- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 7, 2006

Advanced aluminum construction, strongly defined contours, aggressive front and rear fascias, a uniquely opening rear hatch and Aston Martin-like proportions are hallmarks of the new Advanced Lightweight Coupe (ALC) which is available in the form of the new-generation XK coupe and convertible.

Jaguar’s outgoing XK model, which ceased production in June 2005, was at one point the company’s fastest-selling sports model ever. United States sales from January through April 2000 totaled 2,288 units.

However, having been available since 1996, the vehicle was way overdue for an update, especially considering the competition from BMW’s 6-series and Mercedes-Benz’s CL-class coupe and SL-class convertible. XK sales in the first four months of 2005 totaled 816 in the U.S., while BMW delivered 3,287 6-series models.

With base prices of $75,500 for the coupe and $81,500 for the convertible, 2007 Jaguar XKs sticker is a few thousand dollars higher than the BMW 650i models (coupe: $72,495; convertible: $79,495).

At $95,275 and $95,575, however, Mercedes-Benz’s CL500 coupe and SL550 roadster, respectively, eclipse both Jaguar and BMW’s flagships. Suffice to say, XK’s main competitor is the 650i.

Also readily apparent is the extent to which the new XK will challenge BMW’s flagship roadster. Most notable is the all-aluminum construction that not only reduces the new vehicle’s weight when compared with the previous generation, but also increases torsional stiffness and rigidity.

According to Jaguar, 2007 coupes carry 44 fewer pounds while roadsters weigh 154 pounds less.

Extensive riveting and bonding yields a body nearly free of welds; Coupe models include one welded joint on the roof that Jaguar calls “cosmetic.” The entire body structure is a one-piece aluminum monocoque, rather than a spaceframe with separate pieces. The use of lightweight aluminum accentuates the driving experience by providing better steering and handling responses.

Both coupe and convertible models launch exclusively via a 4.2-liter naturally aspirated V-8 engine generating 300 horsepower and 310 foot-pounds of torque. Although maximum torque occurs at a midrange 4,100 rpm, approximately 85 percent is available between 2,000 and 6,000 rpm. Dual overhead cams, four valves per cylinder and all-aluminum construction ensure efficient and powerful operation.

A noticeable departure from the Jaguar heritage occurs when operating the gearshift, as the traditional J-gate (which was really a “U”) has been replaced by a configuration that actually more resembles a “J.” Six forward gears shift in either fully automatic mode or in manually controlled Sequential Shift mode. Steering wheel-mounted paddles are used to switch gear ratios when manual control is desired.

All four suspension dampers are controlled electronically by Jaguar’s Computer Active Technology Suspension (CATS). Although used in previous models, CATS formerly adjusted the front and rear suspension dampers in pairs, limiting the amount of roll the system could control.

Accelerometer sensors couple with steering wheel and brake sensors to dictate suspension movement. Standard 18-inch wheels wrapped by 245/45 series front and 255/45 series rear tires provide asphalt-gripping traction, although optional 19- and 20-inch wheel and tire packages fill the fenders further.

Four-wheel disc brakes with ABS, electronic brakeforce distribution, an electronic parking brake, Dynamic Stability Control and Traction Control are standard.

Plenty of standard and optional amenities solidify XK’s position as a luxury sports machine. Bi-xenon headlights with dynamic leveling, twin front fog lamps, LED taillights, rain-sensing wipers, leather seating surfaces, 10-way power adjustable driver and passenger seats, keyless entry/start, cruise control, reverse park control, DVD-based navigation, dual zone climate control and a six-disc in-dash CD changer are standard in all XKs.

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