The Classicist: Cruising in the New 2010 Jaguar XK Convertible
A few years back we went on one of the best road trips ever at the wheel of a Jaguar XK convertible. So we literally leapt at the chance to take the brand new one for a spin. Jaguar roadsters have always held a place of honor in the pantheon of stylish sports cars, dating back to the legendary XK120, forerunner of the current model - although stylistically the new XK owes more to the XK-E (E-Type) with its oval mouth. The XK120 referred to the car's top speed; when introduced in 1948 it was the world's fastest standard production car, with killer looks to match. It acquired an instant aura of glamor and cemented Jaguar's reputation forever when Gary Cooper, Clark Gable and Humphrey Bogart cruised Hollywood in their XK120s like stylish gods. (We'll develop on this theme further in a later installment).
The XK120 evolved into the famous race-winning XK120-C, or C-Type, that in turn led to the wicked D-Type, made famous by Steve McQueen, and eventually the iconic E-Type, which as noted the current model most closely resembles. First unveiled at the Geneva Motor Show in 1961, the E-Type's legendary power to attract the opposite sex was phrased best by American motoring writer Henry Manney III, who dubbed it "The greatest crumpet-catcher known to man." Not a bad precedent for its more recent relation. While we didn't actually catch any crumpets with the new XK, it wasn't the car's fault as we were more interested in zooming down the road than cozying up to the local flora and fauna. Also there are a lot more outlandish-looking autos on the road these days; compared to these the XK exudes an elegant aura of restrained power that behooves its feline namesake; very British in a sense.
For 2010 the aluminum-bodied XK available as of this August is kitted out with an AJ-V8 Gen III 5.0-liter engine capable of delivering 385 hp and 515 Nm of torque (a supercharged version produces 510 hp and 625 Nm of torque). With these numbers the naturally aspirated version hits 60 mph in 5.2 seconds, while top speed is electronically limited to 155 mph. Some subtle, sporty updates over previous models have been made to the exterior without detracting from the car's stylistic heritage, including a new front end, new rear lights fitted with LED technology, a new rear body valance, body-colored side power vents, chrome-detailed inserts, and sleek alloy wheels.
Gallery: 2010 Jaguar XK Convertible
The elegant, well-tailored interior features wood and aluminum inserts, heated and cooled front seats - the latter one of our favorite features - a three-spoke leather-wrapped steering wheel and luxuriously crafted door panels with saddle-stitched lines and leather door pulls with twin-needle stitching. The model we tested was finished in liquid silver with a refined two-tone ivory / gray interior. The leather is glove-soft, the controls and switches throughout solid and crafted to the highest standards. Everything has been very precisely calibrated for maximum comfort and intuitive driving, from the keyless entry and starter to the myriad functions you can program the car to perform for you. In other words you are certainly not left wondering where your $80,000 (and up) went.
The rotary drive selector coupled with F1-style paddle shifters on the steering wheel may not be everyone's cup of tea but we actually prefer it on windy country roads (which we also prefer). The gearbox artfully echoes a proper manual shifter, down to the heel-and-toe blip of the throttle the car gives itself when you shift down. The engine lets out a lovely throaty purr, which is just as nice to listen to as the premium Bowers & Wilkins sound system, with fully integrated iPod capability. We sadly had to give ours back, but you can build your own XK at Jaguar's website. Just don't forget to wave as you streak past.