was definitely the guy behind the wheel.
This is especially noteworthy given the new XK’s changed character. You see, the old XK was a pussycat in more ways than one. The ride was buttery smooth, but the handling was way more ‘luxo barge’ than ‘canyon carver.’ The new XK sits taught on massive optional 20-inch “Senta” wheels and tires. Although the ride is still very comfortable, it isn’t soft. More remarkable still is how flat, linear and responsive the new XK is in the corners. Throw the car into an on-ramp and the steering feel builds in a linear fashion with no understeer to be found. Dump in the V8’s power and she just grips and shoots forward.
Acceleration is stirring and that’s in no small part due to the raunchy exhaust sounds coming from the massive dual tips. More Mustang than Ferrari, the XK snarls and barks when you stab the gas. Remarkably it quiets right down on the highway. Part of the credit has to go to the six-speed automatic transmission (the same unit as in the Aston Martin DB9) and its ability to swap gears quickly and smoothly. Paddle shifters on the steering wheel let you exact more control than in other automatics and a sport setting really livens things up with the tranny willing to hang on to gears around corners even if you’ve come out of the gas. Another novel feature is that the XK matches revs on manual downshifts – a feature few manu-matics have.
The engine is an evolution of Jaguars 3.9-litre 32-valve V8 now displacing 4.2-litres and pumping out 300-hp and 310 lb.-ft. of torque. Jaguar claims a 0-100 km/h time of 6.2 seconds but the big cat feels far more fleet of foot. Top speed is limited to 249 km/h. Although academic, we figured you’d want to know for late night bench racing with your buds.
The quiet interior can be traced to the aforementioned rigid structure, but also to the well-engineered multi-layer fabric roof that can be raised or lowered more quickly than the competition’s. While we are talking about the interior, it is worth mentioning the world-class materials and all that, but what you no doubt really want to hear about is that the wood is authentic and you have ample interior leather, wood, colour combinations not to mention ample space for six-foot-five drivers – not something you can say about the old XK.
A new navigation system and touch-screen interface bring a modern look and feel to the cabin. But the touch-screen is hard to use while driving as you can ‘land’ your finger on any particular control and the screen is easily washed out by direct sunlight.
Lamentably, the large wooden plank that used to grace the cabin is gone, but in its place are actual ergonomically-designed controls. Steering wheel controls for the radio are especially handy as the touch-screen can be hard to use while driving. If you gotta have a huge slab of wood on your dash, Mercedes seems to have adopted the design on the CLS coupe. Go figure.
One aspect we have yet to comment on, however, is the exterior styling – especially from the rear – this is a horny looking car. Wide, sculpted haunches hide massive tires and support an erect lip spoiler. So wide are the optional tires that they need little fender extensions that make us think of the functional body modifications of a race-car. The hood is suitably long and low and the cabin is still compact looking, albeit roomy, maintaining classic proportions. Well roomy except for the back seats which are simply ridiculous and make the back seat of a Porsche 911 look commodious. Reserve these for grocery bags or people you really don’t like.
You won’t, however, actually need to expand your groceries into the back as there’s ample storage in the trunk which is now accessible through a hatch opening. A hatch opening on a Jaguar!?! Saints preserve us.
Some will be impressed by how similar the XK is in silhouette to the DB9, but we actually like the rear end styling of the Jag better. This is a new and appropriate direction for the XK – a grand touring car that is sporty to drive and rewards the driver with not only sensuous lines, but also aural pleasure. Aural pleasure, oh grow up already. ($113,000-120-ish).
Manufacturer’s web site