By Grant Davis
For guys considering the sleek elegance of the new 2011 Jaguar XK Convertible with its muscle-car-worthy 385 hp, 5.0-liter V8 under its long hood, black is the only color they should buy. With its chrome gleaming against a high-gloss black finish and the burled walnut trim setting off a black leather interior, the $89,000 XK Convertible looks downright mean. But in any other color – and specifically the creamy white version that I tested – this car looks like a cat car, but it’s not a jaguar I’m talking about here. No, it looks like the ultimate cougar car. Seriously, while pulling into an upscale shopping mall to do some weekend shopping, I felt like I was a kid on spring break doing errands in a car that belonged to someone’s highly-flirtatious, never-married aunt.
But tricked out in black, this Jaguar is all male. And if you skip the ragtop and go with the hard top coupe, the XK looks worthy of a certain British secret agent named Bond. Aesthetics aside, once you get under the shaped metal and leather, you’ll find, well, one mean machine. Punch the V8 and the engine responds with a testosterone-laced roar, which you can hear even better with the top down. When working the six-speed transmission with the paddle shifters, you hear a satisfying “blip” as the gear changes and any excess fuel explodes out the exhaust – kind of like a racecar running all out on the track. Zero to 60 mph at 5,600 feet elevation, where I live, is an admirable 5.5 seconds. By comparison, a 2010 Ford Mustang GT rips up to 60 mph in 5.3 seconds at sea level.
The Jaguar’s 19-inch Caravela wheels do a nice job holding the car to the pavement and adding a touch of don’t-mess-with-me to the overall appearance. The Bowers & Wilkins 525-watt stereo can turn any parking garage into an instant rave venue by dropping the top and turning up the volume to deafening. By switching the transmission from normal to Dynamic Mode with a press of a button next to the transmission knob, the shifts and suspension goes from luxury highway roller to badass can of whomp.
You Say Jaguar, I Say Cougar
All that being said, Jaguar’s still a luxury brand. And as such, all the touches you’d expect for an $89,000 ride are there. An insulated top keeps the inside quiet and warm when it’s closed. The seats are both heated and air-cooled – a good thing to have when you’re trying not to stick to the seat while driving down Ocean Drive in Miami. In July. The leather-wrapped steering wheel is heated, a feature that should be standard equipment on every convertible sold north and south of the Tropics. And of course, in that odd British tradition of putting wood inside a machine, this Jaguar comes with varnished burl walnut inlays throughout interior that are so nice, you want to grab a coaster before setting your venti latte on the center console.
Usually Jaguar does an admirable job marrying super-car performance with primo refinement and grace, but after spending a week tooling around town and racing up and down mountain roads, I never, ever escaped the feeling that this was the ultimate cougar-mobile. No matter if I was driving or sitting in the passenger seat, I felt like a kept man. What drove this point home was seeing a black coupe XK pass me at an intersection. It was the first time I ever wanted to get out of an $89,000 convertible with a 5.0-liter V8 and run. Run after the hard top that is, and get my masculinity back.
By the way, the EPA sticker says this Jag gets 16 city/22 hwy.