The Jaguar XK is a luxury sports two-door coupe or convertible. Originally built to replace the XJS in 1997, the second-generation XK has continued Jaguar's rise into the upper echelon of the grand touring category. Competing with the likes of the BMW 6-Series, Chevy Corvette, and Porsche 911 (especially in supercharged XKR trim) the all-aluminum XK is one of Jaguar's sportiest interpretations of luxury motoring.
The first-generation Jaguar XK was introduced back in 1996 at the Geneva Motor Show. A sleek, stylish replacement for the old XJS, the XK8 and XKR coupe and convertible lasted on the U.S. showroom floor through the 2006 model year. Though resale values were typically Jaguar--astonishingly low--the XK8 proved a vastly superior, vastly more reliable car than the one it replaced. It was during its tenure on the market that Jaguar made remarkable leaps in initial quality and in fit and finish, and the first-generation XK was the most beautiful evidence of that transformation. The XK did have the reputation of more of a grand tourer than of a true sportscar--even though it sported either a 300-hp V-8 or a 420-hp supercharged V-8, its handling didn't quite match the brilliance of a Porsche 911. Its best attributes were its feline styling grace, its wood-buffed cockpit, and its relaxed ride quality.
The current XK range came to the U.S. in the 2007 model year. You'd be hard-pressed to find a more suave grand tourer from any brand, even Maserati or Ferrari. The current XK arrived in showrooms with the 300-hp V-8 and the 420-hp supercharged V-8 intact, but with a much more sophisticated and crisper style as witness to the change underneath its body. The new XK had dropped steel body sections for bonded and riveted aluminum, which made it lighter, more nimble, and significantly less subject to the creaks and twists that could crop up in the prior car. Our verdict: approval on every front, save for the ridiculously small rear seats.
For the 2010 model year, Jaguar updated the engines in the XK to include its latest, most powerful 5.0-liter V-8 powerplants. The normally aspirated 5.0-liter V-8 in the XK coupe and convertible churns out 385 horsepower; with the standard six-speed paddle-shifted automatic, it's good for 0-60 mph times of about 5 seconds. With supercharging, the same engine spits out 510 hp and 0-60 mph times drop to less than 4.6 seconds. In either form, ride and handling are superb. Steering is a responsive joy, and the XK and XKR are tuned for a smooth highway ride, good tracking and stability, flat cornering, and great grand-touring comfort.
Rear-seat room is still inherently sportscar-small--and the updated LCD touchscreen that drives climate, navigation and audio functions seems to have taken a step backward in functionality. Still, the current Jaguar XK and XKR represent some of the finest machines ever built by Coventry--and real competitors for hardcore German iron.
Other changes over the past couple of model years have focused around enhancing the XK's feature set and its performance image. For 2011, the XK lineup got optional HD Radio. In the same year, a new XKR175 limited edition coupe combined 20-inch wheels, red brake calipers, and a top speed of 174 mph. In 2012, the XKR-S was the star of the show, with a boost to 550 hp and a 0-60 time of under 4.2 seconds; a rearview camera became standard equipment as well.
In the 2013 model year, a new Touring Coupe and Touring Convertible were introduced to bring down the base price of the Jaguar XK lineup by more than $5,000 from 2012. Now with a base price of $79,875 for the coupe and $85,875 for the convertible, the XK gets a standard 525-watt premium audio system, dual-zone climate control, keyless entry and start, a reverse camera system, parking sensors, folding power mirrors, and bond-grain leather with Satin Rosewood veneers inside.
A new limited-edition model, the XKR-S GT, was introduced at the 2013 New York Auto Show. While only a few dozen will be built, Jaguar says the lessons learned in development of this high-performance model will translate to other cars throughout the range.