The Jaguar XK traces its roots back to 1948 with the XK120. Touted as capable of 120 mph, the XK120 was an immediate hit and Clark Gable bought the first one that went on sale. This quest for speed continued with the XK140, XK150 and XK-E among them and is celebrated by the current lineup: The 2013 Jaguar XK lineup is the fastest and most advanced in Jaguar history.
For 2013, the Jaguar XK lineup includes a new Touring trim level with a simplified package we think will satisfy the needs of many drivers and save them a good deal in the bargain. The 2013 Jaguar XK Touring Coupe and Convertible are furnished with the same pleasingly powerful V8 and 6-speed automatic transmission found in the other models, so performance is not penalized in any way. Far from stripper models, the new XK Touring models are lavishly furnished with leather upholstery, Satin Rosewood veneer, heated front seats, a premium sound system with satellite radio, keyless entry and start, reverse camera and parking sensors, auto-dimming power folding mirrors, a multi-function steering wheel, 19-inch alloy wheels and an Aero pack.
The 2013 Jaguar XK is available in three levels of tune, each in coupe and convertible body styles. Jaguar XK models are powered by a 5.0-liter V8 that produces 385 horsepower and 380 pound-feet of torque. Jaguar XKR models feature a supercharged version of the same engine, with 510 horsepower and 461 pound-feet of torque. Jaguar XKR-S Coupe and XKR-S Convertible feature a 5.0-liter supercharged V8 engine that churns out a breathtaking 550 horsepower and has a top speed of 186 miles per hour, making the XKR-S the fastest production Jag ever. A Jaguar XKR-S can leap from 0-60 mph in 4.2 seconds.
In our test drives, we found the Jaguar XK models feel solid and stable even at very high speeds. Ride quality is tough to fault, with an Adaptive Damping System automatically adjusting for ride comfort when cruising along or tightening it down for hard cornering.
All models come with a 6-speed automatic with paddle shifters we found smooth and tight with rev-matching downshifting. The standard 385-hp V8 has plenty of power, while the supercharged versions move the XK into supercar territory. Indeed, we found the XKs, the XKR and XKR-S, to be vastly more than boulevardiers. They're beautiful, elegant, but above all, forceful, sports cars. They are in the best Jaguar tradition, cars that get the very most from the marque's long-established front-engine, rear-wheel-drive format. Like their market competitors, they're not cheap, but for the driver who wants something unusually fine, they're fully worth their ticket.
Fuel economy is an EPA-rated 16/24 mpg City/Highway for the XK Coupe, while the XK Convertible is rated 16/22 mpg. The supercharged XKR and XKR-S coupe and convertible models are rated 15/22 mpg.
The Jaguar XK runs against tough company. The new Porsche 911 elicits complaints centering around it's being too good. But with a few options, the 911 gets pricey. The 2013 Mercedes-Benz SL-Class rivals Jaguar in technology and good looks, but its roadster-style seating leaves backseat occupants out in the cold. The XK or XKR are closely matched in price and performance by the BMW 6 Series and Mercedes-Benz E-Class coupe.
The Jaguar XKR-S competes against supercars such as the Audi R8, Mercedes SL65 AMG, Chevrolet Corvette ZR1, and Nissan GT-R. The XKR-S features an exterior design focused on aerodynamics, with stability at speed and reduced drag of primary importance. Production of the XKR-S for 2013 will be limited to 100 coupes and 100 convertibles, according to Jaguar North America.
The XK chassis was introduced for the 2007 model year, but it's still cutting edge. New engines were introduced for 2010, and the convertible joined the lineup for 2011. The styling was revised and the XKR-S added for 2012.
The Jaguar XK is a beauty, its long hood and voluptuous fenders flowing without interruption. Design cues give a nod to the car's history while achieving a modern look. And while designers might admit that today's XK is more about reducing drag than looking beautiful, the sleek lines are nothing to shake a stick at.
A broad, oblong grille makes the front fascia look classier and more approachable than Jaguar's competitors. The long hood and short overhangs keep the sporty appearance while clearly remaining luxurious.
The coupe is particularly attractive, with its sleek roofline and beautiful silhouette. The convertible doesn't look as awkward as some of the XK convertible's rivals, the Mercedes E-Class among them. The convertible's fabric top can be raised or lowered in a speedy 18 seconds.
The XKR has performance detailing, including a black mesh grille, special wheels and R logos.
On the XKR-S, vertical side air dams channel air along the side of the car for improved aerodynamics. A carbon fiber front splitter, rear air diffuser and rear lip spoiler also help to keep the car grounded at high speeds.
The Jaguar XK is a sophisticated sports car, which is well conveyed throughout the cockpit. Most XK cabins are more luxurious than sporty, with the exception of the XKR-S, with its racing-inspired seats and contrast stitching. Fit, finish and materials on all variants are superb, and seats have a nearly endless range of adjustability, including side bolsters, which keep driver and passenger firmly in place around corners.
The XK uses a big knob on the center console, the JaguarDrive Selector, instead of a shift lever, to change from Park to Reverse, Neutral, Drive or Sport. It's elegant and easy to use, though unlike traditional shifters it requires the driver to look at it. Shift into the Sport mode and changing gears can then be performed with the lightning-quick paddle shifters.
The XK instrumentation nods toward luxury. The gauges have pretty aluminum bezel rings. The gauges use red needles, with white numbers indicating 180 mph on the speedometer, 8000 rpm on the tachometer. On the XKR-S, a blue and black scheme stands out nicely on a black background, and the speedo goes to 190 mph, which is nearly possible to reach, given the car's top speed of 186. We don't recommend that, however.
The wide center stack is mostly filled by the 7-inch LCD touchscreen. We found the electronic interface not as intuitive as we'd like, and certain functions, like adding an address or modifying a destination, take far too many steps. For example, one has to hit the Home button to switch functions, instead of going straight to, say, the audio controls. Also, the fonts and graphics on the interface do not look sophisticated for a car in this class. In the convertible, the screen can be tough to read on a sunny day with the top down, and we did get some glare off the dash.
The XKR-S offers three unique interior combinations and an all-leather headliner, designed and supplied by Poltrona Frau, an Italian company (despite the German-sounding name) known for manufacturing Ferrari interiors and $20,000-plus sofas. This makes the XKR-S cabin truly impressive.
Rear legroom in the XK comes up short when compared to larger cruisers such as the BMW 6 Series, but the XK's back seats are pleasingly spacious compared with those in a Porsche 911. Most cars that compete with the XKR-S, such as the Audi R8 and Mercedes-Benz SL65 AMG, have no back seat at all. The XK's 2+2 configuration also reduces insurance rates, we're told. Because of its sloping roofline, headroom in the XK coupe or in the convertible with the top up restricts the rear to children or petite adults. We view the Jaguar XK as a two-seat GT able to occasionally transport children.
Luggage space in the XK is plentiful at 11 cubic feet, much more than that of the Mercedes-Benz SL-Class. With the top down, the convertible only loses 2 cubic feet to the coupe, which is especially roomy for a drop-top.
The Jaguar XK models use generous amounts of riveted and bonded aluminum to save weight, yet they still weigh in at nearly two tons. It's tempting, therefore, to conclude that the XK really isn't a sports car and will not take kindly to being flung around corners at violent speed like a feather-light Lotus or a pure race car. Then, what kind of car is this handsome brute? Is it an overweight boulevardier, meant for waving and being waving at? Or is it a pur sang high-performance Jaguar, ready to take on all comers and the lap record as well?
We took the furiously powerful XKR-S, all 550 hp of it, to the track to find out. In sum, it is stupendously fast, and at the same time, sublimely refined, a track-burner that offers all the racetrack weaponry your skills can use. Yet it has all the grand-touring comfort you could ask on the drive home.
State-of-the-art electronic shock damping, in the form of Jaguar's Adaptive Damping System, allows you to select exactly what sort of ride control you want, and unlike so many other systems, Jaguar's provides real, substantive change. The system simultaneously controls throttle mapping, too. So with the mildest setting, you have a pleasant boulevard ride, low-rpm shifts of the 6-speed transmission for optimum mileage, and elevated anti-slip protection, all those things you want for relaxed daily driving.
Driving the car harder calls for a little more lateral and forward wheel-slip. With a push of the Jaguar Dynamic Mode button, a little checkered flag on the dash indicates you're ready to work the tires without interference from the brakes. The engine note immediately comes alive as well, the transmission holding each gear up through the revs and producing thrust that will staple your shoulders to the seatback.
But the XK goes even further; it has a button which, when depressed for five full seconds, will cancel the electronic stability control system altogether. Nearly all of Jaguar's competitors also furnish such stability-control cancellation buttons. However the others' buttons cut off some stability control, while Jaguar's simply shuts everything off. Jaguar takes you at your word when you cancel stability control. You're the driver, and Jaguar trusts you know what you're doing. You'll likely only want to use this feature when on a race track and are finding the stability control is slowing your exit speeds out of corners.
On the highway, the XKR-S is the heart and soul of good manners. Its ride is well-tempered, lively, but completely free of harshness. The engine note is distant and unobtrusive, but tromp down on the pedal and you hear all manner of goodness up ahead as its 550-hp supercharged V8 springs into action.
Even in the XKR, with its mere 510 horsepower, you're faster than almost everyone. But if you really like to race people instead of simply blowing them off, the 385-hp 5.0-liter XK is your Jag. It will keep you grinning all afternoon.
At Lime Rock Park, a racing circuit in northern Connecticut, we selected Dynamic Mode in our XKR-S and watched the little checkered flag light up. The engine note brightened immediately, and the butterflies in our chest awoke, prepared to explore this proud car on a track we know well. Would this be a slightly choppy, ragged drive, like some powerful recent Corvettes, or would it be something more, something truly surprising?
Forcing 3968 pounds to grip the road around turns at high speeds is a sacred responsibility, especially in a $132,000 car. We took an exploratory lap or two, looking for bad signs, danger signals. We found none. The Jaguar turned in strongly, directly, with remarkably little understeer. As we increased speed, this remained unerringly true.
Soon we were going as hard as the track would let the Jaguar go. In the long Downhill Bend and fast West Bend, cornering as hard as it would, the XKR-S hung on like the Mighty McGinty. Never a hint of darting or directional instability. Powerful. Settled. Effortless.
And braking into a slow corner at the end of a straight from high speed, it felt like very suddenly our chute had opened. The deceleration was linear and violent, the car hauled down from high speed by an act of will, along with grippy tires and big brakes. Downshifting with the paddles, meanwhile, caused the engine to blip automatically, matching its revs with the next lower gear. Fast. Hyper-functional. Dead solid perfect.
Accelerating hard out of the long bend, immersed in this adventure of power and speed, you couldn't help feeling you were someone special.
The Jaguar XK excels as a luxury GT. The brilliant, British 5.0-liter V8 in all its variants, along with the aluminum chassis and sophisticated suspension make for a sensational driving experience. Elegant exterior design and luxe interior pay homage to Jaguar's past while bringing it into the future. Pull up to a five-star resort in one of these and you will be given the full VIP treatment. This is still one of the most tasteful and able cars in its class.
Ted West reported from Lime Rock Park, Connecticut, with Laura Burstein reporting from San Diego, and Sam Moses in Portland.