(Follow the jump to see how the final 29 minutes with a Jaguar XK went, along with more of our shots and some interesting shots from the Jaguar XK press kit)
The shape of the XK borders on automotive erotica and is even more pleasing to the eye in person. While some claim the ovular grille comes a little too close to the guppy mouth of the third generation Ford Taurus, we'd like to remind those folks it appeared on classic Jaguars first, including the E-type, which is considered by cars connoisseurs to have one of the most beautiful bodies of all time. Particularly appealing on the XK are the rear fenders that bulge out like a flexed thigh to cover the car's wide rear track. Yes, it all looks a little Aston, but it comes via the pen of Ian Callum who is responsible for much of Aston Martin's current design language.
Regardless, the XK is instantly recognizable as a Jag. Despite that, we were surprised how many heads it didn't turn while tooling around downtown Cleveland. If the design can be faulted for anything, it's that the shape doesn't project the aura of exclusivity exuded by, say, a Porsche 911.
The XK's extensive use of aluminum throughout its chassis and monocoque body structure are clearly evident from the moment the car's Start button is pushed. The coupe weighs 3,516 lbs., which, while not as light as a Lotus Elise, is a good number for a sports car that has to coddle it occupants like a luxury car, as well. Thanks to the aluminum's inherent stiffness the platform feels rock solid yet tossable.
The car's 4.2-liter AJ-V8 now produces 300 hp and 310 ft-lbs. of torque, which felt ample though fell far short of awe inspiring. Apparently Jaguar's relying on the supercharged XKR version to provide the shock and awe treatment. We were overly impressed, however, by the Jag's 6-speed epicyclice automatic transmission with steering wheel mounted paddle shifters. Offering both a Drive and Sport mode with different degrees of shift speed, the manually operated electrohydraulic shifter was a gem and takes a seat behind Audi's DSG in our list of favorite slushboxes.
Inside the XK, however, is where our praise began to fade and we remembered how Jaguar came to be in its current precarious position. While the interior's design and ergonomics were fine, if not very good, the cabin's fit and finish left much to be desired for a premium sports coupe. Out tester had approximately 3,500 miles on the odo, though some cockpit materials were already noticeably worn. The steering wheel, for instance, looked dirty with grime embedded in the leather's shallow creases and the damped lid covering the center console's storage nook had clearly popped off sometime in the past.
Regardless of the foibles we found with the XK, it's immediately evident this car is in a class above Jaguar's current lineup. Perhaps only the range-topping XJ sedan can stand with the XK as deserving of the brand's badge, and we hope that a forthcoming redesigned S-Type will also raise the bar for this troubled brand. Until then, we'll enjoy occupying a spot on Jaguar's waiting list for reviewing the XK. We just hope that by the time one's available the brand isn't flying the flag of a different parent company.