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Cool for cats. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.

Cool for cats
A new engine and gearbox headline the changes that make up the updated Jaguar XK; it's more than the sum of its parts.

   



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| First Drive | Nice, France | 2010 Jaguar XK |

PowerPoint presentations can be boring affairs, but one slide in Jaguar's presentation of its new 5.0-litre V8 engine made me sit up and take notice. According to some real-world data collection, most drivers spend 95 per cent of the time with the engine below 4,000rpm and 80 per cent below 2,500rpm. That would suggest that high-revving engines are wasted on the average driver. This piece of information was central to the development of Jaguar's new naturally aspirated 5.0-litre V8. We tried it out for size in the updated XF saloon and in the facelifted XK Convertible.

In the Metal

It's fair to say that the outgoing XK had few critics when it came to its exterior styling. It represents a more modern Jaguar with sharp, graceful lines that hold just the right level of muscularity. Unsurprisingly, the 2010 model year version receives only minor tweaks, including new front and rear bumpers and mirrors. The redesigned rear lights, featuring LED graphics, are perhaps the most obvious difference, along with new wheels and colour options.

Jaguar has spent more time on the XK's interior. It now features the XF's unique rotary gear selector and a revised centre console to match. Other details - such as the white illumination for the instruments and chrome highlights on the electric seat switches -raise the overall sensation of an individual, high quality interior. Importantly, you feel like it's a special car just by sitting into it.

What you get for your Money

The new XK starts at 59,900 for the 5.0 V8 Coupe, to which you'll need to add a further 6,000 if you want to feel the wind in your hair. The model range is quite simple, with regular, Portfolio or R derivatives. The Portfolio model uses the naturally aspirated V8 and adds a much more luxurious interior, a more powerful stereo and gorgeous 19-inch alloys to the mix, while the XKR packs a supercharged version of the 5.0-litre engine. All models are equipped with continuously variable damping (Adaptive Dynamics in Jaguar-speak - see Worth Noting below), Bi-Xenon headlights, parking sensors all-round, electrically adjusted seats, Bluetooth communication and satnav, while the smallest wheels available are 18-inch in diameter. The XK is undeniably well equipped and sits between the BMW 6 Series and Mercedes-Benz SL in terms of price.

Driving it

That Jaguar's new V8 is a gem is in no doubt, but it's an even more thrilling engine when allied to the open-topped XK, as you get to hear a symphony of sounds from the exhaust in full stereo. It whispers, rumbles and roars at all the right times and there are even crackles and pops in the exhaust on the overrun that add to the experience. In propulsion terms, the new 5.0-litre unit is a major step forward from the old 4.2-litre engine. Jaguar's focus on the lower part of the rev range means that the XK never feels as if it's in the wrong gear for the situation.

Assisting the V8 in that cause is an overhauled six-speed automatic. Its gearchanges are super-quick, as is response to a flick of the steering wheel mounted paddles. The throttle blip accompanying downchanges is even more obvious in the Convertible and very welcome it is too.

Despite losing the rigid hard-top of the Coupe, the Convertible maintains its composure over rough roads and scuttle shake never reared its ugly head in our first drive of the car. Adaptive damping ensures that the XK can fill the role of long distance cruiser as well as it can attack a B-road with confidence, though its natural habitat is on fast sweeping tarmac, where it grips hard and scythes from corner to corner. Keener drivers will bemoan the lack of meaningful communication from the helm, though it's accurate enough and well-weighted. The chassis feels nicely rear-wheel lead, though the traction control takes no nonsense from the driver before cutting power. Thankfully it's a quick thinking system that allows the power back on just as fast and there is an in-between mode for those not quite brave enough to turn the electronic safety net off.

Worth Noting

Jaguar has replaced its aptly named CATS (Computer Active Technology Suspension) with simply 'Adaptive Dynamics'. While CATS effectively offered the option of a soft ride or a hard ride, Adaptive Dynamics is a continuously variable system. Every second, Adaptive Dynamics monitors a vast set of sensors 100 times and sets each damper according not only to the current situation, but also to the predicted scenario. For instance, if the car is sweeping through a fast left-hander and the driver suddenly lifts off the throttle, the system knows how the car will react and pre-empts the body movements before they happen, resulting in much better body control and composure. The end result is an enjoyable car to drive quickly, which adapts to road conditions. Adaptive Dynamics is standard on all XK models and on the new XFR.

Summary

Jaguar's engineers have endowed the XK with a fantastic and exciting new engine and an automatic transmission to match. The exterior and interior upgrades are modest, but highly effective with the net result being a car that feels as special as it looks. That it is as good at cruising as it is at being driven hard is testament to a well sorted chassis. The Jaguar XK has truly come of age.

Shane O' Donoghue - 13 Mar 2009



  www.jaguar.co.uk    - Jaguar road tests
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- XK 5.0 V8 images

2009 Jaguar XK Convertible. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.2009 Jaguar XK Convertible. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.2009 Jaguar XK Convertible. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.2009 Jaguar XK Convertible. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.2009 Jaguar XK Convertible. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.

2009 Jaguar XK Convertible. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.2009 Jaguar XK Convertible. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.2009 Jaguar XK Convertible. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.2009 Jaguar XK Convertible. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.2009 Jaguar XK Convertible. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.



2009 Jaguar XK Convertible. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.
 

2009 Jaguar XK Convertible. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.
 

2009 Jaguar XK Convertible. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.
 

2009 Jaguar XK Convertible. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.
 

2009 Jaguar XK Convertible. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.
 

2009 Jaguar XK Convertible. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.
 






 

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