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2007 Jaguar XK Coupe Review - A Love Story

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2007 Jaguar XK Coupe

SEE ALSO: Jaguar Buyers Guide

By Gareth Wardell

“You delight in the metal strips on the running board section of the after-wing. Running your hand across them discovers a delicacy in polished steel, perfect for muddy boots or brogues. They stand out like expensive fountain pens bejeweling the deep luster of the black paintwork. Each is longer than the last, each pointing to the vertical louvers on the bonnet. Scattered elements made of stainless steel glisten on the bodywork like brooches. The entire car exudes strength, fortitude, an easy gracefulness, British practical design and purpose at its very best as exercised in the 1920s.” I wrote that paragraph on seeing Sir William Lyons Swallow Jaguar SS90 Prototype in a heritage museum. Lyrical it may be but the car inspires poetic prose. More than that, it’s a man’s car; it does manly things, makes manly noises, and has lots of manly metal to polish. It was designed to be both sporty and a GT, as was its successor, the SS100. Every road-going Jaguar sports car since has been imbued with the same manly GT qualities.

Sir William went on to create other great motorcars, though after the XK150 he left design to his gifted aero dynamist engineer, Malcolm Sayers, the result was the XKE, or E-Type, as it’s known in Europe. Then came Sayer’s XJS with its controversial flying buttresses, not as beautiful as the XKE but still with great road presence. The XK that followed harked back to the XKE in looks but was saddled with the XJS’s chassis. The new XK is a giant leap forward yet it hasn’t had an easy ride from some quarters. Reviewers assert it’s not a true sports car because the ride is too soft; it is too like an Aston Martin, the cabin is nothing special; it’s the same engine as before; women will drive it, ad nauseam. Let’s look at those criticisms closely.

“The XK is too like an Aston Martin DB9.” Is that a worry? Ian Callum, Jaguar’s head of design, made his imprint on both companies. It’s debatable which is the most beautiful. The nose of the Aston does not have a polyurethane protective cone. All the lines converge on the grille. The front elevation is commendably clean and uncluttered but minimalism comes at a price in stone chips and costly repairs at the slightest bump. The Jaguar XK coupe I drove got compliments from drivers and pedestrians alike. I asked six discerning motorists to compare the XK with the DB9. All thought both cars beautiful, but the XK more “elegant,” “taut,” “muscular.” One felt the headlights cut to the wheel arch awkward, while another thought the DB9 had an attenuated nose, “too close to the headlights.” All felt the interiors good design solutions, simple and minimalist. Perhaps there is a convergence of possibilities when it comes to designing a desirable GT. Historically, the DB9 is a development of the DB7, a car also designed by Ian Callum, a car originally destined to be the new XK Jaguar. Here’s a new XK owner’s view, “I thought the [Aston Martin] V8 was a great car, but the clutch was heavy, the gearbox clunky; the ride was harsher than the Jag’s. I think the Jag is the perfect balance between sport and comfort. When you put your foot down it turns into a hooligan.” (John Steele – Scotland) Believe me; it takes a lot to convince a Scotsman to buy anything that isn’t good value. John’s commendation is praise indeed.

“It is not a sports car.” If journalists are expecting a pure sports car not sports GT they should direct their criticism to Bill Ford and ask him to approve the budget to build a production version of the exquisite F-Type, and stay true to the concept. The criticism is often accompanied by the opinion the suspension is too soft. It is the fashion for journalists to harp on (and on) about steering feel and suspension. While eradicating numb steering feel is desirable ultra-sensitivity is not. Far too many car manufactures are dialing in suspension that rattles teeth with lightning steering responses leaving you exhausted after a long journey. Racing suspensions are for racing cars. The XK soaks up most bumps and undulations with aplomb but still allows you to “feel” road camber and alignment irregularities. Only the worst pothole unsettles steering momentarily. Steering feel is fine for a GT of its size, and it is benign on the limit. I would not want it to have the instant responses of a go-kart. There is no rule book stating a driver will know a “real’ sport car when it feels as if wrestling a mad gorilla.

“The cabin is nothing special.” The cabin is a good example of modern simplicity of design and good ergonomics. Plastic surfaces are kept to a minimum. Those evident are of a good quality and texture. Materials are matched tastefully. I’d have preferred the innovative seared black wood seen in the stunning C-XF concept to the alloy inserts in the XK, a better combination against the volume of stitched grained leather. Instrument faces are modern interpretations of the Jaguar style, green glow and all, pleasant enough even if they don’t quite sparkle as jewelry. They are not illegible vulgar bling.

“The engine is the same as before.” The engine is one of the world’s best. And it has undergone constant development to meet stringent emission regulations. The 4.2 liter variable valve-timed V8 shoots the car forward to 60 mph in less than six seconds, and quite frankly, that’ll do fine for most driving situations. If you want faster buy the supercharged version. In any event, I found it very difficult to hold the car back to the speed of parallel vehicles when the lights changed to green. Even the lightest touch on the pedal pushed your back into the seat squab. The thrill of power and torque underfoot never diminishes, mile after mile of humdrum city street. Top speed is limited to 155 mph. The Jaguar’s 6-speed sequential auto shift is flawless, smooth changes in transmission arrive without hesitation. The big revelation is the paddles behind the steering wheel for manual shifts; the best I have tested in any modern car, Porsche Tiptronic take note. The XK is a thoroughly modern car brimming with electronics.

“The car is too big to be agile.” This is a strange comment because the car is one of the lightest in its class, 1595kg curb weight. It has an all-aluminum construction, [the convertible is 1635kg] guarantees best-in-class torsion rigidity. Turn the steering and the car goes where you point the nose, instantaneously. On mountain roads Jaguar’s Electronically Computer Active Technology Suspension (eCATS) with automatic damping comes as standard and lifts the car from GT to sports GT with athletic agility, supremely able to negotiate the most sudden of bends. Poise and balance are excellent.

“Women will drive it.” What can I say about that dumb comment? Male drivers who ridicule woman do so because unlike their cars they cannot steer them. Women will choose to buy an XK because, like some men, they enjoy driving a car with character and genuine sporting ability. And like men it will make them feel sexy. The motor industry may be the last bastion of misogyny but I never thought to see it in “objective” reviewers.

“What does the XK not do?” It doesn’t drive up vertical scrub hills like the Range Rover Exhibitionist. It doesn’t handle well on sidewalks, or leaping from rooftop to rooftop. It does not look like an extension to a penis, not even in red. It doesn’t hold ten vile children like the Chrysler Weeping Wagon. It doesn’t have an exotic or an amusing name such as Yukon or Rabbit. It won’t develop your biceps or abs because the steering is as heavy as an ocean liner. It won’t turn heads by knocking, rattling, or backfiring. Nor will you be offered a dealer monogrammed pen as a trade in. It will hold its value well.

“General observations.” The XK has been thoroughly reviewed so I’ll keep my comments to personal observations. I took the car along Pacific Coast Highway, past Malibu, over the Santa Monica Mountains and back through rush-hour traffic to Los Angeles on the 405. It is reassuring to know of all the safety features built into the XK while driving around the vertiginous twisties and 200 feet cliffs of Decker Canyon where an unfortunate member of the rock band, Iron Butterfly, disappeared one night, his remains and car wreck lying undiscovered for years. Worth special mention is the pyrotechnic deployable bonnet that automatically deploys mitigating the severity of pedestrian injury. The brakes inspire confidence; 60-0 in 113 feet is up with the best sports cars. Oh, and the Xenon headlights that adjust to sudden corners are terrific.

One of the drawbacks of the XK’s svelte shape is the severely limited rear view. Jaguar has a solution. Put the car in reverse and the passenger wing mirror flips down for a view of the curb. The computer shows an outline of the car, almost as if saying “You are here.” Together with an on-screen visual of the car, a radar based rear parking sensor lets you know the distance to an object behind. Nevertheless, you look behind because it’s an unconscious habit not to take anything you cannot see on trust. When someone places a chair under your butt it is almost impossible to resist checking it is there before committing yourself! And looking behind you, you will notice the rear jumps seats are for children or luggage. An adult of any size will find it cramped on any journey. And I would have thought folding rear seats well worth installing in a hatch-back GT. As a chronic back pain sufferer the most luxurious aspect to me are the multi-adjustable electric seats. It’s easy to get a comfortable setting for any size and weight of driver. The steering wheel tilts and moves in or out. (I was taught to judge arm stretch from seat to wheel by ensuring the wrists touched the top of the steering wheel.) There’s five buttons to log automatic settings for five drivers and the same for passengers. The retractable antenna is an anachronism. It will be hidden in the 2008 models, in the rear spoiler. Wheels are satisfyingly big and wide for maximum grip - 19 inches, 20 inches an option.

The navigation system continues to beat other manufacturers with its logical layout, speed and multi-purpose uses. I’d recommend the Bluetooth telephone option before anything else. As an incomer to California I am appalled at the number of drivers using hand-held cell phones, concentrating on their phone conversation, sometimes while eating a take-away, reading a paper, applying make-up. It cannot be long before California bans use of hand-held cell phones. The standard 160 watt, multi-CD on the dash, six speaker system is fine; so, think carefully if you want to pay more for an upgrade. Personally, I’d rather keep the windows down and listen to the engine. Which reminds me, the exhaust note is acceptable, more of a burble than a rumble; if you like a constant roar battering your eardrums talk to your Jaguar dealer about a wide bore exhaust. As I said, the XK is a refined sport GT, not a hopped-up racer.

I have one other recommendation to buy this car over its competitors: I showed it to a relative on the point of changing his Lexus saloon for something new. He was so impressed he went out and bought an XK the next day, a fully loaded coupe in black with tinted windows. In all my years reviewing cars, their designers, and industry developments, I have never had that happen to me, not with such alacrity.

The XK comes with a comprehensive four year-fifty thousand mile warranty, complimentary servicing for the first year or twelve thousand miles, and the dividend of driving a car from a great marque, thanks to the generosity of Ford. Against an Aston Martin, a Porsche 911, a Mercedes SL, a Bentley, a Ferrari, or a Maserati, it is fantastic value for money. What is there to complain about?

Car tested: 2007 Jaguar XK Coupe 
Engine; 4.2 liter, 90 degree, 32 valve, V8.  
300 horsepower @ 6000 rpm.  
0-60: 5.9 seconds. 
Braking: 60-0 in 121 feet 
Turns to lock: 2.8.  
MPG: 18-28. 
4-year warranty/50,000 miles.  
Price starts from $75,000.

Copyright GARETH WARDELL - March 2007 (2,000 words)