The all-new 2007 Jaguar XK 4.2 is the successor to every XK dating back to the first one in 1948 and, as such, it is Jaguar's franchise player. The XK's main competitors are the Mercedes-Benz SL, the BMW 650, and the Cadillac XLR.
The new XK is a tasty combination of Jaguar style, traditional British luxury car touches like wood, leather, and quietness, with every system in and under the car updated and improved to meet that very serious competition. It's design, while very, very pretty, is derivative of all previous generations since the XK-E, with some Aston Martin and Ford design cues thrown in (Jaguar's Scottish chief designer Ian Callum designed both the Aston Martin DB-7 and DB-9 sports cars).
As with the last generation, the new 2007 Jaguar XK will come as both a coupe and a convertible, now with a disappearing top that hides behind the second row of seats under a steel cover, instead of piled up under a tonneau cover.
Riding on a much longer wheelbase, the 2007 XK offers substantially more interior space than the 2006 model. The new seats are more comfortable, the gauges are nicer and everything works better. Benefiting from the lightweight chassis, the 4.2-liter V8 propels the XK from 0 to 60 mph in less than six seconds, Jaguar says. Its rigid chassis and the latest CATS adaptive suspension provides a smooth ride and demonic cornering, coupled with accurate steering and powerful brakes.
Jaguar XK 4.2 Coupe ($74,835); Convertible ($80,835)
The stowaway power convertible top added some width to the rear end of the car to accommodate the steel top cover, but both the coupe and the convertible are stunning cars. We don't need those new front fender badges to tell us that it's a Jaguar, and the taillamps are a bit busy, but otherwise the coupe and convertible are a pair of lovely shapes, carefully adorned.
Most of what is underneath came directly from the all-aluminum-chassis XJ sedan introduced two years ago, and that's a good thing, leading to huge weight losses with concomitant gains in stiffness, strength and performance.
Inside the XK, everything is roomier. The seats have more travel, and there's more room for humans in all directions. Everything inside is new, from the new shifter with a Sport slot to the new dashboard and instrument layout, to the standard touch-screen navigation system.
The seats have undergone a major redesign and they are much the better for it, with longer cushions, more power adjustments, more enveloping bolsters, and generally more long-distance comfort built in. They're upholstered in Jaguar's traditional leather, of course, and set off by the buyer's choice of walnut veneer, poplar veneer, or aluminum trim panels on the doors and dashboard.
The instruments have brand new and more engaging graphics, the layout is better, and the switchgear makes more sense now because of the opportunity to redesign it.
The XK was built up from the idea of a 2+2 roadster. The coupe came after the more complex disappearing hard top design, also as a 2+2. We appreciate what Jaguar is trying to do here, but the rear compartment simply doesn't have room for the average American occupant. Purses, backpacks, briefcases and satchels, maybe, but not real people. At least not very large people, and not for long distances.
All the controls and switches make sense, especially if you're used to Jaguars. Things work pretty much the same way as the previous XK8 and XKR. The new navigation system is big, bright, colorful, clear and useful with a minimum of fuss.
None of the other coupes and roadsters in this small luxury sports car class are exactly swimming in cargo space, and the XK doesn't move the needle here, either, with 10.6 cubic feet in the coupe, 10.0 cubic feet in the convertible with the top up, and only 7 cubic feet with the top stowed.
Dealing with the XK, working its works, discovering it system by system, was a pleasure. No surprises, no weirdness. We did find the A-pillar to be thicker than we'd like, interfering with our vision in some driving situations, but other than that quibble, the car was quick, quiet, comfortable and easy to use, with strong kudos for the touch-screen design and interface.
The new six-speed automatic with manual control, a Sport mode, and shifter paddles on the steering wheel, is about three levels of sportiness better than the outgoing transmission and the old, dreaded J-gate shifter. The new twin-clutch transmission allows extremely quick, positive shifts between gears, with little or no lurching on upshifts and a nice, growly throttle blip on downshifts. This is an improvement on the similar ZF transmission Ford uses in the Aston Martin DB9, now with better hardware and software. It can sense aggressive driving and adapt accordingly, limiting upshifts in long corners in Sport mode, and giving instant multiple downshifts when conditions are right.
The engine/transmission combination is good for about 5.9-second 0-60 times and 14.4-second quarter-mile sprints, according to Jaguar, with an electronic speed limit of 155 mph. Interpolated European fuel numbers are comparable to EPA numbers of 16 miles per gallon city, and 25 miles per gallon highway, thus no gas-guzzler tax to be paid.
Hugely stiffer than the outgoing car on the basis of its riveted and bonded aluminum construction, almost 50 percent stiffer in bending and much stiffer in torsion, the XK offers the kind of silky smooth ride and demonic cornering that great sports cars have always had. It's helped by the completely retuned CATS adaptive suspension system with faster-acting, smarter shock absorbers that work with the engine and transmission to immediately react to the situation and driver's intention. The tuning is roughly 10 percent stiffer in the front and 4 percent stiffer in the rear than the old car. There are several assist modes to the CATS system, including completely off, for track days.
Another byproduct of the stiff chassis is the steering accuracy. It's without question the tightest, heftiest, and quickest Jaguar power steering in history, but nowhere near the point of skittishness. Solid, stable, and planted. The traction control system now features a Trac mode that keeps everything on but allows a higher threshold of yaw, letting the car get sideways in corners for those owners who go to Jaguar Club track days.
The new XK models are fitted with a choice of 18-, 19-, or 20-inch wheels and tires. Base tires are Continental P245/45ZR18s front and P275/40ZR18s rear. Optional Dunlop SP Sport 01 asymmetric high-performance tires are fitted on XK models with 19-inch wheels, 245/40ZR-19 tires on the front and 275/35R19s on the rear. Optional Dunlop SP Sport Maxx ultra-performance tires are 255/35ZR20s for the front and 285/30ZR20s for the rear.
The XK's new ABS brakes are much larger than those on the previous model, and much more powerful, considering the reduced weight of the car, with braking starting at the very top of pedal travel, where we like it. No fade whatsoever after a long downhill switchback workout.
Although the weights and balances between the coupe and the convertible versions, which we drove back-to-back, are close, there's really no discernable difference in the way they drive, except that the convertible with the top down generates more sound in the cockpit and more admiring glances from the other drivers than the coupe.
The all-new 2007 Jaguar XK is an absolutely gorgeous sports car for today that will appeal broadly to successful men and women looking for the latest in sleek affordability. It has a couple of styling and design items we'd change instantly if we bought one, like the badges on the front fenders, but otherwise, we are simply smitten by this beautiful new Jag and the way it drives down the road, changing direction like the big cat it's named for, but coddling the couple of adventurers inside like an English nanny.
NewCarTestDrive.com correspondent Jim McCraw filed this story from Cape Town, Republic of South Africa.