Jag XK? Looks like a re-badged Aston DB9 to me!
You're excused. The new XK is the work of Ian Callum, the man responsible for DBs 7 and 9. After a slightly acrimonious departure from Gaydon he decided to make the best-looking Jag coupe he could. There wasn't much wrong with the old XK - not in 1996 at least. But at ten years old, the XK felt about 30. Cramped, unstable and with an interior ambience straight from a MK1 Granada. And they were the highlights. But the new one is much smarter: better looking, lighter, faster and roomier.
What's clever about it?
If gadgets light your fire, not much. But in fact the whole car is clever because it's constructed from aluminium. It's not an Audi-style aluminium spaceframe clothed in alloy panels but a proper aluminium monocoque constructed from extruded panels. Why is aluminium clever? Because it weighs very little and weight is the sworn enemy of sports cars, dulling turn-in, hurting braking and acceleration and gobbling up more of the planet's resources.
What's under the bonnet?
Slightly disappointingly it's the same 4.2-litre V8 fitted to the old car. Jag couldn't afford to develop both the aluminium structure and a new range of engines - they'll come later. But the V8's not totally unchanged. Tweaks to the way the industry measures power results in lower on-paper readings so Jag had to extract more go just to maintain the 300bhp facade. It hits 60mph in 5.9sec, 0.2sec up on the old XK8 and runs into the same electronic barrier at 155mph.
Can all that aluminium really make a difference to the way a car feels?
Absolutely. Every turn of the wheel, every press of either pedal, every bump and every time you have to stop to fill the tank you're aware of the difference. The steering has more feel, it changes direction more readily and the body control is leagues ahead of its predecessors. And the new paddles for the ZF auto box allow you to really make the most of the chassis, although even left in D, it does a good job of predicting your ratio needs.
Any room for the kids?
Not really, unless they're pickled and you keep them in jars. Jag asked customers whether they wanted more room and they said no. But apparently they still like to know they've got the emergency chairs available if and when the need to fill them arises.
The £65,000 ragtop is just as good as it's tintop sibling. If more performance is your thing, the XKR is just around the corner. It's the same recipe as before: supercharged V8, stiffer suspension, subtle styling tweaks and bigger rims. The blower slashes the 60mph sprint to 4.9sec, down a whole second but it costs £67,495, compared to £59,000 for the XK.
It's not the fastest coupe or the cheapest and it's not chock full of clever gadgets like some rivals. But it is engaging, you can feel the benefit of the aluminium chassis and it looks like an Aston but costs substantially less. If the next S-type is this good, Jag might just haul itself out its current mire.