Full 2009 Jaguar XK Review
What's New for 2009
For 2009, the Jaguar XK gains more standard and optional equipment. All XKs now get 19-inch wheels, front parking sensors, power folding mirrors and a surround-sound audio system with satellite radio and a USB input. Now optional is an upgraded Bowers & Wilkins stereo and an XKR Dynamic Handling Package. The XKR Portfolio Package has also been revised.
The current XK represents the first step in redefining Jaguar for the 21st century. Although it certainly includes design details inspired by Jag's storied past, this is an all-new kitty. Even the interior doesn't have ye olde swath of veneered wood stretched across the dash. Oh, there's plenty of felled tree on display, but it complements the more modern design rather than dominating it -- aluminum trim is even available. This newfound design direction is refreshing, but it's the competent and refined driving manners that make the 2009 Jaguar XK a serious player in the realm of sub-$100,000 luxury coupes and more than just a quaint fashion accessory.
The XK sets itself apart by boasting an all-aluminum structure and body panels that make it not only lighter than the XK8 it replaced, but also less portly than its competitors. Jaguar also claims that the aluminum structure adds body stiffness for improved handling, ride quality and crashworthiness. While we took a pass on testing the validity of that last assertion, we can confirm that ride and handling are certainly class-competitive.
The lighter weight also pays dividends with the XK's pair of V8 engines, although the base 300-horsepower mill doesn't impress as much as it might have 10 years ago. On the other hand, the 420-hp supercharged XKR has a whole Costco case of oomph on hand for matching (or dispatching) competitors like the BMW 650i, Mercedes-Benz SL550 and Porsche 911. That strong straight-line performance doesn't mean this Jaguar coupe and convertible can quite match those cars in terms of being fun to drive -- it is more of a grand tourer with the ability to casually tackle a curvy road. However, this year's new XKR Dynamic Handling Package should certainly narrow the gap with more athletic competitors, especially the BMW 6 Series.
In a recent comparison test with the BMW, we ranked the XK coupe 2nd due to its higher price and relative lack of performance and practicality. However, the 2009 Jaguar XK and XKR should strike a chord among those seeking out high style and a certain type of heritage and prestige -- even if there's not as much lacquered tree to show off.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2009 Jaguar XK is a luxury sports car available in coupe and convertible body styles. There are two trim levels that correspond with engine selection. Standard equipment on the regular XK includes 19-inch wheels, adaptive suspension damping, bi-xenon HID headlamps, front and rear parking sensors, power folding mirrors, dual-zone automatic climate control with air-quality sensor, a power tilt/telescoping steering wheel, 10-way power heated front seats with driver memory, leather upholstery, wood trim, a touchscreen control interface, Bluetooth and an eight-speaker surround-sound stereo (with subwoofer, in-dash six-CD changer, satellite radio and USB interface for digital music players). The convertible adds a power-operated cloth top and power rear windows.
The performance-oriented XKR adds a supercharged engine, a firmer suspension with recalibrated adaptive settings, larger brakes, retuned steering, different 19-inch wheels, active headlamps (optional on the XK), an aluminum mesh grille, quad exhaust outlets, stainless-steel pedals, aluminum interior trim and more aggressively bolstered seats.
Available on both the XK and the XKR, the Luxury Package adds 16-way power seats with four-way lumbar and adjustable seat bolsters, a heated steering wheel and upgraded leather upholstery and trim. Both trims can also be outfitted with the Bowers & Wilkins upgraded audio system. The XK's Technology Package adds active headlamps and adaptive cruise control. The latter is available as a stand-alone option on the XKR.
The XKR Dynamic Handling Package adds 20-inch wheels, Alcon performance brakes and revised damper and steering settings. The XKR Portfolio Package includes the Luxury Package and the Bowers & Wilkins sound system, and adds unique paint, special interior and exterior trim and contrast-color leather stitching. The Alcon performance brakes and adaptive cruise control can be added to the XKR Portfolio Package.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2009 Jaguar XK is powered by a 4.2-liter V8 producing 300 hp and 310 pound-feet of torque. The only transmission is a six-speed automatic unit with manual shift control. In performance testing, the XK coupe went from zero to 60 mph in a tidy 5.6 seconds, while the convertible did the same sprint in 6.3 seconds.
The XKR features a supercharged version of the same V8, producing 420 hp and 412 lb-ft of torque. In testing, the XKR convertible went from zero to 60 mph in 4.9 seconds, while the XKR coupe should be a few ticks quicker.
The Jaguar XK comes with front-seat side airbags (that provide both head and chest protection), whiplash-reducing front seats, traction control, antilock brakes and stability control. The standard XK's stability control system has two stages, one of which gives the driver more responsibility for the car's handling before the system activates. The setup is similar on the XKR, though its system gives the driver even more leeway and allows him or her to disable it completely if desired. All XK convertibles have two aluminum hoops that automatically deploy in case of a rollover accident.
Interior Design and Special Features
The 2009 Jaguar XK's interior is a pretty dramatic departure from the traditional Jaguar look, with a modern dashboard design and the availability of aluminum trim in place of wood. This serves to bring Jaguar into the 21st century, though some might argue that a Jag without wood is like Tom Selleck without the mustache.
Unfortunately, the Jaguar penchant for down-market plastics continues, which contributes to an overall ambience that doesn't quite match its price tag. Also, the multipurpose touchscreen that controls audio, navigation and climate systems could use a little work. It's simple and intuitive in concept, but we've found it frustrating in practice, with a screen interface that's neither sensitive nor accurate enough. The transition between menu screens also takes too long. On the upside, Jaguar has upgraded the standard stereo for 2009, while adding the XF's thumping Bowers & Wilkins speaker upgrade as an option. We highly recommend it.
While the XK has a rear seat, it's really only suitable for small children or emergency use (and even then, it had better be a pretty big catastrophe). The convertible's soft top does an excellent job of noise insulation when up, and it disappears underneath a hard tonneau cover in only 18 seconds with the push of a button. The XK coupe's trunk can hold about 11 cubic feet of cargo. With the top down, the XK convertible can still hold 8 cubic feet.
When accelerating hard through the gears, the standard 2009 Jaguar XK's V8 makes up for its relatively modest punch with an enjoyable intake and exhaust soundtrack. As you'd expect, the supercharged XKR feels much quicker, as forced induction transforms the XK from "eh, it's sorta quick" to "wowsers, I'm going 90 already?" In both cars, the six-speed transmission is impressive, delivering quick, firm shifts that keep the engines in the thick of their power bands.
Sent through corners, both the standard XK and the XKR display the advantages of aluminum construction, as both versions of the car feel more agile and precise than their predecessors. They're certainly not sports cars, though, with their suspensions biased toward a plush ride more than canyon carving. As a result, competitors like the BMW 6 Series and Porsche 911 are more fun for serious driving enthusiasts. Having said that, this year's new Dynamic Handling Package may make the XKR a stronger competitor against the Germans.