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Pros: Distinctive and timeless styling; glorious V8 engines; nimble handling

Cons: Dated cabin; laughable back seat; transmission needs an upgrade

What's New: Reduced-price XK Touring trim level added; infotainment system upgraded; 6-speed automatic on all models

Introduction

It's hard to believe the sexy 2013 Jaguar XK is essentially a 7-year-old automobile, given that its timeless beauty is a true testimony to the lasting allure of sporting GT models. Indeed, the slinky XK is a beautiful thing first and foremost. And after a minor styling refresh last year, it is prettier than ever, whether in coupe or convertible form. It is also a soulful sporting 2+2 passenger automobile, rendered in lightweight aluminum, with brutally powerful V8 engines and a suspension that gives it quick reflexes and a true feeling of agility. And of course, being a Jaguar, it is luxurious. After all these years, though, its interior is feeling less state of the art than its fresher competition.

This year, Jaguar has added mono-spec XK Touring coupe and convertible models that bring the price point down a few thousand dollars below the standard XK. Jaguar is also bringing back its obscenely fast and aero-tuned XKR-S coupe and convertible models, a level above the already wickedly quick XKR, for a limited run of just 100 each.

Since all share the same fundamental charm and dashing bodies, every XK derivative is worth a look if 2013 is the year you plan to reward yourself with a premium GT coupe or convertible.

Comfort & Utility

The 2013 Jaguar XK is offered in four trim levels: XK Touring, XK, XKR and XKR-S. All are offered either as a coupe or a fabric-roofed convertible, the latter with seven available soft top colors.

Standard features on the base XK Touring ($79,000) include 19-inch alloy wheels, a mechanical limited-slip differential, electronically adjustable adaptive dampers, xenon headlights with LED accents, push-button start, rosewood interior trim, a power tilt-telescopic steering wheel, heated 10-way power front seats, leather upholstery, driver memory functions, Bluetooth, a hard drive-based navigation system with a 7-in touchscreen interface and 525-watt Jaguar premium audio system with iPod/USB connectivity and satellite radio. Note that XK Touring models are mono-spec, which means that no options are available other than interior and exterior color choices.

The standard XK ($84,500) comes with 20-in wheels, softer leather upholstery, heated/cooled 16-way front seats, a heated steering wheel and a 525-watt Bowers and Wilkins stereo with 14 speakers.

The XKR ($97,500) adds a supercharged engine, 20-in alloy wheels, adaptive xenon headlights, an electronic limited-slip differential, performance brakes with larger discs and aluminum calipers and HD radio.

The XKR-S coupe ($132,000) comes with 20-in wheels, quad exhaust tips, a lowered sport-tuned suspension (optional on XKR), a rear spoiler, unique exterior and interior trim and special sport seats that gain bolstering but lack the cooling function (also optional on XKR). Only 100 coupes and 100 convertible XKR-S models will be built for 2013.

Note that all convertible models cost $6,000 more than their coupe counterparts, and feature a fabric roof that can be ordered in seven colors to either match or contrast with the body to your liking. When not needed, the top disappears in the body in 18 seconds, and can be operated at speeds up to 15 miles per hour.

The XK is the oldest car in Jaguar's stable, and it shows when you're sitting inside. Some of its buttons and switchgears have a downmarket vibe. What's more, the quality of the interior materials is merely adequate when compared to some of its competition, which detracts somewhat from that special feel it had from behind the wheel when it was a new design. At least it has Jaguar's distinctive rotary shift knob, which dramatically rises out of the center console upon ignition. Cool.

Front seat comfort is quite good in the XK Touring, thanks to those standard 10-way power seats. Even better are the 16-way heated and cooled seats in the standard XK. Our favorite chairs, though, are the sport seats in the XKR and XKR-S, which have enhanced bolstering. The XK technically has a rear seat, but it's about as useful as the Porsche 911 model's, which is to say, it's a de facto cargo shelf.

Trunk capacity is 11.7 cu ft in the XK coupe and 11.1 cu ft in the convertible, though the latter figure drops to about 7 cu ft with the soft-top folded down.

Technology

The XK comes standard with plenty of cool technology features, including Bluetooth, USB connectivity and that high-end Bowers & Wilkins stereo. Its infotainment system is operated via a 7-in touchscreen that, while updated for 2013 with soft buttons on the side for quicker operation, is still put to shame by the larger, higher-resolution screens in rival cars. This might be fine with you if you're not a geek, but in any case, we advise you to test the XK's infotainment system thoroughly during your test drive.

Performance & Fuel Economy

The rear-wheel drive Jaguar XK starts with a naturally aspirated 5.0-liter V8 rated at 385 horsepower and 380 lb-ft of torque. This is a brilliant engine, delivering strong acceleration set to a beautifully mellow soundtrack. For maximum speed, however, you'll naturally want one of the supercharged V8 engines. The XKR comes with a supercharged 5.0-liter V8 rated at 510 hp and 461 lb-ft of torque, while the XKR-S goes bonkers with a 550-hp, 502-lb-ft version of this engine.

All versions of the XK model's V8 are simply brilliant, with seemingly endless thrust and a NASCAR-grade wail when floored. The R and R-S versions add an endearingly audible supercharger whine as they pin your ears to the sides of your head. The standard XK is said to hit 60 mph in just 5.2 seconds from a standstill, with the XKR hitting mile-a-minute speeds in 4.6 seconds and the XKR-S in an even quicker 4.2 seconds. Only you can decide if the XKR-S model's modest acceleration edge and slightly louder noises are worth additional tens of thousands -- if you can even find one -- but we wouldn't dissuade you from spending the dough if you have it.

All XK models utilize a 6-speed automatic transmission, which, unfortunately, is no match for the sensational V8 engines. This combination occasionally has abrupt kick-downs when passing and delayed, and rough downshifts in manual mode. In relaxed driving, it is seamless. But kick things up a notch, and it sometimes feels a step behind.

Predictably, fuel economy for the XK is also underwhelming. The base coupe returns 16 miles per gallon city/24 mpg highway, while the base convertible gets 16 mpg city/22 mpg hwy. All supercharged models are rated at 15 mpg city/22 mpg hwy.

Safety

The Jaguar XK comes with standard stability control, 4-wheel anti-lock disc brakes and four airbags (front and front side). The convertible also features two roll hoops that pop up automatically if a rollover is imminent.

The XK has not been crash tested in the U.S.

Driving Impressions

The Jaguar XK isn't a small car by any means, but it nonetheless impresses us with its agility on winding roads. Athletic handling is a timeless virtue, and this Jaguar's got it. We just wish the sluggish transmission wouldn't get in the way, as it's no fun not knowing quite when or how manual downshifts will take effect. On the highway, the XK is the quintessential grand-tourer, devouring miles like a luxury sedan. It's a car we'd take across the country without a second thought. There's a lot of fundamental goodness in the way the XK goes down the road.

Other Cars to Consider

BMW 650i - Boasting a 400-hp twin-turbo V8 that's stronger than the output suggests, the 650i is a very fast car in its own right, and its interior is vastly superior to the Jaguar's. But if attractive styling is a priority, we think the Jag wins without a fight.

Mercedes-Benz SL-Class - The SL is all-new for 2013. The new styling hasn't grown on us yet, but the SL model's retractable hardtop, delectable engine choices and Mercedes-Benz prestige make it a tough competitor, if considerably less beautiful to some.

Porsche 911 - Redesigned for 2012, the iconic 911 is more of a luxurious grand-tourer now, which of course means it's more of a threat to the XK. The new interior takes the 911 decidedly uptown. That said, the 911 gets very expensive very quickly when well optioned; to get as much power as even the base XK, one must order the pricey Carrera S.

AutoTrader Recommends

While the new XK Touring offers just as much beauty for nearly $20K less, the XKR seems to occupy the sweet spot in the XK lineup. In addition to a level of customizability that the Touring doesn't offer, the XKR model's supercharged power is too alluring to resist. And we just couldn't see spending another $30,000 or so to get an XKR-S.

author photo

Steve Siler is a freelance automotive journalist and presenter based in Los Angeles, California. Known for his ability to make automotive subjects accessible to both enthusiast and non-enthusiast audiences, Siler has contributed to dozens of lifestyle and enthusiast publications, including The Robb Report, Automobile Magazine, Edmunds.com and Car and Driver Magazine.

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