First Look: 2007 Jaguar XK
Mirror Image: Maybe you've seen this look before--but don't tell Ian Callum
By Angus MacKenzie
Photography by Mark Bramley
Jaguar design chief Ian Callum is a touch peeved by suggestions the 2007 Jaguar XK coupe looks--ahem--somewhat like an Aston Martin. "What the hell did people expect?" he snaps, his soft Scots brogue edged with exasperation. "It's a Callum car."
A Callum car...at one level, that's all you need to know about the new XK (and it's just XK, there's no numeric suffix): It's drop-dead gorgeous, just like Ian Callum's Astons, all aggressive haunches and beautifully surfaced sheetmetal pulled drum-tight over the mechanicals. "I have a set of rules by which I design cars," he says. "I'm not going to dumb down just because I'm working on a Jaguar. If anything, I'm going to work harder to make sure it's better than the last car I did."
So here's the bottom line on the new XK: Pay half as much as you would for a new Aston Martin DB9, and drive away in a car that'll turn heads just as fast. You don't even have to know how this new Jaguar coupe performs to realize that makes it one of 2006's bargain-buy sports cars. The fact that the new XK coupe is also lighter, faster, and more agile than the car it replaces is almost a bonus.
Having joined the company in 1999, Ian Callum's first Jaguar has been a long time coming. He won't elaborate, but hints it's been a lengthy and difficult gestation. "I've learned not to use the word instinctive," he says with a wry smile. "It makes people uncomfortable. They want numbers. I have to sell [a design] to people who don't always understand where I'm coming from. If I get it wrong, fire me. I'm happy with that. But they can't take that risk."
It's the coupe we're seeing first, but the XK was initially designed as a convertible. "If you get the convertible right, the coupe will naturally follow," Callum says. "It doesn't always work if you do a coupe and cut the roof off. I didn't want something that looked like a bathtub with a hole in it." The convertible has a cloth roof that stores neatly under a hard tonneau cover. "We looked at doing just one car with a folding metal hardtop like the Mercedes SL," admits Callum, "but that's a three-box car. That's not a Jaguar.
With the convertible expected to account for 90 percent of new XK sales in the U.S., this was a logical design approach. It also positively impacted the engineering of the car's all-aluminum body. Like the XJ sedan, the XK's unibody is a mixture of aluminum stampings, castings, and extrusions variously welded, riveted, and glued together. The key difference between the two, notes chief program engineer Russ Varney, is the XK uses more castings and extrusions to ensure a rigid structure, particularly for the convertible. Varney says the body-in-white of the new convertible is as stiff as that of the outgoing coupe, while the new coupe is more rigid than a BMW 5 Series.
Unlike Audi, whose all-aluminum A8 is about as heavy as a regular steel-bodied car, Jaguar has delivered on the promise of a light-metal body: The new XK coupe is 262 pounds lighter than the car it replaces and weighs up to 396 pounds less than a Mercedes SL. That means although the mildly revamped 4.2-liter V-8 under the hood isn't the most potent engine in the class--new intake, exhaust, and engine-management system deliver 300 horses SAE and improvements in torque across the rev range--performance is solid. Jaguar claims 0-to-60 mph in 5.9 seconds and a standing quarter mile of 14.4, just two-tenths of a second slower than the current 390-horse supercharged XKR coupe.
The engine drives through the smooth-shifting ZF six-speed automatic used in the current car. But the dual-mode transmission has been reprogrammed to reduce shift times and now features paddle-shift actuation that can be accessed in sport or regular mode, though the transmission will default back to Drive unless sport mode is selected. As in the Aston Martin DB9, the transmission automatically blips the throttle to match revs on downshifts. Other familiar parts under the skin include the rear suspension, derived from that of the XJ sedan, and the front suspension, which is based on the current S-Type layout. The brakes, however, are all new, with bigger rotors all round and improved pedal feel. These will be fitted to the XJ at the next upgrade and will feature on the next-generation S-Type.
A brief ride with Jaguar's hard-driving chassis-development guru Mike Cross in a heavily disguised prototype around a tight and twisting circuit at the MIRA proving ground confirms, from the passenger seat at least, that the new XK is much more of a sports car than the current model. There's the engine noise for a start: A semi-active muffler system balances exhaust and intake noise, its baffles opening up above 4500 rpm to ensure full stereophonic V-8 sound.
Then there are the chassis dynamics. The new XK changes direction more rapidly (a new, quicker steering rack helps), stops better, and punches harder out of the corners. Despite its lighter weight, the spring and anti-roll bar rates are higher than in the current car. "There's the Colin Chapman [Lotus] approach, which is to have soft springs and stiff anti-roll bars; and there's the BMW approach, which is to have stiff springs and soft bars," says Cross. "We're sort of in the middle; maybe veering a bit toward BMW because the basic structure of the car is so stiff."
The new XK might be more hard-core, but it's also a lot more comfortable and useable. The interior is much roomier in every dimension, though the rear seats are still only for show ("People want them so they don't feel guilty about buying a sports car," says Callum). The coupe's hatchback opening reveals a trunk big enough for a full-size Samsonite. The rear seats don't fold flat, however--there's metal behind them to tie the rear structure of the car together.
The interior ambience is upscale and modern, with simple controls and clear instrumentation. The center stack includes a large touch-screen display that's helped eliminate buttons without needing to go to an iDrive-like system. Jaguar designers spent time finessing the touch-screen graphics, which are a vast improvement on the scratchy squiggles of earlier Jaguar versions: "The screen is now regarded as an A-class surface," Callum notes. You can see there's been money spent on the XK's interior: The leather-covered instrument panel, executed by the same people who do the Mercedes SL's, is standard.
Our photo car featured charcoal leather and aluminum accents. So where's the wood? Callum is quick to remind you the original E-Type never had wood. He also cites the reaction of customer clinics in San Francisco: "They basically told us, 'You want to move on? Ditch the wood.'" The traditionalists among you need not fear, however: Walnut and poplar wood will be available. "With beige leather and wood, this interior takes on a completely different ambience," says Callum.
The new Jaguar XK coupe makes its public debut at the Frankfurt show in September, and the convertible will be one of the stars of the 2006 Detroit show. Both will go on sale next spring, with the 420-horse supercharged XKR versions following a year after that. The XK looks fabulous, promises to be fun to drive, and won't cost as much as an SL Mercedes. The best Jaguars have always offered more dash for your cash. On that basis, the new XK looks right on the money.
2007 Jaguar XK Coupe
Base price $82,000 (est)
Vehicle layout Front engine, RWD, 2+2-pass, 2-door hatchback
Engine 4.2 L / 300 hp / 303 lb-ft (est) DOHC 32-valve V-8
Transmission 6-speed automatic
Curb weight 3700 lb (mfr)
Wheelbase 108.3 in
Length x Width x Height 188.6 x 74.5 x 52.0 in
0-60 mph 5.9 sec (mfr est)
EPA city/hwy fuel econ 18/26 mpg (est)
On sale in U.S. Spring 2006
Ian Callum's XK Design Secrets
By Ian Callum
1. The 20-inch wheels are standard on XKR models and optional on the naturally aspirated cars, which come standard with 18-inch wheels. 19s also are available.
2. We tasked the engineers to make sure the ride height of the production car matched that of the clay model to get the stance right.
3. The edges give the car tension. If we knocked them out, it would still be voluptuous, but it wouldn't have testosterone. Pretty is nice. Powerful is better.
4. Airflow attaches perfectly here. If this angle were any steeper, we'd lose it. That means we can have the spoiler right at the rear of the car.
5. This vent will become a Jaguar design signature. It's functional: There's a low-pressure area behind the wheel that helps draw air through.
6. I wanted a badge on the side. I thought of the leaper, but Jaguar is a beautiful word to write and to say.
7. Overall length is about the same as today's XK, but the wheelbase is nearly 6.5 inches longer. The car is 74.5 inches wide and 52 inches tall.
8. This is a Jaguar grille. And it'll still be a Jaguar grille when all the Ford Tauruses have disappeared.
9. The windshield rake is 65 degrees--the current car's is 62 degrees. The header height is 1.5 inches higher than I wanted because of U.S. laws about unbelted occupants.
10. The reason the daylight opening looks smaller than the current car's is because it is. The shoulders are much higher.
11. There's probably the most extreme taper of any production car in this rear end.
12. We ripped inches off the peak of the front fender of the clay model and added them to the back. A sports car is a caricature; you have to exaggerate things, otherwise it becomes so mellowed out people don't get worked up about it.
13. We wanted to make a bigger back seat, because that's the way corporations think--bigger is better. My objective was to get back to the size of the current car.
14. The distance from the front H-point to the front-axle centerline is longer than the current car's. But I insisted we got the long wheelbase to get rid of the long rear overhang.
15. I wanted to do a side-opening hatchback like the original E-Type, but the access was too complicated. If it had been my car company, I would've done it.
16. I don't think convertibles can ever be as handsome as coupes. Without this line, a convertible becomes just a horizontal object. I want people to go into the showroom to get the convertible, see the coupe, and buy both. I've seen it happen.