Fleet News

Jaguar XK

Jaguar

Review

AT first glance, Jaguar’s sleek new XK Coupe and Convertible range of cars may not appear to be big sellers in the fleet arena. But buyers with corporate cash are set to drive sales of the all-new cars well above that of the old range.

Businesses have already placed firm orders for more than 1,500 examples of the all-new XKs, due in showrooms in spring. That corporate share is already above total 2005 sales of the old models.

Brand manager Dermot Harkin said: ‘Our target customers are affluent, successful people aged over 50 and this is the kind of car they buy to reward themselves. What they want is powerful styling, crafted interiors with user-friendly technology and a great driving experience.

‘But they also want sport and luxury combined in one package. The good news for us is that they are recognising the fact that Jaguar has the answer.’

Speaking at the launch of the new cars in South Africa, Harkin said the company was aiming to overhaul Mercedes-Benz and BMW to regain market leadership in the sector next year.

Jaguar went to the number one spot after the current XK was launched in 1996, when its rivals were the Mercedes-Benz 500SL and the Porsche 911. New entries from BMW in the form of the 6-series and Lexus’ SC430 have helped the sector triple in size since then and last year’s total of 1,346 registrations left the British car trailing in third position.

Not surprisingly, the SL was the target car when design work started on the new XK and Jaguar has used aluminium bodywork to offer the best power-to-weight ratio in the class in either closed or open form while also providing much more head, shoulder and leg room than before.

Harkin said: ‘We aimed to create 2+2 models that are great to drive, have world class refinement but also reward the enthusiast with responsive performance.

‘Priced from £58,995 for the Coupe and £64,955 for the Convertible, we are offering highly-competitive pricing, given that our cars come with a long list of equipment as standard. Taking this into account, we think the new models are better value than the current cars.’

With keyless start, bi-xenon headlights, a computer system operating via a colour touch screen, satellite navigation, Bluetooth telephone, cruise control, parking sensors, active speed limiter and electronic parking brake, either version of the new model fully deserves to be called a luxury express.

But the sound that comes from the exhaust system is likely to contribute more to driving pleasure than any made by the in-dash CD player. In a dramatic departure from its previous policy of eliminating noise, Jaguar has gone to extraordinary lengths to make the XK tailpipes emit music to the ears of aficionados.

Chief engineer Russ Varney said: ‘Customers told us they liked the effortless performance of the XK but wanted it to come with a more powerful sound quality.

‘We took the comments to heart and have worked hard to make driving this car a more emotional experience.’

An uprated version of the familiar 4.2-litre V8 engine delivers 300bhp, sufficient to take both versions of the car to 62mph in a tad over six seconds, but the 20% saving in weight thanks to the use of aluminium allows average fuel economy of 25mpg.

Behind the wheel

JAGUAR engineers have worked hard for years to cancel out every source of noise in a quest for refined sports car travel.

But at long last, a major U-turn has produced refinement plus the exhilaration demanded by sports car fans. Thanks to the evocative howling that comes from its exhaust with each prod of the accelerator, the new XK is still feline; but less pussycat and more big game.

Even on over-run, the smooth, silky V8 engine emits a meaningful rasp which matches the new look and makes both the Coupe and Convertible appear more modern and aggressive.

Is it a step too far? Not at all – Jaguar has a heritage of being daring and different as well as elegant, and these new cars speak volumes about the way the firm intends to develop in the future.

Both are stunning performers and the careful management of airflow allows the Convertible to be driven quickly in comfort with the top down.

But for maximum reward at the wheel, the Coupe wins the day with massive wheels – with 20-inch rims, they are the biggest in the segment – giving tremendous cornering grip and totally composed roadholding.

Both cars come with a superb six-speed sequential shift automatic transmission that has a choice of three modes. It also features a particularly smooth paddle change facility that is claimed to offer the fastest shift times so far – just 600 milliseconds – and is particularly easy to use because the paddles move with the steering wheel.

The Coupe has masses of appeal as a genuine grand touring car that feels relaxed even at 130mph in its super-high sixth ratio and has a casual air with the engine spinning at only 2,000rpm at the legal limit.

And at £6,000 less than the open-top version, the Coupe offers a significant cash saving, too. And despite having less overhang than its predecessor, the Coupe still has sufficient luggage space to carry those all-important two golf bags.

Driving impressions

PURISTS might insist that the new XK is not as pretty as the model it replaces, but no-one will argue about the way it rewards its driver with fast responses, wonderfully controlled composure at all speeds – and the terrific sound it makes.

Model: XK Coupe XK Convertible
Max power (bhp/rpm): 300/6,000 300/6,000
Max torque (lb-ft/rpm): 310/4,100 310/4,100
Max speed (mph): 155 (limited) 155 (limited)
0-62mph (sec): 6.2 6.2
Combined fuel economy (mpg): 25.0 25.0
CO2 emissions (g/km): 269 269
On sale: March
Prices (OTR): £58,955 £64,955

CO2 emissions and fuel consumption data correct at time of writing. The latest figures are available in the Fleet News fuel cost calculator and the company car tax calculator.

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