For British performance car enthusiasts, the letters X and K have always had a special significance when placed together.
More than 60 years ago, Jaguar helped to redefine sports cars with the introduction of the original XK120, which was one of the first post-war sports cars and a mainstay on the racing and rallying circuits of the late 40s and early 50s.
The current-generation XK likewise has its own fair share of historical background, with the first modern XK models introduced in 1996. Various facelifts and updates have repeatedly modernised the XK’s performance, handling and equipment since.
However, since the F-TYPE was introduced a few years ago, it apparently has superseded the XK as Jaguar’s number one sports car, pulling in plaudits and considerably more publicity.
Just as the original XK models were replaced by the E-TYPE, the current generation XK has grown a bit long in the tooth, leading Jaguar to officially announce that production would cease late last year.
Although no more of the current model are actively being manufactured, they’re still available to buy. So how does the XK measure up against its younger rival, the F-TYPE? Has the rush of young blood knocked it off its pedestal, or does the XK still have something to offer? We took a closer look:
Upon its debut, the current XK caused a stir amongst Jaguar fans and buyers. Where the marque has typically been renowned for its sensuous luxury styling, the XK is all-out aggressive.
Strikingly handsome, the exterior features its hallmark ovoid air intake, plus a distinctive LED daytime running light signature and smooth but confident and muscular lines and the ‘Coke bottle’ shape which accentuates its wide stance and low body.
Like the F-TYPE, the current XK was designed by long-time Jaguar design chief Ian Callum, for whom diversification away from the traditional Jaguar design theme has been a constant aim.
The last two versions of the XK to be manufactured, the Signature and Dynamic R models, take things a step further with suspension ripped from the even hotter XKR-S, 20-inch alloy wheels and a 10mm reduction in ride height for the Dynamic R trim.
Dynamic R models also come with Jaguar’s Speed Pack, which adds exclusive touches like a large rear spoiler, front splitters and an active exhaust for extra performance credentials.
A convertible version of the XK is also available, for those who like a little open air action, complete with a folding fabric roof which neatly folds away in as little as 18 seconds, and which has been specifically engineered to reduce traffic noise and keep the elements at bay.
Having been introduced in 2006, you might be forgiven for thinking that the current-generation XK would be a little behind the competition in terms of interior equipment, namely with the amount of technology available.
While this is true to a point – you won’t find Jaguar’s latest InControl infotainment system, for example – the XK still comes reasonably well-equipped, with keyless entry, and a seven-inch touchscreen system which supports navigation, climate control and mobile device connectivity.
Not bad for a car that was first introduced to the market eight or so years ago. What’s more, the XK also comes fitted with all the luxury that buyers have come to expect from Jaguar, with a choice of wood or titanium décor to broaden its appeal.
Leather upholstery with double-stitching features throughout, along with a choice of various interior colour schemes and luxuriously-crafted materials and veneers.
For the driver, the driving position is excellent, however the XK does show its age a bit with a slightly cluttered dashboard and centre console. It comes with four seats, though it’s a little cramped and oddly shaped in the rear, so it’s best to think of the back seats simply as extra storage space.
Speaking of storage space, while the XK is by no means a family car, it still has a decent amount of boot space. Convertible models have a capacity of 313 litres, while the coupe version has a slightly larger 330-litre boot.
It’s not the largest in the world, but it’s still enough room for a couple of bags or suitcases, while the rear seats make a perfect spot to store your golf clubs.
On the road
Compared with its contemporaries, the XK is no longer the most up-to-date in terms of technology, nor the most practical in terms of boot space. It has luxury going for it, but then, that’s a common feature across all of Jaguar’s range.
The drive, therefore, is where the XK makes up a considerable amount of points. A big 5.0-litre V8 engine sits at the core of all the modern XK models, with outputs ranging from a huge 380bhp on the standard model to an absolutely mental 503bhp on the Dynamic R version.
In short, it’s quick. Real quick. Putting your foot to the floor in the standard XK will take you from 0-60mph in as little as 5.3 seconds, while the Dynamic R does it even quicker with a 4.6-second sprint time, before hitting an electronically-limited speed of 155mph.
Naturally, they aren’t the cleanest-running engines in the world and you’ll be facing around 262g/km of CO2 emissions with the Dynamic R, so if you’re in tight with Mother Earth, you’ll probably be looking elsewhere.
For those unconcerned with their consciences, or the amount they’ll have to shell out on tax, the XK is absolutely blistering. Add steering so sharp you’ll swear it steers telekinetically, and you have the recipe for one of the best-driving luxury cars of recent times.
However, the XK also knows how to behave itself on the road. Cushy suspension means that it’s comfortable on the road, eating up twisty B-roads and straight motorways with equal ease, while the roar of the V8 is reduced to a pleasant burble by the refined cabin.
Drivers in search of an experience that’s a little rawer will no doubt prefer to opt for the Dynamic R model, which swaps the cushy suspension for a slightly stiffer sports setup.
Sacrificing some of the comfort of the regular XK, the Dynamic R is still composed, but strikes just the right balance between mental performance and traditional Jaguar refinement.
The XK is definitely not the car to go for if you’re in need of space, particularly bothered about the latest equipment or if you’re a member of Greenpeace. If, however, you’re unconcerned with any of these, then the XK offers incredible value for money for what’s essentially one of the best performing luxury cars on the planet.
It mightn’t get the same amount of limelight as its successor, the F-TYPE, nor is it as efficient as the XE or as spacious as one of Jaguar’s XF Sportbrake models, but for drama and sheer performance it’s worth it.
The XK is a true driving enthusiast’s car and still retains a significant edge against many of its competitors thanks to its intoxicating mixture of sheer power and Jaguar luxury.
While Jaguar has officially discontinued the current-generation XK, the model is still available to buy new from Perrys dealerships now, priced from £54,975. Better make it quick though, they won’t stick around forever!