2012 Jaguar XK

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The Car Connection Expert Review

Martin Padgett Martin Padgett Editorial Director
September 1, 2011

Buying tip

The Jag XK's Bowers & Wilkins sound system is among the best we've ever heard, with crisp midrange and deep bass that renders as well as some microbrands' home setups.

features & specs

2-Door Conv
2-Door Conv XKR
2-Door Conv XKR-S
16 city / 22 hwy
15 city / 22 hwy
15 city / 22 hwy

How to tell if you're hopeless, when it comes to cars: take your pulse after looking at or driving the 2012 Jaguar XK.

If you removed its green score from the equation, the 2012 Jaguar XK would be one of the highest-rated vehicles at TheCarConnection.

We've been slavish devotees of the XK family since the 2007 model year, when Jaguar refashioned the whole lineup and exchanged their old steel bodied for aerospace-style aluminum ones. The XK was transformed from a pretty luxury two-seat sideshow into a stunning sportscar with all the roadgoing talents of its GT competition. As a knockout alternative to the Mercedes-Benz SL, BMW 6-Series, the Porsche 911, or even the Chevrolet Corvette, the XK generated real excitement with its effortless looks and newly tensed reflexes.

It's only grown better over time, and for the 2012 model year, there's an extreme XK that probably marks the high-water mark for the sportscar before it's replaced in a couple of years. The base car still brings it with a fabulous 5.0-liter V-8, a musclecar-like piece with 385 horsepower in base form and a 510-horsepower right hook when it's supercharged. Channeling that power to its rear wheels through a quick-change six-speed, paddle-shifted automatic, the XKR nukes 60-mph runs in 4.6 seconds or less--while the rorty XKR-S and its 550 horsepower nail those runs in under 4.2 seconds, on the way to a 186-mph top speed. 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.

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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. 

The 2012 edition brings some minor improvements to the XK. 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.

It's no green machine, unless you opt for a traditionally British paint color. The 2012 Jaguar XK is simply a dazzling grand tourer with a performance package that pitches it very closely to the true sportscars in the class, cars wearing Corvette and 911 badges.


2012 Jaguar XK


Near-flawless looks and a cabin of the gods: the 2012 Jaguar XK renders other sultry sports cars second-rate.

Even those of you lucky enough to shop with an American Express black card, and travel by Gulfstream as often as you do by the gulf stream, will be pressed to come up with a more lithe, more appealing grand tourer than the 2012 Jaguar XK.

The XK is sculpture, an industrial-design exercise for the ages. From one stunning curve to the next essential line, it flows with barely an off-note detail. The rear quarters have all the base, raw emotion of a Camaro, while the undulating panels from the side are pure Coventry. The only disruptions are intentional: designer Ian Callum sliced off part of the teardrop headlamps so you'd notice them more, and fix your attention there a bit longer.

In 2010, Callum tinkered mildly with the XK's front end, clefting its chin more deeply. We'd have left it unchanged, since the mini-lift opens big air intakes on the front end, competing with the classic Jaguar oval grille and propping up the sloping hood. Now for 2012, it's been altered again, with LED headlamps and a front fascia bracketed by dewlapped air intakes, and the vents on the front fenders have been flipped on their axis so they run horizontally. That's a detail we've seen in sketches of the C-X16 concept that one day will spawn a smaller Jaguar, and it looks like the groundwork is being laid on today's sportscar.

The XK's cabin hasn't been smudged one bit since it was new in 2007. 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.

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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.

2012 Jaguar XK


Blurring the line between GT and true sports car, the 2012 Jaguar XK muscles its way into the performance dogfight with thrilling power and deft handling.

Jaguar drifted out of the Ford family a few years ago, and when it did, it declared its independence in a rather emphatic way--by pumping up the displacement of its V-8 engines to 5.0 liters, a displacement sure to have conjured some Mustang jokes back at the Dearborn corral.

The Mustang has nothing to worry about--it's Porsche and Maserati that have the most to fear from the latest XK coupes and convertibles, because the beautiful Jaguar now has ripe, bellowing performance that blows out the boulevardier image it cultivated in the Eighties and Nineties.

In the XK coupe and convertible, the V-8 throbs with 385 horsepower and 380 pound-feet of torque. It combines fiercely with a ZF-built six-speed automatic transmission like the one in the equally gorgeous Maserati GranTurismo--it's the workhorse of luxury-car gearboxes. Jaguar quotes 0-60 mph times of 5.2 seconds for the coupe, a few ticks slower in the convertible. Mash the gas and the XK's vocal jolt sounds almost American--it has a muscular, NASCAR-ish exhaust rap that would confuse a blindfolded Shelby driver. Poking the throttle proves addictive, and the XK's automatic muscles off shifts almost as quickly as a dual-clutch gearbox. Sport and Snow shift modes are baked into the automatic's logic, but in Sport mode the XK's a little too jerky in part-throttle city driving.

Above all, the 2012 XK is a delight to drive. It's a rare machine that works ride magic, giving the right amount of relief on interstate cruises but tightening up its reflexes for flat cornering and good tracking when it's not in relaxed, grand-touring mode. Credit goes to the Adaptive Dynamics package, with adjustable shocks that do a fantastic job filtering out jarring abrasions and pockmarks on the road, without introducing too much body motion. The brakes are especially easy to modulate and communicate their own power well. 

Take that performance and square it, and you've arrived at the XKR, an XK with a few thousand more BTUs on reserve. Supercharging blows it up to 510 hp and 461 lb-ft of torque, and 60-mph runs fall to just 4.6 seconds--and that's being conservative. This is one...hell...of a fast car, one that could loaf all day at 2500 rpm, with most of its max torque always a toe-reach away. The XKR's adaptive suspension is more tightly controlled--all the better to use up its 20-inch wheels and tires--and even more than the XK, the XKR is ready and willing to overpower its tires any time you are.

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.

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, 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, and around the most treacherous of sunny-then-shady California switchbacks. You'll choke at your own price limits before you exhaust the ones that bind the XKR-S to the street.

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2012 Jaguar XK

Comfort & Quality

Front-seat passengers are coddled in the 2012 Jaguar XK, but the rear seats are afterthoughts and the trunk space isn't generous.

For all intents and purposes, the Jaguar XK hardtops and convertibles are two-seaters, though they make a token gesture at practicality.

Those up front will be duly impressed with the XK's expansive leg room. It's more than most sports-car shoppers may expect, and roomier than many of the XK's high-dollar competitors. Head room is improved over the last-generation XK, and whether in the coupe or convertible, the long-travel front seats and adjustable bottom cushion make sure that those passengers will find the perfect seat.

The back seat's strictly for emergency use, even for children and small adults. There's hardly room back there to toss in a couple of soft-sided bags, let alone a semi-soft-sided person. The seats are narrow, they're split by the drivetrain tunnel, and knee and leg room are nearly nonexistent.

Trunk space is just as thin. On coupes, at least the 10 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.

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2012 Jaguar XK


It has reassuring safety features and a strongly built body, but no crash-test scores for the 2012 Jaguar XK exist.

The Jaguar XK returns for the 2012 model year with the same safety gear as last year, with one important addition.

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.

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.

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.

2012 Jaguar XK


It's brimming with luxury features and finishes, but we'd touch up the 2012 Jaguar XK's touchscreen controls for better responsiveness.

Jaguar takes a tack that's opposite of luxury brands like Porsche. Rather than offer hundreds of individual options, the 2012 XK lineup has a streamlined set of features and options, with outstanding choices in sound.

Every XK coupe has luxurious equipment, including power windows, locks and mirrors; cruise control; leather seating; Bluetooth with streaming audio; a navigation system; keyless entry and push-button start; a tilt/telescope steering wheel with warming; 19-inch wheels; and a stunning 525-watt Bowers & Wilkins surround-sound audio system with Sirius Satellite Radio, a USB port and a six-CD changer, if you rock it old-school.

Jaguar was one of the first automakers to introduce LCD touchscreen control of its audio systems, and its software reacts more slowly than those from other automakers. The seven-inch touchscreen now doubles as a display for the newly standard rearview camera.

The XK's multi-function steering wheel is revised for 2012. Jaguar now paints some switches in soft-touch paint, and adds more gloss black finish to complement new ambient lighting.

All of these features are standard on the XKR coupes, along with 20-inch wheels and different wood and metallic trim choices for the cabin. HD radio is available as an option, as are active headlights.

On Convertibles, the quick-folding power top has thick insulation, and comes with power rear quarter windows.

New on the XKR-S and available on the XKR are 16-way adjustable sport seats with memory controls and heating.

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

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2012 Jaguar XK

Fuel Economy

Groundshaking power from husky V-8 engines is no recipe for great gas mileage, but the 2012 Jaguar XK lineup doesn't guzzle as much as it might.

Jaguar's XK lineup, including the ultra-powerful, ultra-rare XKR and XKR-S, hit exotic-car performance heights with their V-8 engines. That performance doesn't come without a gas-mileage penalty, but the XK coupes and convertibles aren't as bad as they could be, thanks to lighter-weight aluminum body structures and six-speed transmissions.

For the 2011 model year, the EPA rated the base 385-horsepower Jaguar XK coupe at 16/24 mpg, its rear-drive chassis outfitted with a six-speed automatic. In convertible form, fuel economy falls a bit on the highway cycle, for an overall rating of 16/22 mpg.

Adding on a supercharger to the V-8 nets it 510 hp in the XKR hardtop and convertible--and gas mileage slips even more, to 15/22 mpg.

The EPA hasn't confirmed ratings for the 2012 model year, but they're not expected to change--though the XKR-S special edition could be rated separately.

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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