Jaguar XK Convertible
09 October 2006
Jaguar XK convertible
|Key rival:|| Mercedes SL|
Back in the 1950s, Gran Turismos, or Grand Tourers, were business tools ferrying important people huge distances in total luxury. They were the fastest way to get from one place to another. Once there, beautiful sculptured lines would say far more then hours of fierce negotiation.
Jaguar's new XK is a 21st century take on the GT theme. It's fast, comfortable and sleek, and to many eyes it's beautiful.
We've already driven the coupe and declared it one of the finest Jaguars in modern history, but will removing the roof dampen its all-round astonishing talent and ruin its grand touring abilities?
Like its big brother the XJ, the new convertible XK is constructed entirely from aluminium, and is safer, stronger and more technologically advanced than the car it replaces. Despite these improvements, the new Jag makes do with an old-school canvas roof. Presumably, a folding tin-top would have added weight, negating the use of expensive aluminium while threatening those breathtaking lines.
Thanks to the same 300PS V8 as the coupe, performance is strong and the dash to 60 takes just six seconds. Better still, dropping the hood allows drivers to bask in the aural delights of an engine that sounds as if it's been borrowed from an American muscle car.
Jaguar's open-car surgery hasn't had an adverse effect on the driving experience. Only the occasional shimmy and shudder can be felt, and handling remains sharp, offering plenty of grip and entertainment. Even with optional 19-inch wheels the car's ride remains comfortable.
As with the coupe, the radar-based adaptive cruise control astonished us with its efficiency, although the Jag had a tendency to change down unnecessarily as soon as a car moved out its path, making for a slightly frenetic feeling of being driven by an Italian cab driver.
Sadly, our car also developed a few electronic gremlins, which is unfortunate since most Jaguars driven by us recently have been faultless. The satnav also received a black mark for ease to use and uncanny ability to guide me along the slowest route without a clue of how long said route would take.
Costs-wise, the Jag trails all its rivals while lacking the BMW 650's superior packaging, the Merc SL's secure folding metal roof and the Porsche 911's sublime handling.
But it doesn't matter - the car offers better looks, comparable handling, strong performance and a sense of occasion the others haven't a hope in matching.