With the previous ending production in 2005, its highly anticipated replacement has finally arrived — all-new, lighter, faster, more elegant than ever and in the eager hands of the Road & Track staff for the next 50,000 miles. It's a rare occasion that a black vehicle graces our pages because black cars simply do not photograph well, so you can imagine the shock amongst the editors when our very own Editor-in-Chief Tom Bryant and Design Director Richard Baron checked the color box marked "ebony." "That car looks great in black," was the response from the higher-ups, and these pages are proof positive of their insightfulness. Aside from its styling, which has already earned itself lots of attention, what makes this car special is its all-aluminum chassis and body panels, not seen in an XK since the hand-built XK120 of 1948-'49.
The all-aluminum AJ-V8 engine in concordance with the lightweight theme produces a throaty growl to go with the 300 bhp and 310 lb.-ft. of torque. It's sufficient to get us moving but won't have us picking fights like we would in a supercharged XKR. This combination, along with a 6-speed manually shiftable automatic and a double-wishbone suspension with two-stage adaptive damping, makes for a car that's as comfortable on the highway as it is in the twisties — a vehicle fit for an enthusiast.
Our XK came with a host of standard equipment that would usually skyrocket an otherwise reasonably priced vehicle to the next price segment. Lucky the XK is already near the top at a suggested manufacturer's price of $74,835. But you get a lot for the money, including xenon headlights, a touch-screen DVD navigation system, speed-sensitive steering rack, dynamic stability control, keyless entry and vehicle start-up (yup, just keep the keys in your pocket), dual front and side airbags, an Alpine 6-disc in-dash CD changer, Bluetooth wireless connectivity, heated seats and rain-sensing wipers.
However, we wanted extra icing on our cake before we ate it, so we opted for a premium sound system ($1875), gaining us two more speakers for a total of eight, 525 watts of power, Sirius satellite radio and Dolby ProLogic II surround sound. We also added the Luxury Package ($3300), which includes a heated wood/leather steering wheel (for those frigid Southern California mornings), a leather-wrapped dashboard/instrument panel, 19-in. Carelia-style alloy wheels and 16-way (yes, 16-way) power-adjustable front seats. Add everything up, the $665 destination fee, and you arrive at our delivered price of $80,675 — we'll be sure to relish this cake.
Editors have wasted no time getting acquainted with this pretty kitty, averaging roughly 84 miles a day since its delivery last November, and with compliments accruing just as quickly. Luckily, we don't have to take it in for its first service until 10,000 miles, and then every 10K thereafter, which should keep our waiting-room visits to a minimum. The interior of our car is a cool ivory/slate combination, which contrasts very nicely with the dark exterior and should stay on the cooler side during many a scorching summer day. There isn't much room in the back seat, which serves more as extra stowage space than anything, but this car was never meant to be a family hauler. The trunk suffices for a couple of large weekend getaway duffel bags thanks to the hatch design, but should we try to fit two full-size suitcases back there, we may run into problems. Outward vision is good at the front and flanks but suffers a bit in the rear due to the monstrous B-pillars.
We found the colorful navigation/control system to be intuitive, and I imagine we won't run into any problems with it down the road. A neat little feature is the ability to put the onboard computer into Valet mode. Should you need to hand the keys over to a complete stranger, just select an easy-to-remember four-digit password, and it renders the touch screen useless until the correct code has been reentered; just an extra security measure should you want to keep stored information, such as your home address, private.
Gone is the familiar trademark Jaguar "J" shift gate, replaced by a backward "L," a triumph of function over form because it allows for easier toggling between Sport and Drive modes. While in either mode the paddles located on the back of the steering wheel become active the instant you touch them (right for upshift, left for downshift) and allow you to manipulate the 6-speed ZF transmission to your liking, except for holding a gear at redline. If you want to revert to auto mode, just toggle the stick from Sport to Drive.
We're usually not fans of automatic transmissions but this particular automatic has been designed to be comparable to its paddle-shifted, sequential-manual counterparts. It is said that the shift logic adapts to the driver's style over time, and we've seen this become apparent with our long-term Audi A3, so we'll be excited to see what kind of learning curve this intelligent cat has.
With such laudable EPA figures as 18 mpg city and 27 highway from a V-8-powered sports coupe, it'll be interesting to see how thirsty our XK will get once it has had a chance to stretch its legs a bit. Will we be able to preserve the beauty of this provocative beast throughout its stay here, or will the frustration of owning a black car rear its ugly head? Stay tuned.