2007 Jaguar XK Convertible Review


PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

DRIVING DOWN THE ROAD
WITH CAREY RUSS

If the 1996 through 2006 Jaguar XK wasn't absolutely the most important car in the company's long history, it was certainly in the top few. It heralded a renaissance at the near-legendary English luxury and sports car manufacturer, and was the perfect bridge between the past and future.

That XK was the first Jaguar built under Ford ownership. But all Ford did, really, was provide development money and expertise, and the odd small part. The monocoque chassis and AJ-V8 engine were all Jaguar's, as was the styling - which evoked the classic E-Type without being overtly nostalgic. The first-generation XK was the fastest-selling Jaguar sports car ever, and sold strongly right up to the end of production. Gorgeous looks will do that.

But over that decade, competition in the luxury sports class increased significantly, and the XK got old. The Jaguar of times past would have kept it on, little changed, but that Jaguar is thankfully ancient history. Today's Jaguar has dealt with the future with an almost completely new XK.

The 2007 Jaguar XK, offered in naturally-aspirated XK and supercharged XKR form in both coupe and convertible body styles, is identical to its predecessor in name only. While the engine is the now-familiar AJ-V8, it's gotten important improvements. The chassis is completely new, now a lightweight aluminum monocoque structure for a significant reduction in weight - and an even more significant increase in rigidity, especially in the convertible. The styling is completely contemporary, but is immediately recognizable as Jaguar.

The second-generation XK is the most technologically-advanced Jaguar yet built, but all of that mechanical and electronic, engine, chassis, and cabin tech is implemented in a manner that does not detract from the driver and passenger's experience of the car. As was the case with its predecessor, the 2007 XK is a luxury grand touring car in the true meaning of that often inappropriately-used term - a car meant for covering long distances on the road at high speeds and in supreme comfort.

A recent week with an XK Convertible highlighted that very well. A couple of 200-mile days, mostly by highway, were part of my week, and the XK Convertible made the journey a pleasure. Unlike the previous model, there is no discernible cowl shake in the new convertible, even on poor surfaces. It's solid and comfortable, with the degree of refinement expected from a car in its class and then some. It's also quick, if a bit large to be truly nimble. The top, although completely power-operated, is still of the traditional fabric variety, not new-style folding metal. The benefit? More trunk space, not a bad trait for touring, and proven technology. Unlike so many cars built today, even expensive luxury cars, the XK has a distinctive character. At all times, you are reminded that you are in a Jaguar, not a generic transportation appliance.

APPEARANCE: Long, lithe, and lean - a good description of the XK Convertible, especially with the top down. It's quite handsome with the top up, too. A graceful update of the old XK, it is more chiseled in style but far from angular. The small oval grille, large, faired-in headlights, and sensuous curve of the fenders make it instantly recognizable as a Jaguar. Vertical vents in the front fenders add contrast to the mainly horizontal lines of the sides. The wheels fill the wheel arches fully. A clean rear treatment is topped by a discreet ducktail spoiler at the rear of the trunk.

COMFORT: Even with the optional "Luxury Aluminum Package" with which my test car was equipped, I never had any doubt that I was in a British car. With its full leather instrument panel, textured aluminum trim, and soft-grain leather on the 16-way power-adjustable front seats, it's pricey - over $8,000! - but does add contemporary flavor. Wood, either dark burled walnut or lighter poplar, is standard, all the better for traditionalists. Two long-standing Jaguar interior features are missing - the horseshoe-shaped binding around the center stack and the J-gate shifter. The stack now a more mainstream design, and the J-gate, with manual shifting on one side, has been replaced with an "L" and steering wheel-mounted shift paddles. The front-seat passengers have noticeably more room than in the old XK, and the venerable physical key has given way to a keyless electronic transponder and start/stop button. The main instruments are in a binnacle in front of the driver, and easily seen. The standard DVD-based navigation system is controlled through a simple, intuitive touch-screen interface, as are most interior parameters except the basic climate functions. There are auxiliary controls on the steering wheel. Seat comfort in front is excellent; the "2+2" rear is best left for lucky small children or pampered packages.

SAFETY: The 2007 Jaguar XK protects its passengers with structural strength, front and front side airbags, large antilock vented disc brakes, and a multi-mode dynamic stability-control system. Convertibles add the Roll-Over Protection System.

RIDE AND HANDLING: The most notable benefit of the new XK's bonded and riveted aluminum monocoque structure to most drivers and passengers will be its 50 percent greater rigidity. This translates noticeably to a lack of cowl shake, even on poor road surfaces, and banishment of rattles associated with that shake. Although the basic construction of all XK models is identical, utilizing ideas and techniques that Jaguar has been developing since the experimental E1A prototype of 1957, including a fully-independent suspension with the half-shafts doubling as upper rear locating links, the regular XK models are tuned more genteelly than the higher-performance XKR. In all, the Computer Active Technology Suspension (CATS) active damping system varies the shock damping to allow for both good ride comfort and precise handling. The XK is large and, although lighter than the old models, still relatively heavy, so it responds best to a smooth driving style. And then it will reward its driver with a very pleasurable experience.

PERFORMANCE: In naturally-aspirated XK trim, the latest version of the AJ-V8 engine develops "only" 300 horsepower (at 6000 rpm), with peak torque of 310 lb-ft at 4100 rpm. If not the supercharged XKR's 420 horses and 413 lb-ft, it's hardly deficient, especially in speed-limited America. With the same smooth six-speed, manually-shiftable automatic transmission as the R, it will take a second longer than the R to get from a stop to 60 mph, and the convertible, because of its slightly greater weight, will take a tenth of a second more. Insignificant, really, in the real world, as the is plenty quick enough, and eminently civilized while being so. Variable cam phasing and improvements to the fuel injection are the major changes to the engine, resulting in more power and smoother operation. Stopping is handled quite well by large four-wheel ventilated disc brakes.

CONCLUSIONS: The second-generation Jaguar XK is a significant improvement upon the first.

SPECIFICATIONS

2007 Jaguar XK Convertible Specs
Base Price			$ 80,835
Price As Tested			$ 94,000
Engine Type			aluminum alloy 32-valve
				 dual overhead cam V8
Engine Size			4.2 liters / 256 cu. in.
Horsepower			300 @ 6000 rpm
Torque (lb-ft)			310 @ 4100 rpm
Transmission			6-speed automatic
Wheelbase / Length		108.3 in. / 188.6 in.
Curb Weight			3759 lbs.
Pounds Per Horsepower		12.5
Fuel Capacity			18.8 gal.
Fuel Requirement		91 octane unleaded premium gasoline
Tires				f: 255/35 ZR20 r: 285/30 ZR20
				 Dunlop SP Sport Maxx
Brakes, front/rear		vented disc / solid disc, ABS, traction and stability control standard
Suspension, front/rear		independent double wishbone/
				  independent multilink with
				  driveshafts as upper link
				active electronically-controlled damping
Drivetrain			front engine, rear-wheel drive

PERFORMANCE
EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon
    city / highway / observed		18 / 27 / 20
0 to 60 mph				6.0  sec

OPTIONS AND CHARGES
Advanced Technology Package - includes:
  adaptive cruise control, adaptive lighting		$ 2,500
Premium Sound Package - includes:
  8-speaker, 525 watt Alpine sound system,
  Sirius satellite radio				$ 1,875
Luxury Aluminum Package - includes:
  20-inch alloy wheels, dimpled aluminum trim,
  soft-grain leather interior, leather-trimmed instrument 
  panel, 16-way power-adjustable seats			$ 8,125
Destination charge					$   665

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