What is it?
The car that single-handedly turned around Jaguar’s fortunes, the XK is an icon of the company’s new-found confidence, capability and verve. The big cat is a sublime GT car with looks far eclipsing its rivals and dynamics that can stick it to the Aston Martin V8 Vantage and Mercedes-Benz SL. Yes, a Jaguar GT as good as an Aston Martin. Even the slightly confused XKR-S sports brogue is astonishingly good, complete with that semi-muscle car 550bhp soundtrack.
More is better. Jaguar pays homage to this classic and oft-quoted TopGear adage by fitting a decidedly anti-downsized 5.0-litre eight-pot, available in three guises: 385bhp in the standard car, 510bhp in the XKR and 550bhp in the XKR-S.
And make no mistake, no company in the world makes a better supercharged engine than Jaguar. While the XKR’s 510bhp takes it firmly into supercar territory (0–62mph in 4.6 seconds, limited top speed of 155mph), the car’s lightness of touch is disconcerting. It’s only after you’ve glanced down at the restyled instruments that you clock just how fast you are actually travelling. Add a dose of raucous muscle-car style violence when you trade up to the XKR-S. The sensation of the chassis and steering through the seat of your pants and the palms of your hands is taut, alive and eager.
And Jaguar hasn’t signed up to the largely German class of How To Make Your Car Sporty By Making It Rock Hard. No, the XK is firm but pliable, delicate, even. Superb ride quality for something so athletic.
On the inside
Space is limited in the back, but it’s much more generous up front, and as the XK is a hatch, access to the luggage compartment is excellent. It’s also a triumph inside: Jaguar has woven a very fine seam between wood and technology inside, but it would have been a mistake for them to simply go super-tech like zee Germans. Everything is nicely screwed together and the actual feel of the materials is lovely – the quality is good.
It was never going to be cheap with a 5.0-litre V8, and as such you’ll get 25.2mpg and 264g/km of CO2 from the standard car, and 23mpg and 292g/km from both the XKR and XKR-S, bizarrely. Insurance and tax will be high, and consumables such as tyres and brake pads, for example, will remind you you’re piloting something special. But – aside from the XKR-S – the Jag is cheaper than a Porsche 911 with equivalent power, a Mercedes-Benz SL and the Aston Martin Vantage. This almost makes it great value, and the Jag is expected to hold its value, at least for the first part of its life.