2010 Jaguar XK ConvertiblePosted on July 27th, 2009
All-new models have enhanced power and performance technology
By Nina Russin
The XK is the archetypal Jaguar, melding styling reminiscent of the XK120 and E-Type, with modern performance. As I slip into the driver’s seat and stare across its expansive hood, I am stupidly happy.
This year, all-new XK models come with a choice of naturally aspirated or supercharged V8 engines: more powerful and fuel efficient than the ones they replace. All cars come with a ZF six-speed automatic transmission that the driver controls using shift paddles on the steering wheel, or a rotary knob similar to that on the Jaguar ZF, mounted on the center console.
Keyless start is standard. Upon entering the car, a start button on the center console pulses red in a heartbeat rhythm. Depressing it raises the adjacent shift knob: the shift knob retracts flush with the surface when the ignition is off.
New engine technology
The test car is the XK convertible, with the naturally aspirated V8 engine. Jaguar designed both new engines internally at its research and design center at Whitley, Coventry. The XKs are surprisingly heavy cars: curb weight for the convertible is 4674 pounds. Engineers faced the challenge of minimizing engine weight, while producing performance that makes the XK feel lighter than it actually is.
The team started with aluminum engine blocks and heads, limiting the use of cast iron to the cylinder liners and crankshafts. Forged steel connecting rods can withstand the punishment of aggressive driving. The new engines are shorter than the blocks they replace, allowing for a larger open space at the front of the engine bay for pedestrian protection.
New technologies including direct injection, variable cam and valve timing increase engine power under load, while minimizing emissions. More efficient lubrication systems allowed engineers to increase oil change intervals from 10,000 to 15,000 miles.
The ZF automatic transmission adapts to the driver’s style, holding gears longer when the car is driven for sport. To switch to manual shift, the driver touches one of the Formula-style shift paddles on the steering wheel. Blipping the rotary knob returns the car to fully automatic mode.
The transmission works in concert with an active suspension system that adjusts shock damping and roll according to driving conditions. The driver chooses between three modes: dynamic, normal and winter. The dynamic mode stiffens suspension components for high-speed driving, while the winter mode dampens throttle response for better performance in wet weather. Normal is the default mode when the driver starts the engine.
Light on its feet
Together, the new engine, transmission and suspension produce abundant power, nimble handling and positive steering response. The naturally aspirated engine accelerates from zero-to-sixty in just over five seconds.
I did two acceleration tests: one in fully automatic mode, and the other shifting manually. Shifting manually produces slightly better results and a louder exhaust note, but automatic mode provides plenty of power.
Engineers retuned the car for more aggressive exhaust note. All models come with dual oval chrome exhaust tips. A new rear spoiler is also standard.
Since I was driving the car in the middle of Phoenix summer, putting the top down didn’t hold a lot of appeal. While I missed driving the car open air, I was impressed by the cloth top’s sound insulation. The top has three layers to minimize wind noise. It also does a surprisingly good job of keeping heat out of the cockpit, even in 113 degree weather.
Though Jaguar calls the XK a sports car, it feels more like a grand tourer. With its elegant styling, the convertible seems more at home on winding two-lane roads than a racetrack. All models are rev limited to 155 miles-per-hour: ninety seems to be the sweet spot, when engine performance and steering response are at their best.
A large air dam under the oval-shaped grille helps the engine to breathe better, while side air scoops cool the large disc brakes. The brakes stop the car in a firm, linear fashion without being grabby.
The XK rides on 19-inch standard wheels with low-profile tires. An new wheel design incorporates Jaguar “growler” emblems in the center caps.
As convertibles go, visibility around the car is pretty good. Side mirrors with redundant signal markers do a good job of minimizing blind spots to the rear corners. Standard park assist sounds an audible warning if the car comes close to objects below the driver’s sight line. Despite its relatively high cowl, visibility out the front is pretty good.
Classic sports car interior
Inside, the XK blends classic flourishes such as the growler emblem on the steering wheel hub, with high tech features including heated and cooled seats, dual-zone temperature controls, Bluetooth and iPod interface. Both front seats have 16 adjustments, and three memory positions.
Optional burl walnut veneer on the test car sweeps across the center console and the instrument panel. The center console bin includes a USB port and iPod interface; the cigarette lighter serves as a 12 volt power point.
The tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel includes audio, Bluetooth and cruise controls, as well as the shift paddles. The center console houses the start button, electronic parking brake, rotary shift knob, and controls for the dynamic stability control system. The driver can turn stability control off by depressing the DSC button for ten seconds.
Large analog gauges in the instrument panel are easy to read. A digital screen between the speedometer and tachometer includes an analog clock, fuel and trip meters and gear indicator.
Audio and climate controls on the center stack function intuitively, and are easy to reach from either front seating position. The navigation screen at the top of the center stack doubles as a touchscreen display. It includes navigation system programming options (including points of interest), seat heater and cooler controls, system and vehicle settings.
The test car comes with the optional audio upgrade: a 525 watt Bowers & Wilkins surround-sound system, with HD and Sirius satellite radio.
The overhead console includes two reading lamps and controls for the soft top. The top deploys in 18 seconds and stows beneath a metal boot.
Minimal storage capability
Not surprisingly, the Jaguar’s trunk is quite small. The boot for the top occupies the front part of the trunk, allowing enough additional space for small packages or a small suitcase.
The car’s back seats are essentially a nod to the insurance companies. Their primary value is as additional storage for items that won’t fit in the trunk.
Storage areas around the passenger compartment include map pockets in the doors, two smallish cupholders, a locking glovebox and the center console bin.
The XK convertible comes standard with front and side airbags, a roll bar, stability control and antilock brakes. Jaguar builds the XK at its assembly plant in Castle Bromwich, UK.
Likes: A beautifully designed sports tourer with a powerful engine, excellent steering response and braking. The interior is remarkably quiet for a convertible, and visibility around the car is better than average.
Dislikes: Back seats are useless except for storage; extremely small trunk.
Model: XK convertible
Base price: $88,150
As tested: $90,300
Horsepower: 385 Hp @ 6500 rpm
Torque: 380 lbs.-ft. @ 3500 rpm
Zero-to-sixty: 5.3 seconds
Antilock brakes: Standard
Side curtain airbags: N/A
First aid kit: N/A
Bicycle friendly: No
Fuel economy: 16/22 mpg city/highway
Comments: MSRP does not include a $850 delivery charge.
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