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2007 Jaguar XK Coupe

Nearly Puuurfect

    Forgive the corny subtitle but it accurately sums up our feelings for the completely redesigned and sexy-as-ever XK Coupe. In fact, Coventry’s latest cat melted our cold, cold hearts so much if we picked a Car of the Year there’s no doubt the XK would be a strong contender. Sure its annual production is about one zillionth of Camry sales, but no Toyota looks like this or sounds so glorious.
     After sales of the “new” four-door XJ failed to materialize, Jaguar realized design would have to be its savior, particularly the fresh kind. Turns out people aren’t interested in buying a new car that looks like the car it is replacing. To avoid another XJ-like disappointment Jaguar enlisted the professional who is largely responsible for the look of today’s gorgeous Aston Martins. If you ask us, Ian Callum deserves sainthood in the automotive design world. Few people understand clean design and powerful shapes like St. Ian.
     As a result the XK looks contemporary, athletic and expensive. Surely the best view is the lovely rear three-quarter where the sloping greenhouse meets the arching rear haunches. We could go on and on but if you really don’t think this car looks fantastic right out of the box nothing said here will change your mind.
     As much as we like the new exterior design it’s the traditional interior that ties this car to the best attribute of modern Jaguars: the simple elegance of high-quality wood and leatherwork. This XK turns up its nose at the over-styled-techno-laden cockpits of its competitors (coughBMWcough) and coddles occupants in comfortable 16-way adjustable seats with three-position memory for both driver and passenger. Adjusting these chairs is easy thanks to little corresponding seat buttons perched high on the doors; No more fiddling with controls you can’t see on the side of the seat. Taller drivers will enjoy the 2.32-inches of additional seat-track travel and take comfort in knowing every dimension in the cockpit has increased. Turns out that light and airy vibe we were getting from the Caramel colored interior is more than an optical illusion.
     A slim center console offers up a red starter button and a traditional shifter for the automatic. No tears were shed here when we noticed the ancient J-gate shifter had gone extinct. It’s been replaced with an improved backward L-shaped unit. Slide the stubby wood and leather shifter down and to the left for a fully automatic, and aggressive, sport mode. All XKs come with steering wheel-mounted shift paddles and driver’s can tap them at anytime for instant access to a fully manual mode. The wheel itself is one of the prettiest in any luxury car with wood inserts, special stitching and two little spring-loaded wheels on each spoke to control the stereo and cruise control. Using them imparts a sense of quality and they work very well.
      We don’t recommend trying this at home—we are professionals after all—but we actually stuffed a human being into the laughably small rear seat. Not surprisingly, that person suffered three broken bones and recommends the space be used for storing cashmere sweaters or children under the age of four. New in this generation of the XK is a liftback design that makes access to the cargo space a cinch. As a bonus, if you order the optional run-flat 19-inch tires Jaguar trims the spare wheel well increasing total space by more than one cubic foot.
     As for the gizmos and gadgets on the newest Jaguar we found the adaptive cruise control worked as advertised and is ultra easy to set and adjust. The same could be said for almost everything in the cabin because Jaguar has incorporated its electronics into a straightforward touchscreen DVD navigation system. In addition, the Brits left physical buttons for the most basic climate and audio controls, so you don’t even have to jump into the advanced menus of the system very often. If you do become hopelessly confused (hard to do) a big button underneath the screen with a charming two bedroom one bath house on it will, surprise, return you to the home screen anytime. As a thoughtful bonus, when the system isn’t being used the leaping Jaguar logo is displayed. Classy. The whole system works very well and we never expected to be praising a British car’s electronics and ergonomics, but there’s no denying this cabin is superb. With the exception of the control stalks and headliner the interior looks right at home in the $80k price range and it gets even better if you order the $3,300 Luxury Package, which, among other things, wraps most of the interior surfaces in leather. You know that new car smell? This is better.
     Of course, Jaguar has known how to do beautiful interiors for a long time. Only recently have they catapulted to the front of the class when it comes to advanced chassis design and manufacturing. XK is based on an all-aluminum monocoque body structure that is 30 percent stiffer than the previous model, so even though horsepower is up only six measly ponies the power-to-weight ratio improves by 10 percent. Another benefit to the stiff chassis is the superb suspension tuning Jaguar was able to achieve. The XK turns in sharp and settles nicely into the sweepers but never rides rough, even over poor pavement that would have competitors crashing like Lindsay Lohan.
     With one of the industry’s best automatic transmissions making full use of all 300 hp the 4.2-liter V8 moves the coupe along at a satisfyingly quick pace. The magic 60 mph mark is reached in 5.9 seconds with the Jaguar growling all the way. Still, 300 hp is absolutely too low for this class of automobile, especially considering all the advertised horsepower only shows up at the 6,000-rpm redline. The low 3,671-pound curb weight keeps the car competitive, but this non-supercharged model is aching for another 75 hp. The horsepower rating is the car’s weak link. This is the big leagues and in a world of one-upmanship your BMW 650i-owning neighbor is hardly going to be impressed with 360 horses under his roundel, and neither is your other neighbor whose Mercedes SL550 packs 382 hp.
     For non-egomaniacs who aren’t worried about leaving competitor’s cars in the dust, the XK as-is does have some other praiseworthy characteristics. The one you’ll enjoy most often is the awesome exhaust note that will cause you to forgive the underachieving engine every time you lay into the right pedal. The one you probably won’t use that often but will appreciate when you do is the strong brake system that scrubs off 60 mph in 121 feet.
     To call the new XK a success is an understatement. It’s lighter, quicker, roomier, sounds better, stops shorter, offers more features and sports the best curves this side of Scarlett Johansson. In fact, for $83,175 we think the new XK is—you knew it was coming—nearly puuurfect.

The Good:
Drives better than ever, sounds better than ever, looks better than ever.
The Bad:
Cheap feeling control stalks and fuzzy headliner, only 300 hp.
The Verdict:
We want one, and so should you.


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