2007 Jaguar XK Convertible Review / Road Test

At sunset outside Laguna Beach

It's not often in your life that you pick up a convertible  Jaguar with fewer than 1,000 miles on the clock, and a car like the XK coupe doesn't come around too often in a lifetime, either.

Which is always something to remember when considering an already classic car whose only forebears basically are the E-Type and the XJS.  As  its most recent incarnation, the XK8, was just a reskinned XJS, this the first start-from-scratch roadgoing Jaguar sportscar developed since 1975.  Special or what?

It's even more special when  taking this great vintage to an evening wine-tasting in Laguna Beach,   pulling over to the side of the PCH on the way to admire the incredible sunset and  electronically lowering the hood let in just a bit more of the cliff-side atmosphere. Bliss.

Substantially overhauled, the new XK feels a whole lot tighter, and lighter, than its predecessor, which was a bit of a wafter to begin with and suffered from an aging chassis, but one which I had the pleasure to rag around in on several occasions as British designers intended, ie, on twisting British roads great for unfettered motoring.

The 2006 model - wider, longer British-built and debuted at Frankfurt last year - has been stiffened and strengthened until you can almost hear the leather insides squeak.

Not that you'll hear one squeak out of the car, as this is the ultimate in refinement as well as class and luxury. Though now made by Ford, everything still seems made to Royal appointment from the hand-stitched hide that lines the burled walnut  trim to the ashtray with the gorgeous opening action from the same company that supplied switchgear for the  XJ6s back in the day.

Perhaps the most prestigious badge

Pointing toward the Pacific

All of this you notice when stepping into the cabin courtesy of its keyless entry and, after getting supremely comfortable in the best driving position out there, while you press the red button on the central console and hear that gorgeous 4.2-liter, 300hp V8 start-up.  No key turns here.

Its handling is excellent, its high-rev  exhaust growl tuned to perfection and it gives good enough grunt for all but the heaviest of right feet. A 6-second 0-60mph time is not fantastic, but if that's your bag then wait for a supercharged version to come along soon.

Around town it has the turning circle of a much smaller vehicle - tighter, even, than the wife's Nissan, or the Toyota Rav4 on test next week - which belies the fact that this car looks much bigger than its predecessor. Gas is good at 18 and 27 town and highway.

Safety is great due to the stiffened, fully integrated body that has a patented "pop-out" front fender supposed to minimize accidents, though the car gave me no bleeped warning when I lightly, lightly touched a wall when edging into a space (though perhaps that's why the front fender wasn't marked). 

Just as the Bimmer 5-Series has increased its length and presence, so the luxury marques keep getting prodded by their parent companies to offer a bigger, better experience. None of this has been lost on designer Ian Callum, Jaguar's chief designer who created a bigger beast while  shrugging off criticism that the XK's front grille is nabbed off the old Ford Taurus.

Beautiful trim

Well, it's nabbed off the E-Type, but design heads on the  old Taurus project, headed by Callum's brother, Moray, probably had the same idea and did it first. Does that clear that up?

Views from the front and side are just gorgeous, with the side air vents lending some bad-boy appeal. I've got a slight beef with the XK's design at the back, the flanks above the flared rear wheel arches that while holding the line of the car look a bit airy on the convertible - though look outstanding on the hardtop coupe -  which affects the car from the back three-quarter view.

Apart from that, it's pretty near perfect, for a pretty darn affordable price tag of $89,800 on the road. 

Go on, once in your lifetime.

Ultimate in luxury

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