EXPERT REVIEW

AZCentral.com's view


By any measure, the new Jaguar XK is a fabulous automobile, a premium sports coupe or convertible that successfully straddles the line between nimble performance and luxury touring. The XK derivation goes back a long way, to the XK120 of the early ’50s, but this is the first time the letters have been allowed to stand alone. A replacement for the XK8, the XK for 2007 uses aluminum for its structure, body parts and much of its suspension, making the midsize car feel light and lively despite its comfortable suspension and luxury trim. A similar aluminum structure is used by Jaguar’s flagship, the XJ sedan. It helps transform the car from a heavy cruiser into a lithe performer. From most angles, XK is yet another example of the British automaker’s styling finesse, evoking the image of the classic E-type with a strikingly sleek and curvaceously modern form. But the front end suffers in the translation, looking oddly cartoonish with its small oval grille above a heavy-looking chin spoiler. Too bad, because other than its clunky face, the XK is a truly beautiful machine. Jaguar says XK can seat four people in the two-plus-two configuration, but it’s really a two seater. The tiny rear seat is more decorative than useful for anything of human proportion. Small dogs, housecats, some luggage, yes. People, no. But these are minor complaints compared with the XK’s superb drivability. I tested the enjoyable coupe, and I managed to dream up a bunch of cross-town errands and crucial road trips to stay behind the wheel as much as possible.

PERFORMANCE: A V-8 delivering 300 horsepower might sound puny compared with today’s muscular performance cars, especially in this lofty price range, but it’s a strong runner in this light car with an exhaust that’s tuned for appropriately growly sounds. ,The real star here is the excellent automatic transmission, which will laze around in “drive” all day, yet turn sharply aggressive when you use the paddle shifters in “sport” setting. ,If you desire more power, wait until next year when the XKR arrives with about 100 additional ponies.

DRIVABILITY: XK’s supple suspension provides superior touring comfort but also allows you to toss this well-balanced critter into curves like a proper sports car. An excellently crafted compromise between handling and comfort. ,Electronic stability control, traction control, speed-sensitive electronic steering and four-wheel disc brakes with antilock come standard. The coupe cruises so quietly, with scant wind or road noise, that it’s easy to get up into illegal speeds without realizing it.

STYLING: Other than that puckered-up little face, XK’s subtle styling is beautifully balanced, especially in profile. The sculpted rear fenders and lift-back is highly reminiscent of the original XK-E coupe.

INTERIOR: For the two people up front, XK is noticeably roomier than the former XK8, but don’t even think about subjecting anyone to the back seat. ,The well-tailored interior is nicely laid out, with all the expected luxury trim. The video-screen navigation, audio and computer is better integrated than most.

BOTTOM LINE: Now owned by Ford, Jaguar has been an expensive drag on its troubled parent company, and there has been talk of selling off the storied British marque to the highest bidder. Ford has helped improve Jaguar’s quality while still allowing it to produce wonderful cars, so let’s hope the lightweight XK will help it turn the financial corner.

Jaguar XK

Vehicle type: Two-plus-two passenger, two-door coupe, rear-wheel drive. Engine: 4.2-liter V-8, !300 horsepower at 6,000 rpm, 310 pound-feet torque at 4,100 rpm. Transmission: Six-speed automatic. Wheelbase: 108.3 inches. Overall length: 188.6 inches. Curb weight: 3,671 pounds. EPA rating: 18 city, 27 highway.

Highs: Beautiful profile, agile handling, responsive transmission. Lows: Bulky front styling, vestigial rear seat, pricy.

Pricing

Base price: $74,835. Price as tested: $81,300.

OPTIONS — Luxury package, including 19-inch Carelia wheels; soft-grain leather seats, instrument panel, doors, and center console; wood-and-leather-trimmed steering wheel and gearshift knob, $3,300. — Advanced Technology Package, with adaptive cruise control and front lighting, $2,500. — Shipping, $665.

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