Enjoying fall’s top-down Jaguar fantasy
summit daily auto writer
The surest sign of impending winter over the past few years seems to, for some reason, my customary and completely outrageous time in a fantastic and wildly impractical Jaguar convertible – so let the 385-horsepower snow dance begin.
The current iteration of the XK is still one of the more visually arresting vehicles out there, a luxurious sub-exotic machine whose sleek lines and powerboat-length nose get it consistently mistaken for a Maserati or an Aston Martin. The latter comparison may be a bit more apt considering that Jaguar master designer Ian Callum also crafted the lines for the considerably more expensive Aston.
More than just pure looks, XK’s thunderous gargle of exhaust is sophisticated yet ridiculous. And its whole two-plus-two seating arrangement, extremely limited trunk space and tires as wide as Wyoming collectively create a road-going beast that’s certainly geared at a not-especially-Summit County audience – a level of affluence you might better associate with the people on reruns of “L.A. Law,” not contemporary America.
Behind the wheel of the Polaris White XK, blasting along through the High Country last weekend, with the top down, the tunes blaring, it was clear that the good life, however elusive, ain’t that bad, even if you’re completely faking it.
XK’s model lineup has pushed itself into the horsepower stratosphere with even the “base” model now sporting a 5.0-liter V8 that delivers 385 roaring horses (the XKR’s supercharged engine takes it to 510 horses, and a special edition XKR175 has its speed limiter removed so it will top out at 174 mph).
The standard engine, nearly as powerful as the old XKR, provides prodigious boost, even at that very tricky westbound uphill burst on I-70 just above the Loveland parking lot. And will still, amazingly, generate mileage at or above the 23 mpg mark.
Should you feel a slight deficiency in boost or need to pass someone, you need only tap one of the small, wheel-mounted shift paddles to gear down for more crunch (stomping on the pedal also seems to work pretty well).
The all-aluminum body and the considerable length and width of the XK make it a comfortable and lightweight cruiser, with apt but not exactly supercar-level handling. It’s still about a million times more agile and smooth than your garden-variety automobile, with massive brakes designed to shave off the digits while putting all those horses to work, so … we must keep things in perspective. There is also a “winter” driving mode but I suspect it’s more geared for a chilly day in South Florida than a 3-foot dump of snow, so beware.
That long nose and a very low standard seating position, combined with a curb-scratching aerodynamic lip under the front grill, does necessitate some additional care during parking.
Finishings are also picture-perfect, from the oversized 19-inch Caravela aluminum wheels (remember to pronounce them “al-you-minny-um”) to the creamy, soft-grain leather and carpeted interior. Additional burl walnut veneer encircled the cabin; standard Jaguar affectations such as the heartbeat-pulsing starter button and the pop-up, rotating gear selector knob will provide no end of amusement to your passengers.
As has been previously noted, the 7-inch touchscreen controller does simplify and streamline the radio, navigation and climate controls, but it is both difficult to see in bright sunlight (which happens a fair amount, roof down) and the touchscreen is even more finicky than my new Android smartphone.
Now standard is the terrifically boisterous noise of a 525-watt Bowers and Wilkins stereo system (plus HD and satellite radio), loud enough to induce deafness even with that powered roof stored away.
And what of the fate of your rear-seat guests? One suggests that they be mildly sedated, even during top-down excursions – the rear seatbacks are nearly vertical and as I found over the weekend, the preferred method of entry and exit is to pick up your passengers and plunk them in place like giant Lego figurines, rather than messing around power-sliding and flopping forward the front seats.
But with the autumn winds in your hair, the music at high volume and the gas pedal fully flattened, things are not so bad, indeed. Live the fantasy if you can
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