THE BRITISH OPENThere's nothing quite like a Jaguar XK Convertible. Jonathan Crouch tries one.
Ten Second ReviewJaguar's XK Convertible is a high performance Grand Tourer that also aims to offer the heart and soul of a sportscar as it combines refined performance and luxury in equal measure. The gloriously melodious 5.0-litre V8 engines offer the perfect accompaniment and roof-down, you can enjoy them even more.
BackgroundThink of a quintessentially British luxury convertible sportscar. The kind of classy Riviera conveyance Audrey Hepburn would have chosen. A perfect reward for a lifetime's endeavour. If you're anything like me, then this is the car that'll come to mind, Jaguar's XK Convertible.
It's been around since 2006 but there's been a fair degree of evolvement over that time, first with the replacement of the normally aspirated and supercharged variants of the original 4.2-litre V8 with a 5.0-litre version of that unit in 2009. Then with a styling update and the introduction of a supercar-slaying XKR-S flagship version in 2012.
It's all been necessary for in the later stages of this model's product cycle, we've seen new generation versions of all three of this car's closest competitors, the Mercedes SL, the BMW 6 Series Convertible and the Porsche 911 Cabriolet. Mind you, some things haven't changed. Throughout the life of this car, the convertible part of its appealing formula has remained the same, the beautifully crafted triple-lined fabric roof raising and lowering in less than 18 seconds, disappearing into the bodywork when retracted to be concealed by a carefully crafted aluminium tonneau cover. It's still one of the most beautiful cars of its kind. But can it still stack up against its more modern rivals? Let's find out.
Driving ExperienceIf you're in a normally aspirated XK, the 380bhp 5.0-litre V8 that'll beat beneath the bonnet will wallop the car to 62mph in just 5.5s and on to a limited top speed of 155mph. If you're fortunate enough to be driving a supercharged XKR, you don't have to travel very far before you understand one thing very clearly: this is a very fast car indeed. The 5.0-litre V8 it uses may be essentially the same as that of the standard model but the addition of a supercharger to this unit is enough for ballistic performance. Even a gradual stroke of your right foot is enough to see quite a number of the 503 available braked horses make a break for freedom, such is the low-down torque of this engine, its peak on offer from as little as 2,500rpm, at which point you're starting to fully appreciate the multi-layered pulsing V8 bellow with its accompanying but unobtrusive supercharging scream.
Flat out with the nannying 155mph speed limiter removed, this would be a 190mph car - as indeed it is in its ultimate 542bhp XRS-S guise, this the fastest and most powerful sportscar Jaguar has ever produced. Whichever XK variant you choose, it'll be even better as a drop-top. The noise any version of this Jaguar makes is one of its biggest selling points and being able to drop the roof down and get a little more exposure to the angry bark the V8 engine delivers only makes this open top model's appeal all the greater. The Coventry engineers are keen to emphasise that this Jaguar was designed right from the outset in Convertible form, so body rigidity is very little affected by the roofless stance. Something you can convert to either stationary or at low speeds in less than 18 seconds, the triple-layered fabric top disappearing into the bodywork when retracted to be concealed by a neat aluminium tonneau cover.
Design and BuildOpt for an XK Convertible and you'll find that like Porsche and BMW - but unlike Mercedes - Jaguar has opted for a fabric roof, this triple-layered hood rising or falling in under 18seconds and slotting neatly beneath an aluminium tonneau cover when not in use. You'd expect the rag top approach to facilitate a larger boot than would be possible on a metal folding topped rival like Mercedes' SL. In fact, the XK still lags a little behind the 364-litres available from its Stuttgart competitor. Still at least the 313-litres you get from this Convertible is only 17-litres less than you'd get from the Coupe. And that's almost three times what you'd get from a Porsche 911 Cabriolet, enough to make the difference between pleasant packing into conventional suitcases for a weekend break and uncomfortable cramming of your designer clothes into squashy bags.
Inside the wonderful snug yet spacious leather and alcantara-clad cabin, owners of earlier models will notice that the fit, finish and choice of materials is noticeably more up-market - once they've adjusted to the replacement of the original XK's J-gate auto gear lever with this neat rotary JaguarDrive Selector. It rises up into the palm of your hand after you press a Start button that pulses red on the centre console while around you, the dashboard illuminates and the cabin features are highlighted in a cool phosphor blue.
Market and ModelList pricing suggests that for a Convertible XK, you'll need a budget that starts at just over £70,000 for the 380bhp V8 version and around £85,000 for a 510bhp V8 supercharged XKR. The 542bhp XKR-S Convertible requires an £18,000 premium over its XKR counterpart, so sells at just above the £100,000 mark.
Cost of OwnershipThere's no running cost penalty in choosing the Convertible over the coupe in the XK range, but that'll be small comfort to owners. Any car with a 5.0-litre V8 petrol engine is going to have quite an appetite for fuel: get used to it. That said, the quoted 23mpg combined cycle fuel figure of the XKR (duplicated for the XKR-S) is only a couple of mpg behind that of the standard 5.0-litre V8 model, which seems a fair price to pay for all this supercharged version's extra performance. Unfortunately though, the 71-litre fuel tank is rather small and you'll empty it within 200 miles of spirited driving.
On the issue of CO2 emissions, the XK model's standard 264g/km return rises to 292g/km in both of the XKR variants, which seems a bit excessive when direct German rivals are edging down towards the 200g/km mark. It's a showing that predictably won't win you any Christmas cards from the green lobby, though you could try telling your green-minded friends that 50% of the XK's body structure is made from recycled aluminium and that the engine's cylinder heads are recycled to lessen the manufacturing environmental impact.
Moving to more positive attributes, it's encouraging from Jaguar's point of view that more recent JD Power customer satisfaction surveys have put the brand ahead of its Teutonic rivals.
SummaryThe XK Convertible must be almost all things to almost all luxury sportscar buyers. A cosseting Grand Tourer in its standard guise. An out-and-out sportscar in top XKR-S form. And a ballistically quick combination of both as a desirable XKR, the version I've been testing here.
It's still a touch disappointing that the supposedly lightweight aluminium underpinnings don't produce the actually lightweight result that would allow this car to fully replicate the dynamism of, say, a rival Porsche 911 Cabriolet. But Jaguar now has the F-Type to do that. And anyway, XK compensation comes in the form of ride and refinement better than any 911 can dream of. Better than any rival SL or 6 Series come to that.
Which leaves us - with what? The kind of car that enthusiasts will cherish years from now. An emotive British convertible sportscar that rewards, refines and relaxes your automotive life. German rivals may out-point it on paper - but on your driveway? You decide. For many, there's still nothing quite like an XK.