At least, that is the case with the top up, which does a good job of damping external noise. The system does not compensate well for fast, top-down driving, losing out to wind noise. Digital signal processing settings include Dolby surround sound, three-channel, and simple stereo, but nothing to combat the rush of air. We appreciated the staging of the system, which did an excellent job of centering the sound near the windshield, but Bowers and Wilkins should come up with a setting specifically for top-down driving.
Another audio source we particularly enjoyed in the XK convertible was the engine, a finely engineered direct injection 5-liter V-8 producing an aggressive growl whenever we got on the gas. With 385 horsepower and 380 pound-feet of torque, that growl was accompanied by immediate and powerful forward motion. Like its brand namesake, the XK convertible leapt forward easily.
Our repeated desire to hear that delightful growl helped keep the XK convertible's fuel economy on the low side, at 16.4 mpg during our mixed city, freeway, and mountain highway driving. The EPA range for the car is 16 mpg city and 22 mpg highway, that upper figure not bad for a V-8 with this much displacement.
Jaguar updated the interior controls of the XK convertible with the same sort of shift dial introduced in the XF sedan. This bit of techie gimmickry sits flush in the console when the car is off, rising up when the engine turns over. We found the dial intuitive to use, and it feels solid enough. Along with the usual automatic transmission settings, it includes a Sport mode that requires pressing the dial down past a detent.
We were very impressed with the responsiveness of this six-speed automatic. In Drive mode, it moved through the gears smoothly, and in Sport mode it held on to the low gears well when we encouraged it with the gas pedal. Paddle shifters on the steering wheel throw it into manual mode, where we found the gear changes happened with a satisfying quickness, limiting torque converter slush. With this transmission, we would only want for an extra gear or two, letting the engine run a little slower on the freeway to save gas.
The XK convertible's handling proved a delight, as well. Left in standard settings, the car showed good stability and rotation when we threw it into a corner. But this gentleman's sports car has much more to offer, a set of buttons near the shift dial that loosens up stability control and puts it in an aggressive Track mode.
Tackling winding, mountain highways with the transmission in Sport mode and the stability control dialed down, we noticed a bit more rotation in the corners, but it did not feel like a dramatic difference. We expect that the harder cornering possible on a track would reveal more benefit. The checkered flag Track mode button made the accelerator more responsive, letting us more easily modulate power in the turns, and pick up speed fast on the exit.
An open and twisty road was clearly the XK convertible's preferred hunting ground. It was smooth in city driving, its steering radius and power boost helping during tight maneuvering, but the engine occasionally proved a little too aggressive, making the car occasionally leap forward with minor gas pedal input in traffic.
Whether on the highway or the freeway, the XK convertible cruised delightfully. At 70 or 80 mph with the top down, there was a good deal of wind noise, but turbulence was minimal in the front seats. Although we didn't have it in our car, Jaguar makes an adaptive cruise control system available, its most high-tech driver assistance feature.
The 2011 Jaguar XK Convertible wins on performance and looks. Its V-8 delivers immediate power with a pleasing growl, and the suspension and active stability systems help put that power to the pavement. Although an automatic, the transmission changes gears quickly, and our only complaint is that it won't downshift aggressively during braking. Track and Sport modes let the car really stretch out its legs in an appropriate venue.
The sound quality from the Bowers and Wilkins audio system serves as the high point for cabin tech. All else is mediocre. The navigation system lacks advanced features, as does the phone system. This car could really use a blind-spot detection system, along with a rearview camera.
Curved lines give the XK Convertible a torpedo-like look, very appropriate for a Jaguar as it hearkens back to the legendary E-type. But there are too many practical problems with the design, such as the poor sight lines and the minimal trunk space. The cabin tech interface design is particularly poor, requiring too much attention away from the road for simple operations.
|Model||2011 Jaguar XK|
|Power train||Direct injection 5-liter V-8, six-speed automatic transmission|
|EPA fuel economy||16 mpg city/22 mpg highway|
|Observed fuel economy||16.4 mpg|
|Bluetooth phone support||Standard|
|Disc player||MP3-compatible six-CD changer|
|MP3 player support||iPod integration|
|Other digital audio||USB drive, satellite radio, HD radio|
|Audio system||Bowers and Wilkins 525-watt eight-speaker system|
|Driver aids||Adaptive cruise control|
|Price as tested||$89,000|