2007 Jaguar XK

Jaguars were always chockablock with gauges-panels of toggles and big black dials that deliberately led one to imagine that one was firing up an Avro Lancaster for a midnight bombing raid. With just a speedo, a tach, and a fuel gauge, the 2007 XK runs contra to this tradition of more instruments, not fewer, each one capable of relaying the information that all is well along with all of the minute and drastic variations thereof, any one of which may indicate at any time that all is less than well, and indeed that a crash landing might be in one's near future. Today, idiot lights handle the chores, and when they go off-should they go off, which is statistically less likely than in the past-it will usually be too late.

Car manufacturing is a different ballgame than it used to be. Many companies share suppliers, drawing from the same palettes of components and add-on gizmos of the electric and chip-driven variety. Jaguar has availed itself liberally of the good stuff that's out there-touch-screen controls and onboard data center, adaptive cruise control, parking sensors, automatic lights (with bixenon, optionally active headlamps) and wipers. But this time it has demanded higher quality. So while one's natural knee-jerk inclination would be to doubt the reliability and worthiness of the equipment like anything else British and electrical, we come away from our two days with the XK convinced that a conscious effort was made to get them right.

They are not unlike the XK convertible's roof, which takes but eighteen seconds to raise or lower and fits neatly under a hinged aluminum lid. This sleek metal tonneau relegates the old folded top's vision-cheating bustle to memory. It is better trimmed on the inside, triple-layered, quieter, and altogether more luxurious. When lowered, wind noise is less intrusive, with a noticeable reduction in buffeting. Where conversation pretty much hit the wall in the old car at 80 mph, I was able to bore my passenger at speeds well over 100 mph without raising my voice.

Jaguar defends its decision to forego a metal folding roof by noting that such a device would add weight and complexity while eliminating what is already minimal luggage space (although the coupe's trunk is reasonable) and, heaven forfend, the plus-two rear seating. Meaning you'd have to leave your dead or sedated friends and relations at home.

The hefty handbrake pull, another Jaguar signifier of half a century's duration, is no more. In its place, a discreet, electronically actuated chrome lever on the console. A parking brake, yes, but a brake that can no longer be utilized in emergencies or car-control exercises. While you can't help out by tugging on the handbrake, times being what they are, all four brakes will work for you under the guidance of a computer to provide helpful things such as four-channel ABS, traction control, and stability control. A sportier DSC setting may be selected by he-man drivers to permit more sideways slip before the nanny starts driving for you.

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