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It's no green machine, unless you opt for a traditionally British paint hue. The 2013 Jaguar XK is simply a dazzling blend of grand tourer and sports car that's grown more authentic over the past few years as it's joined the 500-horsepower club.
Since its 2007 reinvention, when it adopted an aluminum body structure, the change in direction for the XK was clear. The transformation was slowed by Jaguar's separation from Ford, but when that was complete, so was its change, finalized by the adoption of new, big, brash V-8 engines in 2010. And since then, the XK's standing in the luxury-sportscar niche has been cemented. It's no longer a pretty sideshow, content to watch cars like the 911 and Corvette consume all the attention. It's now a knockout alternative with its own Nurburgring Racing Academy--but with a tractable, everyday persona that still pits it against comfortable touring cars like the SL, 6-Series, and GranTurismo.
The XK's one of those rare cars that's only gotten better over time, and the current edition is the high-water mark, from muscular XK to scorching XKR-S. The stock car has a burbling 5.0-liter V-8 under its hood, pushing out 385 horsepower through a six-speed, paddle-shifted automatic to the rear wheels. Supercharge that, and the lofty numbers rise to 510 hp--while 0-60 mph times fall from 5.2 seconds to 4.6 sec. Above that, you're jumping into the slipstream with the rorty XKR-S, tuned to the extreme for 550 horsepower and a 0-60 mph run in under 4.2 seconds, on the way to a 186-mph top speed.
No matter which model, the XK's handling is in brilliant balance. An adjustable suspension gives any XK nearly faultless handling that firms up at the touch of a button, and though the steering changes in the XKR-S give it a little too much lightness, the XK lineup executes a masterful balancing act between traction and comfort, even on big 20-inch wheels.
An utterly captivating cockpit just needs a firmware upgrade for its touchscreen-driven software; it reacts a little slowly as you try to drive the XK's climate, audio and navigation controls. Elsewhere, the Jag's fit and finish could charm anyone, with a choice of wood or metallic trim, natural leather hides and plush, thick carpeting.
A rearview camera is now standard, though the Jag's safety scores are still absent--who wants to crash one?--and new trim options come on all models. The XKR-S has its own package of frills, while it bundles up almost all the features available on to its standard equipment list, including an excellent Bowers & Wilkins sound system.
Is it really that good? Let's put it this way: seven years into its model run, the Jaguar XK is still one of the highest-rated vehicles at The Car Connection. Who says you don't get ahead by staying the same?