2012 Jaguar XK Driving Impressions

A lightweight, aluminum chassis that's riveted and bonded makes for a rigid and nimble foundation for the Jaguar XK. We found handling and braking superb. Even driving at high speeds, we found the XK models solid, stable and planted.

Ride quality, too, is tough to fault. The Adaptive Damping System provides continuous variable damping for ride comfort or maximum cornering on rough roads. Chassis motion, including roll rate and pitch rate, is analyzed and adjusted 100 times per second. Meanwhile, wheel travel is analyzed and corrected 500 times per second. All of that boils down to a thoroughly enjoyable ride without making the driver or passengers feel beat up.

Shifts with the 6-speed automatic transmission are sharp, quick, and on time. And there's downshift rev-matching, meaning the engine will blip for you. Unlike so many flappy-paddle transmissions out there, this one isn't always changing gears for you. You can drive the XK aggressively and use the transmission like a manual gearbox, and it does well with crisp upshifts and throttle-blipping downshifts, especially when you turn the dial on the console to set the car to Sport mode.

We have no complaints with the normally aspirated 385-horsepower engine that comes in the XK and have found it quite enjoyable.

The XK Convertible is very quiet underway with the triple-lined top up. For some, it might be too quiet, as the growl of the powerful engine is faint inside the cabin, even with the top down, unless you're up near redline. And because the top can go up or down in just 18 seconds, it's easy to soak up sunshine or take shelter according to mood.

The supercharged XKR, with its 510 horsepower and 461 pound-feet of torque, executed passing moves effortlessly. That humongous amount of torque comes in on the tachometer at 2500 rpm, so we always had plenty of low-end thrust. The XKR's massive brakes always brought us back from high speed in a snap.

The XKR-S was all about speed, at least in a straight line. We were able to take the coupe on a secure runway at El Centro air base in Southern California and got it up briefly to 180 mph. Even at those speeds and with strong winds, the car remained incredibly stable and composed. Braking was effortless as well, and although we slowed down gradually, the car was smooth, poised and able.

On the road, the XKR-S felt very powerful. A few times while driving back country roads, we felt the tail come out a bit when we'd get on the throttle coming out of a turn. This car has serious low-end torque. As with other models, the adaptable suspension ate up the bumps in the road nicely without sacrificing performance.

In an XKR-S convertible, while trying to beat ominous gray clouds hovering above, wind buffeting was minimal with the windscreen in place and the windows up, and moderate with the windows down. The audio system sounded loud and clear, even at high speeds. When the sky darkened and drops began to fall, we decided to outrun the rain, rather than stop to put the top up. At upper highway speeds we stayed dry and comfy, with the exception of the occasional splash we'd get from water accumulating at the intersection of the A-pillar and the side window. The heated seats and steering wheel, combined with the powerful climate control system, kept us toasty as the temperature around our bubble continued to drop. When the storm worsened and we were no longer able to keep up speeds necessary to channel the water over our heads, we finally pulled over to put the top up. This was perhaps the only time when 18 seconds seemed like an eternity.

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