Driving a Jaguar these days is like being reunited with a good friend who you had lost touch with for awhile.
There was, after all, a period a few years ago when it seemed as though Jaguar had lost its way, and couldn't make cool cars anymore.
Well, Jag is back now, and the 2010 XK convertible provides clear evidence of that.
XK models now come with either a naturally aspirated or supercharged V8 engine.
Both are more powerful and fuel efficient than the previous ones.
The XK also features a ZF six-speed automatic transmission that can be controlled with paddle shifters or a rotary knob on the center console.
The XK convertible, at 4,674 pounds, is surprisingly heavy.
Engineers were tasked with minimizing engine weight, while producing performance that makes the XK feel lighter than it actually is.
Jaguar says it started the process with aluminum engine blocks and heads, limiting the use of cast iron to the cylinder liners and crankshafts. Forged steel connecting rods can withstand the punishment of aggressive driving. The new engines are shorter than the blocks they replace, allowing for a larger open space at the front of the engine bay.
New technologies including direct injection and variable cam and valve timing increase engine power, while minimizing emissions.
Jaguar says more efficient lubrication systems allowed engineers to increase oil change intervals from 10,000 to 15,000 miles.
The ZF automatic transmission adapts to the driver's style, holding gears longer when the car is driven for sport.
The transmission works with an active suspension system that adjusts shock damping and roll according to driving conditions. The driver chooses among three modes: dynamic, normal and winter. The dynamic mode stiffens suspension components for high-speed driving, while the winter mode dampens throttle response for better performance in wet weather. Normal is the default mode when the driver starts the engine.
The new engine, transmission and suspension produce abundant power, nimble handling and great, responsive steering. The naturally aspirated engine goes from 0-60 mph in just over five seconds.
It makes 385 horsepower and 380 pounds-feet of torque.
Fuel economy is rated at 16 mpg city and 22 highway.
Jaguar says it retuned the car for a more aggressive exhaust note. All models come with dual oval chrome exhaust tips. A new rear spoiler is also standard.
My time with the Jaguar came in early August in the Atlanta area, so I would have baked if I had put the top down.
But I did take note that the cloth top's sound insulation was excellent.
The top has three layers to minimize wind noise. It also does a surprisingly good job of keeping heat out of the cockpit, even in 93 degree weather.
Though Jaguar calls the XK a sports car, it feels more like a grand touring sedan.
It's elegant styling makes it seem more at home on winding two-lane roads than a racetrack.
Jaguar says a large air dam under the oval-shaped grille helps the engine breathe better, while side air scoops cool the large disc brakes. The brakes stop the car in a firm, linear fashion without being grabby.
The XK rides on 19-inch standard wheels with low-profile tires. A new wheel design incorporates Jaguar "growler" emblems in the center caps.
As convertibles go, visibility around the car is pretty good. Side mirrors with redundant signal markers do a good job of minimizing blind spots to the rear corners. Standard park assist sounds an audible warning if the car comes close to objects below the driver's sight line. Forward visibility is pretty good.
In the interior, the XK has classic touches such as the growler emblem on the steering wheel hub, as well as high tech features like heated and cooled seats, dual-zone temperature controls, Bluetooth and iPod interface. Both front seats have 16 adjustments, and three memory positions.
Optional burl walnut veneer on the test car sweeps across the center console and the instrument panel.
The center console bin includes a USB port and iPod interface; the cigarette lighter serves as a 12 volt power point.
The tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel includes audio, Bluetooth and cruise controls, as well as the shift paddles. The center console houses the start button, electronic parking brake, rotary shift knob, and controls for the dynamic stability control system.
The driver can turn stability control off by holding down the DSC button.
Large analog gauges in the instrument panel are easy to read. A digital screen between the speedometer and tachometer includes an analog clock, fuel and trip meters and gear indicator.
Audio and climate controls on the center stack function intuitively, and are easy to reach from either front seating position.
The navigation screen at the top of the center stack doubles as a touchscreen display. It includes navigation system programming options (including points of interest), seat heater and cooler controls, system and vehicle settings.
The test car comes with the optional audio upgrade: a 525 watt Bowers & Wilkins surround-sound system, with HD and Sirius satellite radio.
The overhead console includes two reading lamps and controls for the soft top. The top deploys in 18 seconds and stows beneath a metal boot.
As you might expect, the XK convertible doesn't offer much trunk space.
And the back seats are pretty much seats in name only, but at least provide a bit more storage space.
Storage areas around the passenger compartment include map pockets in the doors, two small cupholders, a locking glovebox and the center console bin.
The XK convertible comes standard with front and side airbags, a roll bar, stability control and antilock brakes.
Our tester carried a sticker price of around $90,300.
That's pretty hefty.
But for this package of style and performance, maybe it's worth it.
Welcome back, Jaguar, old buddy.