Jaguar XK First Drive

By Brian Chee | February 17, 2006
Published on

CAPETOWN, South Africa – He stood so still that he could have been a wooden statue, carved and hardened from toil in the fields of South Africa, a memorial for the working poor among the wealthy grapes of Stellenbosch. Hands on hips, he cut a dramatic image against the fading sunset, a laborer giving pause to listen to the songs of the Siyuvelo Choir – music that was as much a part of him as the singers. They were the beauty of this place. He was the sweat and grime from which such beautiful expression was forged.

In a flash he was gone, though his imprint etched the scene of this bewitching place at the end of the earth. Without his struggles, those songs would never be composed; without the tension of this spot on the earth, those songs would never be sung.

Struggles make for good, sometimes.
So perhaps it can be written that without the troubled days of the past, Jaguar would never have built the beautiful 2007 Jaguar XK with such sensual design, strong performance and lavish comfort. Designed by Ian Callum, whose credits include the Aston Martin DB7 and DB9, the new XK is a thoroughly modern interpretation of the Jaguar XK lineage, and an appropriate replacement for the ten-year-old XK8.vOn sale this spring for $75,500 (coupe) and $81,500 (convertible), the new XK embodies the tension of Jaguar’s past, combined with the beauty for which the marque is known and the rich history of its nameplate, creating a clash that makes the premiere of the XK in South Africa, with its own contrasts, bewitchingly appropriate.

There’s that word again. Truth is, the 2007 Jaguar XK will bewitch anyone who gives the car a chance. Some may not, though one look at the XK should at least nudge luxury sport coupe buyers into the cockpit. Jaguar, after all, has much ground to make up in the minds of luxury buyers. It’s been a decade since the last new XK was introduced, and in that time Jaguar has had some pretty notable failures. Jaguar executives, acknowledging the obvious, admit that mistakes were made. As a result, there are waves of buyers with money to spend and little to no emotional connection to a brand that, at its best, could inject desire straight into the heart. The new XK can do that for you, and so it would be easy to say that Jaguar is back, that the intangibles the car gives to people echo the history of the XK and the romance of the cat.

A skeptical public will make that decision.
They will, as always, do it with their wallets, along with shifting patterns of want and desire. That will spell the fate of the 2007 Jaguar XK. It may end up being the car that starts a monumental turning point for a re-energized and legendary brand. Or it may be one of the very best cars no one ever really gives a chance. The contrast is as stunning as this car is…bewitching.

Model Mix
Model Mix The 2007 Jaguar XK is available as coupe or soft top convertible, both utilizing the same 300-horsepower V8 engine and six-speed manual transmission. Standard features are plentiful. Select from several key options to enhance your Jag experience.

Due at all dealerships in April of 2006, the 2007 Jaguar XK will initially be available as a coupe or convertible, with the XKR performance variant probably available a year later. The coupe comes at a sticker price of $75,500, the convertible $81,500. That includes a destination charge of $665 and a long list of standard features, as one would expect from a luxury nameplate such as Jaguar. At launch, Jaguar’s 4.2-liter V8 engine, mated to a re-engineered six-speed automatic transmission, comes standard. The transmission now features paddle shifters, a welcome addition to the driving experience. Standard equipment includes 18-inch wheels and tires (P245/45ZR18 up front and P255/45ZR18 in back), keyless entry and ignition, DVD navigation, Bluetooth capability, a six-disc in-dash CD changer, and 8-way power driver’s seat adjustment. The passenger’s seat comes with 2-way power adjustment. Inside, genuine wood grain veneer and leather are standard, except when it comes to the shifter, which is wrapped in chrome and leather.

Indeed, one could drive off in a basic XK and be quite happy with the purchase. However, to make the most of the 2007 Jaguar XK, shoppers would be wise to consider optional features that enhance the motoring experience, such as larger tires, a stitched leather dash, and bolster supports for both front seats. Trust us, if you drive the XK like it should be driven, you’ll appreciate those added supports. You’ll also appreciate the optional tires – 19- or 20-inch performance tires of differing sizes front to back. Optional front tires are P245/40ZR19 or P255/35ZR20 performance tires, with P275/35ZR19 or P285/30ZR20 performance tires available in back. Nineteen-inch run flats are also on the options list.

Inside, you can enhance the Jaguar experience with a 12-way power driver’s seat and a 4-way power passenger’s seat, power thigh and side bolster supports for both, genuine wood trim on the shifter, and a stitched leather dashboard. Also available is satellite radio, and you can decorate the dash with aluminum trim inserts. Other options include a premium 520-watt sound system with eight speakers (six speakers are standard) and adaptive cruise control.

All 2007 Jaguar XKs get a full complement of safety features, including anti-whiplash head restraints, side-impact airbags and side head airbags, brake assist, directionally adaptive headlights, a Traction Control System (TCS), and Dynamic Stability Control (DSC).. The Jaguar’s TCS system applies pressure to the appropriate brake when wheel slip is detected; DSC uses torque management and braking pressure to prevent understeer or oversteer. A slick feature called TRAC DSC is a driver-selected stage of the DSC that increases the amount of allowable sideways slip, providing the XK with a wider performance envelope. Choose TRAC DSC by pushing and holding the traction control button for approximately three seconds.

Also available on the 2007 XK is adaptive cruise control with Forward Alert, a sensor system that will warn the driver of a potential collision via an audible warning. The convertible also has retractable rollbars, known as “hoops” in Jaguar-speak, which smash through the back window, should a rollover occur.

Nuts and Bolts
Nuts and Bolts The 2007 Jaguar XK coupe’s time of 5.9 seconds is 6/10ths of a second off the BMW 650Ci’s time of 5.3 seconds, and the convertible, at 6.0 seconds, is 4/10ths of a second off the BMW 650Ci convertible’s time of 5.6 seconds

At first glance, the 2007 Jaguar XK’s 4.2-liter V8 engine would seem to be slightly underpowered, making 300 horsepower at 6,000 rpm. Consider, for example, that the 2006 Cadillac XLR generates 20 horses more at 6,400 rpm, and the BMW 650Ci generates a whopping 60 more horsepower at 6,300 rpm. Torque ratings are competitive across the board, with the Jaguar XK rated at 310 lb.-ft. at 4,100 rpm. The 650Ci offers more torque, 360 lb. ft. to be exact, but those numbers don’t tell the whole story, as the Jaguar XK coupe weighs almost 150 lbs. less than the BMW 650Ci, and the convertible XK is a lithe 513 lbs. lighter than the BMW. According to the respective automakers, the 2007 Jaguar XK coupe’s time of 5.9 seconds is 6/10ths of a second off the BMW’s time of 5.3 seconds, and the convertible, at 6.0 seconds, is 4/10ths of a second off the BMW 650Ci convertible’s time of 5.6 seconds. If that engine powering the XK sounds familiar, that’s because it is: it’s the same powerplant inside the current XK8, but with six more horsepower thanks to a new fuel injection system.

Just one transmission is offered in the new XK, but it’s a beauty. Jaguar’s six-speed sequential automatic, significantly revised with paddle shifters in lieu of the traditional “J” gate and offering both Drive and Drive Sport (DS) modes, features faster shift times thanks to dual clutches that control the amount of torque delivered during upshifts, according to Jaguar engineers. This means that there is no torque interrupt while shifting, making the total shift sequence take all of 600 milliseconds, according to Jaguar. What this means to drivers is that shifts are virtually instantaneous. Another feature of the transmission is its adaptive gearing, based on driver input and road conditions.

Even though the 2007 Jaguar XK’s engine is more powerful and the transmission is improved, the most notable change to the new XK is the actual body of the car. The all-aluminum unibody, the manufacture of which is largely accomplished via bonding and riveting techniques, is lighter and stiffer than the previous XK8 – and the competition, according to Jaguar. What’s new to the XK isn’t necessarily new to Jaguar, however, as much of the underpinnings are shared with the Jaguar XJ sedan. The technology is new to this Jaguar, however, and a quick glance at curb weight specs across the luxury sports coupe/convertible class bears out the benefits.

A drive in the XK confirms that the body, as coupe or convertible, is quite stiff. The body’s performance is enhanced by a suspension setup which, as with the previous version, features double wishbones up front and a short- and long-arm configuration in back. What’s new is an updated version of Jaguar’s Computer Active Technology (CATS). CATS is a two-stage adaptive damping system, helping to automatically balance ride and handling. In the previous XK8, CATS provided front and rear pitch control; this new system now regulates all four dampers helping to control body roll as well as pitch. The ride is also enhanced by speed-sensitive and mechanically-assisted steering, which provides plenty of feedback.

Standard wheels for the XK are 18-inch alloys, with 19 and 20-inch wheels available. Standard tires are Continentals sized P245/45ZR18 up front and P255/45ZR18 in back, with optional Dunlops measuring P245/40ZR19 or P255/35ZR20 in front, with P275/35ZR19 or P285/30ZR20 rubber in the rear. Nineteen-inch run flats are also available. Brakes are ventilated discs all around, with a four-channel Anti-lock Brake System (ABS) with Brake Assist and Electronic Brakeforce Distribution (EBD).

Design Compared to its competition, the 2007 Jaguar XK is a swan among mallards. If design matters to you, the only real question is this: coupe or convertible?

Inside or outside, coupe or convertible, the 2007 Jaguar XK is one cat that will make you smile. Ian Callum, the XK’s chief designer, clearly brought a sense of history and elegance to the car, as well as a smoldering sensuality not often seen in sheetmetal. From the oval grille to the side graphics and the swooping backlight of the coupe, the XK makes a statement of class and prestige.

This one’s for grown-ups, automotive connoisseurs who appreciate a well developed and modern style that interprets echoes of the past and brings them into the present day. To this writer’s eye, the XK’s front is perhaps most notable in that the production headlights actually improve on the concept version, providing flow from the hood line right around through to the sides. Compared to its competition, the 2007 Jaguar XK is a swan among mallards. If design matters to you, the only real question is this: coupe or convertible?

That would be coupe for us, if the main criteria is design. The XK coupe is simply one of the most beautiful cars on the road. The convertible’s soft top hurts the profile, in comparison, and ruins the back of the XK, but looks very sharp compared to, ahem, Bavarian offerings. It’s really a small price to pay for open-air driving in a Jaguar that is, all things considered, only slightly less beguiling than the coupe.

Inside, the 2007 Jaguar XK is what you’d expect, and more. Specifically, there’s more room, with better seats but that same ol’ soft leather all the way around. The roominess is thanks to a longer wheelbase, and it’s well-utilized, with plenty of shoulder room, legroom and headroom. As a 2+2, the XK has a functional rear seat, if only for small people and parcels. Adults should avoid long trips back there, unless your best friend is a chiropractor. Shoppers can choose between matte-finish walnut, high-gloss poplar, or aluminum trim. The aluminum is Jaguar’s attempt to modernize the XK’s appearance, and it’s nice, but not what most expect, or want, in a Jag. Besides, the metal inserts give off some glare that’s distracting while driving. Environmental and audio controls are clearly labeled and easy to use, and graphics throughout are bright, modern and stylish. All the way around, the 2007 XK’s interior is a significant improvement over the outgoing XK8, one that’s as good or better in most every way compared competing models.

Sound and Traction
Sound and Traction TRAC DSC is a driver-selected stage of the standard stability control system that increases the amount of allowable sideways slip for an increased performance envelope. Choose TRAC DSC by pushing and holding the traction control button for approximately three seconds.

From its powertrain to its chassis, suspension and even exhaust note, the 2007 Jaguar XK is a technological feast. Especially the sound: the XK’s Semi-Active Exhaust system creates an intoxicating burble at idle, a mature growl on acceleration, courtesy of a silencer box, acoustically-controlled tailpipes and an underfloor resonator. The result is a sound that driving enthusiasts will quickly fall in love with, especially while driving the convertible model. Even those who are unfamiliar with the joy of a nicely noted engine will perk up their ears when they step on the XK’s accelerator.

Stepping on that accelerator, meanwhile, results in much fun, thanks to several significant advancements in power and performance. Driving the XK’s 4.2-liter V8 engine – one modified with variable valve timing and a better fuel injection technology – is Jaguar’s six-speed transmission, reworked to offer drivers quicker shifts, adaptive gear changes and more control of torque transfer while driving aggressively. For the first time in a Jaguar, the transmission comes with paddle shifters, upping the fun quotient even more.

Balancing the ride is a revised version of Jaguar’s CATS suspension, notable in that it now controls body roll as well as pitch, providing more accurate feedback and amplifying the driving experience. Combine that with the XK’s lighter and stiffer all-aluminum chassis, and you get a true sporting experience behind the wheel, especially if you deselect the XK’s traction control, called TRAC DSC. It’s a driver-selected stage of the standard stability control system that increases the amount of allowable sideways slip for an increased performance envelope. Consider it like driving the XK without an electronic nanny. Choose TRAC DSC by pushing and holding the traction control button for approximately three seconds.

Driving Impressions
Driving Impressions We found the 2007 Jaguar XK to be the kind of car that stretched our abilities, adapted to the input provided and kept us interested – and surprised.

Be honest: You look at the spec page of the 2007 Jaguar XK and wonder how it is that Jaguar dare sell an outmatched powertrain that barely scrabbles into 300 horsepower territory. Hah – that’s what you know. Put down the latest issue of Motor Trend and take a drive in a car that proves, once and for all, that it’s the total experience that really counts. This new Jag is sharper, faster and much more fun, a car that will win many a fan after a spirited test drive.

The 2007 Jaguar XK is the kind of car that stretched us, adapted to the input provided and kept us interested, while in motion or parked, as looking at the XK is interesting in and of itself. Especially the coupe, which has strong shoulders, taut lines and sultry sweeps of sheetmetal that encase the occupant in an interior that is what one would expect from Jaguar. The control layout is easy to use, and there’s plenty of shoulder, hip and elbow room. For such a nice interior, then, it was a surprise that we encountered some unexpected road and wind noise. It’s important to note that the asphalt in South Africa is of varying quality, from smooth to rutted and grooved, and offers more extremes between the two than most areas – new roads are impeccable, old roads are disasterous. – Also, the cars we drove were right-hand-drive prototypes. Take a test drive in a production model and make your own assessment. The convertible handled road noise better, though it’s hard to tell if that was due to the differing roads and tire sizes.

There is one noise created by the XK that’s not at all hard to decipher, however: the burble of its engine. The note serves as alluring background music for the XK, especially when driving the convertible, and provides a hint of what’s driving those wheels. True, the XK has a soft top while some competing models offer a retractable hardtop, but for a soft top, the profile is gorgeous – though compared to the coupe, the convertible loses considerable sex appeal. The top offers excellent sound and vibration control. Besides, you’ll want the top down, as the XK is a better tourer or sports coupe with the roof removed, depending on how you drive it. We drove it both ways, and the XK was quite adept either way. With the top down, we cruised for miles along the South African coast, content to sit back and take in soaring cliffs that collided with crashing waves, sweeping panoramas that touched upon utter desolation and natural beauty unlike any, anywhere else in the world. Top down, hair streaming and sun shining, the XK served as the perfect companion in a place of intrigue, beauty and power.

It almost sounds like we’re talking about the car. And maybe we are, and maybe it’s both, especially when you climb into the coupe. The difference: the convertible is sensational, the coupe sensual. The convertible is meant for carefree Saturdays and beautiful sunsets, with little to no interference from the car save for that exhaust note. The coupe is for climbing empty mountain roads, for going fast and flailing a car that submits with a growl and gives the road as good as it gets from you. So that’s what we did: we flew down long and lazy countryside roads inland of Capetown, urging the powertrain onward. With each request, the XK responded smoothly, engine rushing to meet the demand, paddle shifts lightning fast. The 20-inch tires rarely complained, and all the while, the Jaguar’s suspension system took in the bumps and imperfections of the road and translated each into usable feedback. We carved into steep mountain passes and kept our composure, trusting in the planted feel of the car, its precise steering, and brakes that didn’t fade or distract with unnecessary pedal play.

As we went, passersby stopped and stared, giving thumbs up and waving. Most of them probably didn’t know what kind of car it was, but no matter: the XK translates in any language, any culture. Stopping in small and dusty Greyton Township, the Jaguar was a large scale phenomenom, with crowds milling, pointing and gawking. All were smiling.
We were too; for it became obvious within a hundred miles that the XK brought out the automotive lover in everyone, from journalist and photographer to farmhand and child. That’s a bit unexpected from the Jaguar of today, as is the XK’s impressive driving character. The transmission gets the most from the XK’s 4.2-liter V8 – slide the gear selector into DS, click a paddle and you’re at the controls of a car featuring quick gear changes and technology that adapts to your shifting patterns. Put the XK back in D and you can sit back and let the transmission do the work, with more conservative changes, the kind you would expect from a grand touring machine. Bolted into the XK’s all-aluminum construction, the transmission drives a car that is stiff and responsive on the road, communicating mostly in the steering wheel and the seat. Coupe or convertible, the XK is a lithe, neatly planted sports tourer that responds to the driver’s touch with enough power and torque to be entertaining and a ride and handling quality that keeps you comfortable.

Experienced drivers should put the XK into TRAC DSC mode, as it provides a far more enjoyable experience, which we learned during a session of aggressive track driving. Though traction control plays a positive role in terms of safety, it’s exhilarating to toss a car like the XK around a track with the safety systems off to really learn what the car can do. The six-speed transmission’s adaptive quality is especially noticeable on the track. First time around the course, we got a throttle blip coming out of a corner, because the transmission held a higher gear through the turn then kicked the XK into a lower gear for more power. After a few times around the track in the same car, though, the transmission proved to be a quick learner, and those throttle blips kept the power coming just when we wanted it, with no delay. Unfortunately, most people’s driving patterns are comparatively conservative – commutes, weekend drives and such – so the adaptive quality of the transmission will probably go largely unnoticed.

FAQ With excellent driving dynamics and blue-ribbon design, the 2007 Jaguar XK is a strong competitor in the luxury coupe and convertible market – despite offering a slightly underpowered engine and a soft-top convertible in a retractable hardtop world.

What are best things about the 2007 Jaguar XK?
Its styling is very strong, and the revised six-speed transmission makes the most out of the engine’s 300 horsepower. With a stiffer and lighter aluminum chassis, the Jaguar XK doubles as a capable tourer and a sporty-driving coupe and drop top.

What should keep me from buying a 2007 Jaguar XK?
More horsepower would be nice, but only for braggin’ rights, as the XK’s snappy transmission and light weight keep things lively. Either way, wait about a year and the XKR will debut, and your horsepower jones will be sated. Shoppers may not be enamored with a soft-top convertible when competitors such as Mercedes-Benz and Cadillac offer power retractable hardtops.

Coupe or convertible, which 2007 Jaguar XK is better?
The convertible is hard to say no to, but if you don’t care about open-air driving, the coupe’s design takes the day. Fit 20-inch wheels and get to drivin’.

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