EXPERT REVIEW

AZCentral.com's view


Jaguar automobiles are so often compared with cats that the notion now seems hackneyed. Yet there really is something feline about these British cars, especially such gems as the all-aluminum XK convertible.

Smooth, sinewy, agile, muscular, all those catlike adjectives seem appropriate for this lovely craft. You might also add haughty and standoffish, but only because of the price tag.

The ragtop XK is new for 2007, following the entry of the widely acclaimed XK coupe. These are gorgeous sporting machines, perhaps not as aggressive or powerful as the competition but rich with classic motoring style and character.

Top down, the XK is a first-rate cruiser, with the thrum of the V-8 exhaust note adding to the overall sensation of well-being. The convertible feels as taut and solid as the coupe, though it gives up something in styling to the coupe’s sleek roofline.

The XK label is Jaguar’s longtime designation for its sports cars, going back to the XK120 of the early 1950s, although the latest XK is the first Jag to wear the sports letters standing alone. The aluminum body also harks back to the early XK120s.

The XK look evokes the landmark XK-E of the 1960s and ’70s, with its rounded haunches, low, sculpted hood and sporty stance. The slim oval grille is also a nod toward the E-Type, although the heavy chin spoiler wrecks the effect, flattening out the face. It has something to do with European pedestrian safety standards,from what I understand.

Despite its elegant and distinctive cars, Jaguar has faded before the onslaught of high-end German and Japanese competition. Luxury-car buyers who crave something completely different from the expected Mercedes, BMW or Lexus, something that will stand out at the country club or the night club, might take a look at this cool cat.

PERFORMANCE: A 300-horsepower V-8 provides plenty of power, but there are bigger, stronger engines in this price range from such sporty competition as BMW and Audi. If you crave more, and have more to spend, there’s a supercharged version of XK, the 420-horsepower XKR, available for just under $92,000. The V-8 XK is coupled with a superb six-speed automatic that’s right on the button, from tooling around in “drive” with easy, predictable shifts to responding crisply with the steering-wheel paddle shifter.

DRIVABILITY: XK’s refined suspension invites you to slice through curves, but it also provides a compliant ride for touring or challenging urban potholes. The steering is sharply responsive. The test Jag ruffled with wind roar with the top up, marring the sophisticated ride. The XK comes just one way, fully loaded, including electronic stability control, active suspension, traction control, four-wheel disc brakes with antilock, side airbags, GPS navigation and Bluetooth.

STYLING: The beautifully sporting form is easily mistaken for an Aston-Martin, with broad, muscular rear fenders over fat performance tires. That puckered-up front end needs some work, though.

INTERIOR: The XK’s splendid cabin is roomy and nicely laid out, with expensive-looking tailored leather and all the luxury features. Just forget about that back seat, best reserved for small pets or packages. The trunk is also minuscule.

BOTTOM LINE: A gorgeous machine that drives like a thoroughbred.

Vehicle type: Two-plus-two passenger, two-door convertible, 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: 3,759 pounds. EPA rating: 18 city, 27 highway.

HIGHS: Gorgeous styling, ride refinement, lush interior. LOWS: Wind roar, teeny trunk, pricey.

Base price: $80,835. Price as tested: $84,800.

OPTIONS *Luxury package, including heated wood-and-leather steering wheel, leather instrument panel, 19-inch alloy wheels, power seats, $3,300. *Shipping, $665.

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