Timeless and stylish, the Jaguar XK traces its roots to 1948 with the XK120. As its name suggests, the XK120 was capable of 120 mph, quite a feat for its day. The first XK was sporty, stylish and classy. Clark Gable drove one. Today's Jaguar XK is stylish and classy, sporty and capable of very high speeds. As with earlier XKs, it comes in coupe and convertible versions.
The 2014 Jaguar XK lineup starts with the Jaguar XK Touring Coupe and Jaguar XK Touring Convertible. Far from basic, the entry-level Touring models come slathered in leather upholstery with heated front sport seats, satellite radio, rearview camera and parking sensors. One step up are the Jaguar XK Coupe and XK Convertible models, which are more luxurious with an even higher grade of leather, more seat adjustments and upgraded audio.
Jaguar XK models are powered by a 5.0-liter V8 that produces 385 horsepower and 380 pound-feet of torque. Fuel economy is an EPA-rated 16/24 mpg City/Highway for the XK Coupe, 16/22 mpg for the XK Convertible.
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 true leaper, an XKR-S can leap from 0-60 mph in 4.2 seconds, according to Jaguar. The supercharged XKR and XKR-S coupe and convertible models are EPA-rated 15/22 mpg.
New for 2014 is a range-topping XKR-S GT Coupe. Using the same 550-horsepower 5.0-liter supercharged V8 engine as the XKR-S coupe and convertible, the $174,000 GT offers and features enhanced aerodynamics and suspension tuning. Acceleration performance is quicker, with Jaguar claiming 0-60 mph in 3.9 seconds. Fat chance getting your hands on one, though, as only 25 units of the 2014 Jaguar XKR-S GT coupe will come to the U.S. They will be as rare as hen's teeth.
In our test drives, we found all the Jaguar XK models solid and stable, even at very high speeds. The 385-hp V8 has plenty of power, while the supercharged versions move the XKR into supercar territory. All Jaguar XK models come with a 6-speed automatic with paddle shifters, which we found smooth and tight with rev-matching downshifting.
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. The more powerful XKR is easy to get out of hand, especially in the more aggressive Dynamic mode, and requires driving with care and respect. All variants of the XK are relatively heavy, but a stiff chassis and precision driving dynamics do a good job handling the weight.
The Jaguar XK runs against tough company, but manages to offer plenty of horsepower and refinement for the money. The BMW 6 Series Coupe is a few thousand dollars less than the XK Touring coupe and boasts classic 50/50 weight distribution, but the BMW has neither the character nor the statement of luxury and exotic sports car that the Jaguar offers. For a few thousand more, you could score a base Porsche 911, if such a thing exists, but forget about any options, unless you want to tack thousands on to the sticker price. Exotics such as the Aston Martin V8 Vantage, Audi R8, Maserati GranTurismo Coupe, and Nissan GT-R start in the middle price-wise between the XK and the XKR-S models.
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 step compared to other systems like those found in the BMW or Mercedes-Benz. 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.
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.
Jaguar XK models use generous amounts of riveted and bonded aluminum to save weight, yet they still weigh nearly two tons. It's tempting, therefore, to conclude that the XK isn't a sports car, it's a GT, and will not take kindly to being flung around corners at violent speed like a feather-light Lotus or a pure racecar. It turns out, the Jaguar XK manages corners with ease, provided the driver handles it with respect.
On the highway, the XK is the heart and soul of good manners. Its ride is well-tempered and lively, but free of harshness. The engine note is distant and unobtrusive, but tromp down on the pedal and you hear all manner of goodness as the V8 springs into action. There's a Snow mode that helps with traction in slippery conditions, but we learned Snow mode is also good for driving around town in dry weather to help achieve slightly better fuel economy.
In the 510-hp XKR, you're faster than almost everyone on the road. And the 550-hp XKR-S will leave some of the best sportscars in the dust. 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.
Both XKR and XKR-S models are stupendously fast at the track, and at the same time, sublimely refined. Changing the modes is a bit curious: Choosing Sport mode will only change the shift points; i.e. it only affects the transmission. To tweak suspension settings and throttle response, as well as reduce the stability control threshold, one must also turn the control to Dynamic mode, designated by a little checkered flag. The exhaust note immediately gets tougher, with a roar that's well-suited to Jaguar's feline theme.
On the track, we found the Jaguar XKR-S turned in strongly and directly, with remarkably little understeer. Braking hard from high speed at the end of a straightaway, it felt like a drag-racing parachute had opened. The deceleration was violent but linear, 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.
For drifting around a wet skid pad, as we did at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, turn off the electronic stability control system altogether. Unlike some stability-control cancellation buttons, Jaguar's button truly shuts everything off. You really have to know what you're doing in this mode, as nothing will save your bacon if you don't counter-steer once that weighty rear-end starts to come around. For this reason, we'd save the Off button for special occasions in very large parking lots with nobody around but course marshalls and lap timers.
The 2014 Jaguar XK excels as a luxury grand touring coupe in all its variants. Jaguar XKR and XKR-S models are more than track-ready. Elegant exterior design and a luxe interior make it one of the best choices in its class.
Ted West reported from Lime Rock Park, Connecticut, with Laura Burstein reporting from San Diego, and Sam Moses in Portland.