Rarely is a single new car launch so critical to a manufacturer. It's no secret that Jaguar has been foundering in recent years, and the new XK is literally a fulcrum upon which the company's future fortunes will swing. If the end product is any indication, a new course has been firmly set and the company should expect a significant turnaround.
If nothing else, the new XK is a significant departure from the old car. It has been completely rethought, redesigned, reconfigured, and improved in virtually every way. And it is at once more hardcore and more refined than the outgoing model.
The new XK philosophy began with its design. The company has employed a new big gun, Ian Callum of TWR and Aston Martin fame, to head its design team. You may remember we ran an interview with Mr. Callum last August in which he discussed the Jaguar ALC concept car, and you'll see a lot of similarities between that car and the new XK. The design was critical to reestablishing the car-and to a certain extent the company itself-in the public eye and mindset. Jaguar buyers have traditionally been older, more affluent family types, and in America 30% of them are women. To this end, perhaps, design across the model line had become rather staid and... eh... retro, for lack of a better word. In our August '05 interview Callum noted that while it is important to pay homage to history and heritage, it's just as important to move forward. The new XK, therefore, is the first Jaguar product to really propagate this mindset. To this end, Callum told us, the new XK is a revolution; future models, like the forthcoming S-Type, will be a revelation.
Aside from its new lines, considerable resources were invested in the car's myriad technical aspects, particularly the chassis. Drawing on experience gained from the all-aluminum XJ, the XK has advanced Jaguar's Lightweight Vehicle Technology considerably. The XK's chassis is 16% extruded aluminum, compared to 7% in the XJ. Both convertible and coupe were designed together and it's estimated they share 95% commonality of parts.
Jag's new aluminum chassis positions the new XK favorably against its competition in both structural rigidity and power-to-weight ratio. The use of more extruded and cast components has reduced the total number of joints used from 4,771 in the current coupe to just 2,959 in the new coupe, which in turn benefits structural rigidity. Ultimately, use of the Advanced Lightweight Technology philosophy means more homework in the beginning-the XK team has done a frightening amount of homework in preparing this car-but it makes for a superior product at the end of the day.
In addition to the brilliant new chassis, new technical features abound. The wheelbase has been extended by 6.4 inches, the gearing is about 8% shorter than that on the current car, and the 4.2-liter engine now produces peak figures of 300 bhp and 310 lb-ft. The new XK also features a six-speed sequential-shift gearbox with steering-mounted paddles. Full manual control can be accessed through the paddles at any time, though automatic sport mode is very responsive and will adjust itself to varying driving styles depending on your level of aggression. Considerable time was also invested in creating a duality of driving acoustics, that is, coaxing satisfying noises from the engine and exhaust during aggressive driving while also keeping a quiet, reserved demeanor when the driver just wants to cruise.