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.