There’s a bit of Hollywood in the new Jaguar grand-tourer. The XK coupe’s curvaceous exterior was apparently inspired by British actress Kate Winslet’s shapely figure. Not that you would notice it unless someone told you about it, but this isn’t the first time an attractive woman has influenced a car designer’s work. The Lamborghini Muira - undoubtedly the most beautiful car the Italian carmaker ever built - had ‘eyelashes’ on its headlights that were inspired by none other than Sophia Loren.
The XK is the handiwork of Jaguar’s new design director Ian Callum, who certainly felt that the car needed a dramatic new look to take on the grand-tourers from Aston Martin and Maserati. Callum would know – Callum designed the Aston Martin DB7 and the rakishly good-looking Vanquish.
The coupé’s front is dominated by a large chrome mesh grill and LED signal and running lights. To the rear, the boot lid has been revised with a slimmer chrome finisher. To me, the Jaguar has always been an older man’s car – golf clubs in the boot, Miles Davis in the CD changer – but the XK could appeal to a younger driver. Unmistakably a Jaguar, this car will never have problems drawing attention in a parking lot or at a traffic signal.
Well-appointed and cocooning, the cabin’s highlight is the DriveSelector that rises from the centre console on firing the engine. Soft-feel paint for the switches, gloss black finish, ambient lighting, leather-wrapped, multi-function steering wheel, steel pedals all come standard in the XK.
The low seats are comfortable even on long drives although the navigation system on our test car was woefully out of date – Saadiyat Island doesn’t even show on the map. Can’t complain about the audio system, it connects easily to portable iPhones and iPods and the sound quality is crisp and powerful.
The car has a 6-disc in-dash CD changer. I’ll never understand why cars in this category bother with 2+2 seating. A full-grown adult can barely fit into the back seat and this is not exactly the kind of car you would want to ferry your children to school or worse, fix a child-seat.
The XK rides on 20” alloy wheels and is powered by a massive 5.0-litre V8 engine. Though supercharged versions do feature on the XK-R and the XK-RS, the XK has a naturally aspirated engine. Floor the pedal and the car doesn’t pin you back into the seat, the acceleration is more sedate than I had expected. I was literally thrown back into seat in an Aston Martin DBS once and I was hoping for more of the same.
I understand grand-tourers need powerful engine, but what was wrong with giving this one a smaller, supercharged engine? Jaguar’s racing heritage does seep through once you get past the initial acceleration bit – the car hugs curves, is stable at high speeds and the steering is responsive and quick.
While it doesn’t turn your knees to jelly in the way a Maserati or an Aston Martin tourer does, the Jaguar coupe does enough to keep you interested. Besides, at Dh319,000, it costs much lesser than the cars it’s become constantly compared to in this feature. What’s left to discuss then? What does Kate Winslet think about the car?
The actress reckons the car could do with a bar under the dashboard – “pink and blue kinda (sic) neon lights and umbrellas and pineapples and wings maybe. Kind of a little bit Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and inflatables,” she’s been quoted as saying in the celebrity press. She says she wasn’t consulted on the design at all. Now you know why.
Engine: 5-litre, V8
Wheels: 20” alloys
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
0-100kmh: 5.5 sec
Top speed: 250kmh