Review: 2007 Jaguar XK
By Dan Jedlicka of MSN Autos
Jaguar's redesigned XK lets it return more seriously to the sports car wars.
This early 2007 made-in-England model is a major improvement over its predecessor and is Jaguar's first new XK in a decade. It continues as a convertible and hatchback coupe and looks more muscular and aggressive than its predecessor. It drives that way, too.
The old XK was primarily a fast, pretty car without the visceral appeal of the new XK, although it was the fastest-selling sports car in Jaguar history.
Jaguar has been aiming for years to have more models and higher volumes to concentrate on the mass-luxury market. However, sales have continued to fall sharply despite high quality ratings, it now says it has taken a "bold, decisive change of direction," with the new aim of "tightly managing ourselves as a true luxury brand."
"The 2007 XK shows Jaguar's new direction. Going back to the (sensational) 1948 Jaguar XK-120 and (equally sensational) 1961 E-Type models, Jaguar has traditionally used new sports cars to reinvent itself," Jaguar North American Chief Mike O'Driscoll said at a preview of the new XK in Los Cabos, Mexico.
Jaguar says it intends to become a "niche player," as it was for decades, with fewer sales but higher profits and "more balance in our business."
"Jaguar is technically advanced without overwhelming customers with high-tech features that they need to pour over an owner's manual to figure out," O'Driscoll said.
However, the new XK is no retromobile. For instance, it has an easily used touch-screen information and control center—besides keyless start with a push-button starter.
Options include adaptive cruise control, which automatically reduces speed if traffic conditions make that necessary.
The supple suspension is especially impressive—it's so good a driver can feel each wheel smoothing out bumps. Standard are 18-inch wheels, but 19-inch and huge 20-inch wheels that don't adversely affect the ride are optional.
Powerful new anti-lock brakes reduce speed quickly and begin working with the first touch of the pedal.
The coupe costs $74,835, and the convertible lists at $80,835. Most should feel that it's worth the money, considering its exciting styling, acceleration, handling, braking and overall comfort and luxury.
The car has Jaguar's costly construction, with a light, ultra-stiff all-aluminum monocoque body structure. Aluminum construction for lighter weight lets the new XK accelerate faster, handle and brake better and use less gasoline than the old steel-body XK.
Smooth, Powerful V8
"The new XK was initially designed to be a convertible—not a coupe with its top chopped off and then structural bracing added, said Russell Varney, chief XK program engineer.
Varney was in the passenger seat as we sped along at a restful 75 mph in the XK convertible with the thickly padded, tight-fitting power top lowered and a short wind-blocker behind our heads. There was scarcely any wind buffeting at that speed and a conversation could be held with normal voice levels.
Most XK buyers have opted for the convertible, but I prefer the new coupe with its added utility, shapely rear curves and rakish roofline. Jaguar expects that a greater number of XK buyers will order the coupe, partly because the new model is a more serious sports car.
The Right Sounds
The old XK had an available supercharged V8 with 400 horsepower, and such an engine may be offered within a year for the new XK, although Jaguar declines comment.
Both use a responsive 6-speed automatic transmission with Drive and Sport Drive modes. The transmission can be manually shifted with lightning speed via steering-wheel-mounted paddles—a "first" for Jaguar. There's no manual gearbox, and the "J-gate" shifter long used for Jaguar automatic transmissions has been dropped.
Decent Fuel Economy
Jaguar says many women liked the softer looking previous generation XK, which was more of a sexy cruiser than a hard-edged sports car. But most buyers of the new XK are expected to be males 40-50 years old with a $250,000 medium income, said C.J. O'Donnell, executive vice president of marketing and sales for Jaguar North America. But he added that women also liked the new XK in consumer clinics for the car.
Jaguar dashboards once were filled with instruments, but the new XK has only speedometer and tachometer gauges. Other information is supplied by electronic displays, including a digital display for remaining fuel. I kept wishing for at least temperature, fuel level and voltage gauges.
But controls are easily reached and easy to use. Large outside mirrors allow good rear visibility and have a fold-away feature to prevent damage in areas such as parking lots.
The doors are 13 pounds lighter, but they're long and thus can be a problem in tight spots.
Tight Rear Seat
The convertible has a shallow, predictably small trunk with the top lowered. But the coupe has a roomy cargo area easily reached by its large hatch, which raises quickly on gas struts and requires little effort to close.
Jaguar wants to stir car buyer emotions with the new XK, and it's the right car to do just that.