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2010 Jaguar XK Portfolio Convertible Review
With a new 5.0-liter V8 for 2010, Jaguar’s XK is a bipolar Brit
By Colum Wood, Jan. 20, 2010

Usually when its time for a vehicle to get a mid-cycle refresh, an automaker doesn’t mess with the nitty-gritty bits and instead tacks on a few new headlamps and taillamps and calls it a day. That’s not what Jaguar did with the 2010 XK. In fact, the British automaker did the opposite: for better, and for worse.

FAST FACTS

1. A new 5.0-liter V8 for 2010 makes 385-hp and 380 ft-lbs of torque.

2. Jag now claims a 0-60 mph time of 5.3 seconds for the convertible, versus 6.0 seconds for the outgoing model.

3. New items include the rotary-style JaguarDrive Selector with a sporty Dynamic Mode setting, an active damping suspension and a four-mode traction control system.

4. XK Portfolio Convertible models are priced from $89,000, with coupes retailing for $83,000

FOR BETTER

What Jaguar really got right with the new XK is its new engine. Gone is the old 300-horse 4.2-liter V8 in favor of an impressive and capable new powerplant. The new 5.0-liter V8 makes 385-hp and an equally exhilarating 380 ft-lbs of torque at just 3500 rpm. Feel free to do the math yourself, but the increase is a big one and from the driver’s seat you can really feel it. Jaguar claims a 0-60 mph time of just 5.3 seconds (5.2 for the coupe). That’s a big improvement over the 6.0 second time for last years XK Convertible.

The new engine really gives this drop-top grand tourer some grunt, and in terms of acceleration it now holds its own with competitors like the BMW 650Ci, Mercedes SL550 and Porsche Carrera Cabriolet.

What the new 5.0-liter mill also does is sound impressive. It’s under heavy load that this refined convertible becomes a bipolar Brit with a roar from the exhaust that would make a Corvette blush and a Fox body Mustang owner feel ashamed of the 5.0 badge on his fenders.

FOR WORSE

Where the half-new 2010 XK fails is in the style department. Sure it’s a nice looking vehicle and the Jag badge carries a lot of cache, but the overall design of the car looks as dated as Jag’s buying demographic.

Let’s face it, no one is going to pine over this car like they would an Aston Martin. Sure the XK doesn’t cost like an Aston either, but Jag has just as long and rich a history and there’s no reason why it can’t be a style leader.

When it first debuted back in 2006, the modern XK looked like a huge leap forward, but almost half a decade later and most folks might not be able to tell the difference between an ’03 and an ’07 model.

Sure the BMW 6 Series is no beauty queen, but its at least modern looking. The Porsche is somewhat the opposite, with a timeless design, that’s not overly inspiring, but always nice. Then there’s the Mercedes SL, which easily takes the cake as a sophisticated and aggressive grand touring convertible.

And to make matters worse, with the rest of Jag’s lineup featuring all-new progressive designs, the XK looks dated next to the other models in the showroom.

ON THE OPEN ROAD

With the car’s bipolar nature and drop-top, it’s perfect for almost all weather conditions and can easily adapt to suit your mood if you’re out for a late night romp or a casual Sunday cruise. Still it’s no driver’s car and falls far short of sportier offerings from BMW and Porsche.

That’s mostly a moot point anyway, as it’s aimed more at the SL crowd. And while the SL might feature a retractable hard-top, the XK’s cloth unit is so solidly built that it offers better insulation from the outside world than most fixed roofs.

As for overall driving dynamics, the XK is geared more towards grand touring that sport, although Jag has made considerable effort to give the car a more dynamic feel and to allow owners to get the most out of the big V8.

For starters, there’s a continuously variable suspension that works as a part of Jag’s Active Dynamics system, reading the roll-rate of the car’s body 100 times a second, and reading the position of the wheels and adjusting the shock settings 500 times a second.

For optimum handling, Jag has also included a Dynamic Mode (engaged by pressing the checkered flag button on the center console). A sport mode on the new-for-2010 JaguarDrive Selector will hold gears longer, while a new four-mode traction control system offers settings for Normal, Winter, Trac DSC and DSC Off. The final two settings produce the most fun, with Trac DSC allowing a little slip to the rear wheels for some fun, while keeping stability control active. As for DSC Off, with 380 ft-lbs headed to the rear wheels, its best left for the track.

SUMPTIOUS LEATHER, BUT PLASTIC BITS NEED TO GO

Wood trim aside, the XK’s cockpit is wonderful to behold. Our tester’s cream white leather looked perfect for a cruise in Miami or Monaco and we were impressed that the contrasting blue leather with cream stitching looked as nice as it did.

Likely most Jag buyers will appreciate the wood, but we’d like to see Jag move into the 21st century and leave behind outdated concepts of automotive luxury. We do like the rotary-style JaguarDrive Selector (new for 2010), which, while gimmicky, is both modern and unique.

In terms of interior materials, we have a few complaints. In stark contrast to the beautiful leather and metal (and wood, if that’s your thing), we noticed the paddle shifters are made of plastic, as is the Navigation screen surround. The audio control buttons on the steering wheel also feel a bit sloppy.

As for that Nav system, it’s starting to look pretty outdated – which really shows in a high dollar car.

THE VERDICT

Jaguar still has a lot of work left on the XK to make it a class leader, but the new 5.0-Liter V8 is a great start. Also making it competitive is the price, at $89,000 ($83,000 for the coupe), it’s ten grand less than a Porsche Carrera S Cabriolet or SL550. The BMW 650 convertible undercuts them all, however, at roughly $85,000.

In this range, however, price isn’t nearly as important as what you’re getting and we’d rather pay more to get more.

And by more, we’re looking for added style, luxury and prestige. Increased driving dynamics would be great, but the XK has made steps in that direction. Regardless, it isn’t likely to ever compete directly with the Carrera or 6 Series, so it would be best if Jag stuck it to Mercedes with a breathtaking design and opulent interior – ideally something progressive in both areas, with lots of carbon fiber, rather than wood in the cabin.

That being said, Jag’s new designs have us looking to the next XK with a great deal of hope.

As for the 2010 model, apart from a few plastic bits it has an opulent interior, a true luxury ride and a new engine that can really haul. It’s gotten sportier over the years and yet is still far more of a grand tourer; which we think is the way a Jag should be. Horsepower aside, if you favor sport over luxury, we suggest you look elsewhere. As for a luxury-biased driving experience, the Jag offers some compelling arguments; but when you’re competing for the same buyers as a Mercedes SL, you had better be able to deliver.

LOVE IT
  • New 5.0L V8 engine
  • Wonderfully peaceful drive
  • Added driving dynamics
LEAVE IT
  • Outdated design
  • Plastic trim items
  • Archaic touch-screen interface

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