2011 Jaguar XK Review

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The Car Connection
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The Car Connection Expert Review

Marty Padgett Marty Padgett Editorial Director
January 30, 2011

If you're not lured in by the siren song of a car like the 2011 Jaguar XK, you're beyond hope.

Does it surprise you that one of the top-rated vehicles at TheCarConnection is...a Jaguar sportscar?

We've admired the Jaguar XK family since the 2007 model year, when they were recast in aluminum and went from pretty to spectacular. The current XK made a major leap for the brand and for sportscar shoppers who wanted some alternative to the Mercedes-Benz SL, BMW 6-Series, the Porsche 911, or even the Chevrolet Corvette. Not only was the shape much more tensely drawn, so was the performance--and it's only grown better over time.

These days, the XK lineup is founded on a new 5.0-liter V-8 built by Jaguar since its divorce from Ford. It's a muscular, almost musclecar-like engine, with 385 horsepower in base tune and a staggering 510 horsepower when it's supercharged. Funneling its power to the rear wheels through a swift, six-speed, paddle-shifted automatic, the XKR can nuke a 60-mph acceleration test in 4.6 seconds or less. Way less, from what we feel and hear. The XK's handling is almost faultless, too, even with big 20-inch rims: it's a masterful balancing act between traction and comfort managed by an electronic suspension system.

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The cabin's utterly captivating, save for the already outdated touchscreen that drives the climate, audio and navigation controls. It's just a little too slow and complex, given the great systems coming from Ford and Chrysler. The XK's lavish wood or aluminum trim and its achingly soft leather seats will make up for it, we promise.

For 2011, the improvements to the XK are minor. Jaguar's added five years or 50,000 miles of free service to reassure buyers unsure of its post-Ford quality controls. There's also HD Radio on the options list, and a new XKR175 limited-edition coupe with 20-inch wheels, red brake calipers and a top speed of 174 mph.

It may not have the efficiency of some of the top-scoring vehicles we've road-tested, but the Jaguar XK and XKR overdeliver in so many other ways, it's the sportscar we'd choose for grand touring adventures...and everything faster.

10

2011 Jaguar XK

Styling

The 2011 Jaguar XK's flawless looks render other sultry sports cars second-rate.

Even if you shop with an American Express Centurion card and travel over water as often as you do by air, you'll be hard-pressed to name a more suave grand tourer than the Jaguar XK. Astons aren't quite as voluptuous; Maseratis a little less graceful.

Built as a convertible or as a coupe, the XK is a sculptural exercise for the ages. It flows from stunning curve to essential line, with barely a surface out of place. From the rear quarter, the convertible has some Camaro emotion in its undulating panels; from most other angles it's pure Coventry, with the disruptions of the straight-edged headlamps and taillamps put in place specifically by designer Ian Callum to stop and hold your attention. 

Last year Callum tinkered with the front end mildly, giving the XK a deeper chin. It's the detail we'd have left unchanged; the slight makeover adds big air intakes that demand equal time from the oval grille and sloping hood, and they're just not up to the same snuff.

The XK's cabin escapes without a smudge. The cockpit is organized beautifully, stripped down to some elemental forms with as few buttons and switches as possible, and paneled with walnut or metallic trim. Knurled chrome rollers control the audio from the steering wheel, and chromed switches work the power seats from the door panels--both are loving nods to tradition. 

On a major 21st-century tangent, the bright, big LCD touchscreen lets drivers tap their way through audio, navigation, and climate controls. The XK's gorgeous gauges are brightly illuminated in white and read cleanly like a collector timepiece; the transplanted JaguarDrive wheel from the Jaguar XF is an easy fit in the console, though the XK doesn't have the rotate-to-life air vents of the XF sedan.

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10

2011 Jaguar XK

Performance

The awesome power and organic driving feel of the 2011 Jaguar XK blurs the line between GTs and sports cars.

When it transplanted a big, bawdy 5.0-liter V-8 into the XK and XKR, Jaguar proved it was serious about declaring its independence from Ford--and in taking on Porsche, serious as a heart attack.

The big V-8 throbs with 385 horsepower and 380 pound-feet of torque. It's only available in tandem with a six-speed, paddle-shifted automatic, but the combination is fierce. Jaguar quotes 0-60 mph times of 5.2 seconds for the coupe, and while it's running for time, the XK's 75 extra horsepower get more vocal and erupt in a more muscular, NASCAR-ish exhaust noise. Acceleration is beyond brisk, and poking the throttle is addictive, since the automatic snaps off gearchanges faster than any automated-manual clutch we know. The ZF gearbox also offers up Sport and Snow shift modes,but you'll want to be on guard with the Sport mode. The XK's quick reflexes mean even its big 19-inch Dunlops can break loose easily.

The XK's a responsive, delightful joy to drive. The highway ride is tuned for flat cornering and good tracking, and it delivers grand-touring levels of comfort. The XK's brakes are particularly communicative and easy to modulate. All XKs have an Adaptive Dynamics suspension, with continuously variable dampers. The system does a fantastic job filtering out road abrasions and jarring pockmarks, without much excess body motion.

Multiply all that by itself, and you'll arrive at the XKR. It's like an XK with a few thousand more BTUs in its bank account. It's supercharged to 510 hp and 461 lb-ft of torque, and it can blast off 60-mph runs in just 4.6 seconds, on the conservative side of estimates. This is one...hell...of a fast car. It'll loaf around all day at 2500 rpm, too, with three-quarters of its maximum torque already at your toes. jaguar tightens the XKR's adaptive suspension a bit more firmly, all the better to use up its 20-inch wheels and tires. And make no mistake, the XKR will overpower its tires at every possible opportunity.

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8

2011 Jaguar XK

Comfort & Quality

The Jaguar XK swaddles passengers in luxury up front. The back seat binds their feet, and there's not much trunk space for long-distance adventures.

It sports a pair of rear seats, but the 2011 Jaguar XK and XKR are for all intents and purposes, two-seaters.

In front, the XK and XKR have more foot and leg room than sportscar shoppers may expect. It's roomier than many of its high-rolling competitors. There's more headroom than in the previous XK, and long seat travel (plus an adjustable-length bottom seat cushion) almost guarantees that front passengers will find the foot space they need.

In an emergency, you might be able to squeeze an adult across the back seats, but there's simply not enough room back there to promise any leg or shoulder room to extra people. The rear seats are barely large enough to carry a roll-aboard suitcase, though you'd never want to scuff the leather that way, and they're narrow--even more so in XK and XKR convertibles.

The trunk is a meager 10 cubic feet in coupes, and it downsizes to less than 8 cubic feet in convertibles when the top is down. It's hardly enough room for two soft-sided bags. Blame the XK's high cargo floor and low-slung glass and decklid, but you'll have to leave the hard suitcases at home..

While you're soothing those fashion wounds, soak up some of the beautiful details and careful construction in the cabin. The XK's glossy, deeply grained wood is gorgeous; so are the stitching in the leather and the plush carpeting. You could spend twice as much on some Italian sports cars and get an interior with more pedestrian, poorly fitted trim.

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9

2011 Jaguar XK

Safety

No crash-test scores have surfaced, but the 2011 Jaguar XK has reassuring safety features and a strongly built body.

Neither of the major crash-testing agencies has rated the 2011 Jaguar XK, in either coupe or convertible form.

Both the NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) and the IIHS (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety) have each changed their rating criteria for the new model year, and many vehicles are on the to-do list. However, neither group had crashed the XK before the standards changed either--so we're assigning a relatively high safety score to the XK based on its long list of safety features and the inherent strength of its bonded-aluminum body. 

We'll update our ratings when more data is available.

In every XK, you'll find dual front and side airbags, along with anti-lock brakes, as well as traction and stability control. Also standard are front and rear parking sensors--but a rearview camera isn't offered, and the XK lacks side curtain airbags since it's frequently cut down into Convertible form.

Options include active cruise control and adaptive headlights.

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10

2011 Jaguar XK

Features

It's stuffed to the gills with standard features, but we'd give the Jaguar XK's touchscreen controls a touch-up.

The bundles of features made standard on the 2011 Jaguar XK and XKR coupes and convertibles make for a more streamlined ordering process than you'd experience with, say, the endlessly configurable Porsche 911.

The basic XK coupe comes with power windows, locks, and mirrors; leather upholstery; a navigation system; cruise control; Bluetooth audio; 19-inch wheels; keyless entry and push-button start; a heated, tilt-and-telescope steering wheel; and a 525-watt Bowers & Wilkins surround-sound audio system with Sirius Satellite Radio, a six-CD changer, and USB port.

A well-insulated, quick-folding fabric top is standard on the XK Convertible, and it includes power rear quarter windows. 

The XKR stocks all these features standard, with the addition of 20-inch wheels and different wood or metallic trim.

Jaguar limits options to a very few ultra-high-end add-ons. HD Radio is an option, as are active headlights.

Jaguar was a step ahead of the in-car infotainment wave when it opted for an LCD touchscreen instead of roller-controller dials to run its navigation, climate and audio systems. We still love the idea of the Apple-like swiping, but the XK's screen can be fussy, slow to change screens and slow to recognize a touch. Just as flawed is some outdated mapping, which could leave the choicest sections of empty, curvy pavement off your personal radar.

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5

2011 Jaguar XK

Fuel Economy

With groundshaking V-8 drivetrains, the 2011 Jaguar XK isn't the poster child for earth-friendly driving.

The 2011 Jaguar XK and XKR are near-exotic sportscars with supremely powerful -8 engines. That means fuel economy takes a hit--but not quite as much of a hit as it could, since the XK sportscars are built from lighter-weight aluminum.

The EPA rates the 385-horsepower 2011 XK coupe at 16/24 mpg, for its sole rear-drive, automatic-equipped powertrain. As a convertible, the fuel economy drops on the highway cycle, to 16/22 mpg.

With the addition of a supercharger to the 510-hp XKR's V-8, gas mileage slips even more, to 15/22 mpg.

Jaguar plans no hybrid nor electric versions of the XK. Could you just imagine?

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9.4
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Styling 10
Performance 10
Comfort & Quality 8
Safety 9
Features 10
Fuel Economy 5
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