2013 Jaguar XK Review

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Marty Padgett Marty Padgett Editorial Director
September 25, 2012

Raising pulses and generating sheer envy: it's all in a day's work for the gorgeous, sublime Jaguar XK.

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.

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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?

10

2013 Jaguar XK

Styling

Sinewy and gorgeous, the Jaguar XK hardly looks like it's been on the road five years already.

The Jaguar XK used to wage its entire identity on svelte elegance. Now that its performance has driven it into a new, more demanding niche, its styling has followed--it's more tense, more muscular, and more purposeful than pretty.

That's a compliment, and you don't have to be part of the enthusiast horde or the Gulfstream crowd to perceive the vast difference between the two generations. It's right there in the industrial tone of the XK's aluminum panels. It's one stunning curve after another, with barely an extraneous line to be found, and still, full of emotion. The stance of a musclecar reverberates in the rear quarters, mating perfectly with the sideview that's as classically Coventry as anything since the E-Type. There's a single disruption to the flow: the flat slice under the teardrop shape of the headlamps, put there on purpose by chief designer Ian Callum so they wouldn't get lost in the flow--so the face of the XK would draw more attention to itself than the elliptical haunches.

In the past few years there's been some tinkering with the front end, presaging the looks that are due to arrive with the smaller 2014 F-Type roadster. The XK's chin is now cleft a little more deeply, and the LED headlamps have air intakes that bracket the front fascia, putting even more emphasis on the grille and Jaguar face. The fender vents were spun 90 degrees from vertical to horizontal--they'd been flipped originally to avoid conflict with Aston Martin designs, we've heard. And on the heart-stopping XKR-S, the aerodynamic treatments double down on those details, with air splitters front and rear and at the leading edge of the hood.

The XK's cabin hasn't been reconfigured since it was new in 2007, and that's fine. It's organized beautifully, stripped down to elemental shapes and shorn of as many buttons and switches as it could be. The dash is paneled with walnut or metallic trim, and bright trim glints tastefully from around the cabin--on the knurled rollers that control the audio from the steering wheel, on the chromed switches that operate the power seats from the door panels.

A large LCD touchscreen dominates the cockpit, and gives passengers fingertip control over the audio, navigation, and climate controls. White-lit gauges read like collector timepieces. The JaguarDrive gear selector from the Jaguar XF fits elegantly into the console, though it's missing the rotate-to-life air vents found in the XF sedan.
10

2013 Jaguar XK

Performance

No car straddles the line between grand tourer and sports car more finely than the Jaguar XK.

As it's gradually made its way from sexy grand tourer to ferocious performer, the Jaguar XK's learned some lessons from the sportscars that live across the English Channel--and even across the Atlantic. First it got the body structure it needed in its 2007 redesign; then in 2010, it adopted (some say it engineered) a new 5.0-liter V-8 with some strong resemblances to the one in today's Ford Mustang that changed its tone entirely, from polite to a lot more urgent.

The base XK convertible and coupe keep that normally aspirated, "5.0" for the 2013 model year, carrying over its 385 horsepower and 380 pound-feet of torque, sending the force through the rear wheels via a six-speed ZF automatic transmission with paddle-shift controls. It's a vocal, jolting powerplant that has a distinct American rumble in its exhaust and an authoritative snap off the line--some of the credit for which goes to the gearbox, the workhorse of luxury cars everywhere. You'll befuddle a bunch of Shelby fans when you brrrap by in the XK, and get addicted to its muscular thrusts to 60 mph in a stated 5.2 seconds. Top speed is pegged at 155 mph. The shifts happen quickly, about as quickly as a dual-clutch unit, Jaguar says, and snow- and sport-shift modes are calculated into the 'box's selectable shift models. Stay in normal to avoid some twitchy responses in town, and the XK will feel alternately serene and snarly.

It's still delightful to drive, even as its dynamic capabilities have grown. The ride's controlled, with the right give for highway cruising and the tight reflexes, flat cornering and neat tracking needed for hard charging. That's due to the Adaptive Dynamics suspension, a set of adjustable shocks that do yeoman's duty honing down the worst of the road's surface irregularities, without sending too much reverb into the body structure. The XK's steering is reasonably quick and somewhat light; the brakes are exceptionally easy to modulate and let the driver know exactly what's left in them.

Throw some heat on that equation--well, really, a supercharger--and you're talking about the XKR, the 510-hp relative of the XK. With 461 lb-ft of torque and most of the same mechanicals, the XKR's 0-60 mph times drop to 4.6 seconds, and the jaw factor drops a couple more degrees. It's a stunningly quick grand tourer with supreme loafing capability at 2500 rpm, and bracing acceleration at any engine speed. Its adaptive suspension is tuned more firmly, and though it's shod with 20-inch wheels and tires, it feels always ready to overpower them to the point of electronic intervention. Top speed is 155 mph, but with an optional Dynamic Pack, it rises to 174 mph, while it also gets aero add-ons like front and rear diffusers, a rear spoiler and side sills, as well as the even more specific suspension tuning of the next model up in the ladder. To call it all out, the Dynamic Pack XKR gets red-painted brake calipers and its own 20-inch "Vulcan" wheels.

Need more? Then sample the limited-edition XKR-S, the Jaguar that goes where no Jaguar has gone before. With the XKR coupe's kit as a starting point, Jaguar tweaks fuel delivery and lifts some of the restrictions on the exhaust system to lift total output to 550 horsepower. New estimates put 0-60 mph times at 4.2 seconds, and top speed at 186 mph. The adaptive suspension is reprogrammed for more damping in dynamic mode, along with quicker shifts and sharper throttle response, while spring rates are up 28 percent. The active differential modulates power between wheels as traction needs arise, and this version gets its own steering geometry for claimed improvements in steering response and precision. Finally, the Jaguar four-mode stability control is remapped for more wheelspin, a complement to the exhaust valving that gives this XK a roaring motorsports soundtrack. Top speed is 186 mph.

If you thought the XKR was the incomparable peak of power, wait until you hear the XKR-S bellow through its mostly unrestricted exhaust. We're not sold on the steering changes--it's very fast but also very light--but the unflappable XK chassis feels even more so in this very exclusive edition, vaulting it into collectible status just as quickly as it catapults off the line. We've smoked tires around the most treacherous sunny-then-shady California switchbacks in one to find out the truth: You'll choke at your own price limits before you exhaust the ones that bind the XKR-S to the street.

8

2013 Jaguar XK

Comfort & Quality

The XK's sumptuous interior is fitted with fine seats and finer materials.

Like other sportscars billed as 2+2s, the Jaguar XK's effectively a two-seater; those rear seats are token gestures tossed at practicality more than at real passengers.

In front, there's no lack of space or accoutrements. The XK has expansive leg room and impressive space in most directions; it's roomier than almost all its direct, high-rolling competitors, though the Maserati GranTurismo and the newest 911 come close. The head room is better than in past XKs, and both the convertible and the coupe have seats with long tracks that allow lots of travel, and an adjustable bottom cushion. Coupled with a tilt/telescoping steering wheel, it's simple to find a sweet spot for driving. Touring and XKR-S models have standard heated front seat, while Portfolio cars have ventilated seats.

And then there's the back seat, which we've used more often for gym bags than for adults or even small kids. A couple of soft-sided bags will fit, but no one over 5' 5" will, even if they're soft-sided, too. The seats are narrow, and knee room is almost nonexistent. The same is true for elbow and hip room, since the teensy buckets are split by the drivetrain tunnel.

Trunk space is just as thin. On coupes, at least the 11 cubic feet of locked space will hold a couple of pieces of luggage. Convertibles lose 2 cubic feet and the opening gets even smaller. The high cargo floor, low-slung glass and stubby decklid make for a gorgeous rear end, but make little room for hard-sided suitcases.

Fashion exacts its own price, so while you're shipping ahead a week's worth of clothes, plan on soothing yourself in the XK's fabulously paneled and detailed cabin. The XK is crammed with glossy, deeply grained wood trim of a few choice grains, or aluminum trim if you like. The leather's stitched superbly, the carpeting is plush and thick. Cars twice as expensive aren't finished half as nicely as the XK, and its cockpit is worth the price of entry alone.

9

2013 Jaguar XK

Safety

No crash-test data is available, but the XK's stout body structure and standard safety features give it a head-start.

The Jaguar XK returns for the 2013 model year with the same safety gear as last year.

With this information at hand, we're giving the XK a tentative safety score of 9, based on its safety gear and the inherent strength of its aerospace-style bonded-aluminum body. We'll update our ratings if or when more data is available.

Though it has all this safety content, neither crash-test agency has put the XK through their wall tests yet. Both the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) modified their ratings systems for the 2011 model year and are still catching up with the trickle-down effects--not that they'd even test such an expensive, low-volume car as an XK in the first place.

Every XK coupe and convertible comes with standard dual front and side airbags, but since it's also built as a convertible, curtain airbags are left off the list. Anti-lock brakes, traction and stability control also are standard, and can be tweaked via sport settings to allow more wheel slip.

Front and rear parking sensors are standard, and this year they're joined by a rearview camera, a vital addition that helps rearward visibility in any XK with a roof in place. Convertibles also come with pop-up roll bars that deploy when the car senses a rollover is imminent.

Safety options include active cruise control and adaptive headlights.

9

2013 Jaguar XK

Features

The XK's lush appointments include a wide choice of colors and trims, but the touchscreen interface is feeling its years.

Some new updates for the 2013 model year keep the Jaguar XK's most exclusive model around for another year, and add equipment to most versions.

There's also a new Touring model, a less expensive entry-level model that brings the base price of the XK under $80,000 before destination. Available as a coupe or as a convertible, it comes standard with the 375-hp V-8, a fabric headliner on coupes or a power folding top on convertibles, and 19-inch wheels, while other XKs start with 20-inch wheels standard. The Touring also receives a premium sound system with satellite radio as standard equipment, along with a rearview camera and parking sensors; steering-wheel audio and phone controls; keyless entry and pushbutton start; power windows, locks, and mirrors; automatic climate control; Bluetooth; a navigation system; and leather upholstery.

The LCD touchscreen that governs the XK's audio, phone, navigation and ancillary systems was one of the first to bow in any sportscar, and it's generally slower to respond than some newer systems. The menu structure can require several "back" commands or as a last resort, a "home" key, and radio presets can be a multi-step affair.

Along with these features, the XKR and XKR-S get their own distinct wood and metallic trim choices, as well as a stunning 525-watt Bowers & Wilkins audio system. Sport seats with 16-way power adjustments, memory controls and heating are available on the XKR, and standard on the XKR-S--which returns for 2013 again in limited numbers, with just 100 copies each of the coupe and convertible reserved for U.S. customers, again minus standard satellite radio but with standard HD Radio, which is an option on other models.

On the XK and XKR, a new Portfolio Pack adds a layer of glitz to the sportscar with chrome trim on the mirrors and a chrome mesh grille, with more color options available on the convertible tops on those models. Portfolio seats are heated and cooled, and the steering-wheel is heated; pedals are stainless steel; and dash trim is a choice between walnut and dark-tinted aluminum.

Prices range from $79,875 for the XK Touring to $138,875 for the XKR-S Convertible.

5

2013 Jaguar XK

Fuel Economy

EPA numbers aren't bad, but the XK's gas mileage is low when compared with efficient sportscars like the latest 911.

A super-powerful touring car isn't expected to have excellent fuel economy, and the Jaguar XK lineup meets those expectations in the real world, though its EPA numbers aren't all that awful.

With only V-8 engines under the hood, the 2013 XK--and supercharged XKR and XKR-S--log gas-mileage numbers that fall several digits below cars like the latest Porsche 911. The Jaguars do as well as they do, given their prodigious power, because of their relatively lightweight aluminum body structures and six-speed automatic gearboxes.

This year, the EPA says the standard 385-horsepower Jaguar XK coupe earns 16 miles per gallon city, and 24 miles per gallon highway. As a convertible, its highway mileage drops to 22 mpg. 

With the supercharger, the net effect is the same for coupe and convertible: both body styles are rated by the EPA t 15/22 mpg, decent figures for a car with 510 horsepower.

Jaguar has recently announced plans to introduce hybrid technology to its lineup, but it's not likely to make it into today's XK, which is due for a replacement in the next two or three years.
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9.2
Overall
Expert Rating
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Styling 10.0
Performance 10.0
Comfort & Quality 8.0
Safety 9.0
Features 9.0
Fuel Economy 5.0
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