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Driven: 2010 Jaguar XK Coupe

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Jaguar had already achieved what was, we thought, darn close to the perfect grand-touring coupe, with the current-generation Jaguar XK that was introduced for 2007. But they just made it even better for 2010.

Most notably, Jag has fitted its new 5.0-liter V-8 to the XK; it makes 385 horsepower at a high-revving 6500 rpm, along with 380 pound-feet at 3500 rpm, and although the 75 extra horsepower than last year doesn't give the XK a full-on personality transplant it now makes it feel almost as fast as the former XKR (for a review of the new 2010 Jaguar XKR, you'll want to check out Michael Frank's take on it over at MotorAuthority). With weight only up about a hundred pounds versus last year, the XK moves with a lot more authority.

The 2010 Jaguar XK does an even better job than before in its straddling of the line between grand tourer and sports car. All XKs have the Adaptive Dynamics suspension, with continuously variable dampers, and it just does its job without the driver ever having to worry, filtering out abrasive road surfaces and jarring patchwork yet able to command quick changes of motion with surprisingly little excess body motion. Also cool is the semi-active exhaust system, which keeps a nice quiet note in gentle driving, changing to a much more vocal, trumpety sound at full throttle. Grab the steering-wheel paddles and downshifts are prompt and firm, with a very slight blip of the throttle to smooth it out. But we were much happier with this six-speed automatic transmission than we are with most; it feels completely clued-in to your right foot, with none of the rolling start indecision that some units are plagued with.

The steering is a little bit on the light side, but it centers nicely and builds some weight just when you need it, with just a hint of road feel.

The driving experience feels a lot more intimate, with a warmer feel overall, than vehicles like the 2010 Mercedes-Benz SL-Class or the BMW 6-Series, and much more elegant and luxurious than a base Porsche 911—all of which (except the SL) would be in about the same $80,000 price range. For those who haven't driven the XK since its last major redesign for 2007, the big grand tourer isn't as limited in headroom or confining in its overall driving position as its predecessor. Especially with a tall driver like this one, you sit closer to the rear wheels than to the fronts, so you feel more in command of the vehicle's dynamics than in most vehicles.

Step down on the gas a little too eagerly when making a right turn from a stoplight or stop sign, as is easy to do, and the tail steps out just a little bit—a behavior exaggerated somewhat by the damp roads that persisted for much of the time that we had the XK. When they had the chance to warm up on dry roads, the Dunlop SP Sport 01 rubber became noticeably stickier. For those who want a little longer dynamic leash—or a little more hooliganism—there's a competition mode, plus a snow mode.

EPA fuel-economy regulations appear to give the XK a bum deal, as they often do with large-displacement engines; in about a hundred miles of mixed driving—plenty of it spirited—we averaged a solid 18 mpg, while the XK's official estimates stand at 16 mpg city, 24 highway.


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