Broadcaster and journalist Richard Madeley joins Cars UK as a guest tester for this review of the Jaguar XK 5.0 Portfolio Convertible.
I’ve always held a torch for Jaguars; forgave them their trespasses even back in the bad old 1970s; loved them as things of beauty even when they weren’t. Whatever the model, whatever the year, they were Jaguars, and that was that. A bit like the Beatles’ White Album – a classic, for all the obvious flaws that only a crashing bore would draw attention to. I once saw Paul McCartney taxed with some footling, nerdish criticism of the White Album, and saw his eyes widen with surprise and impatience.
‘For Christ’s sake, it’s the Beatles’ White Album! The bloody White Album,’ he answered succinctly, and what some mistook for arrogance was in fact the simplest, purest, strongest of defences. I knew exactly what he meant. It’s how I think about Jaguars. They’re Jaguars, for chrissakes.
So when a Jaguar comes along that even the most obsessive, nit-picking, disrespectful oikish critic of the marque would have trouble finding fault with, it is a religious experience for followers, like me, of the one true faith. The new XK, all snarling V8-ness of it; all growling, surging, leaping Jaguarness of it, is a reward made in heaven for those who have faithfully tended the flame of devotion through good times and bad. I speak as someone who used to proudly drive knackered, thrashed-out old Mk IIs.
I picked up my test XK convertible the same day I picked up the full-blown symptoms of swine flu. If there is a better palliative treatment for this vicious little virus than sweeping down the Great West Road, top down, in a piece of front-line engineering that sings a song of perfection from under its long, sloping bonnet, I’d like to know about it. Forget Tamiflu: one hour at the wheel of the XK will boost anyone’s immune system.
All right Madeley, calm down now. Enough metaphor and hyperbole. It’s a car. It’s not a religious experience and it can’t cure diseases. Get a grip. Deep breaths. Talk normally.
OK. It’s just that with the new XK, Jaguar have done it. They’ve built the perfect sports two-door convertible. What must their chief designer have said when he climbed out of the finished prototype after the test drive? Probably nothing. He probably had the same expression on his face that Tarantino reportedly wore when he left the edit suite of Reservoir Dogs after the last day’s cut. The smallest of smiles; a tiny nod signifying calm contentment. Job done. Mission accomplished. Doubters vanquished and critics disarmed.
We stretched the XK’s legs on the M4/M5 drive to our place in Cornwall. It was nice and quiet under the black hood; not much noisier at speed than in our XJ Sovereign. A bit more road rumble coming up through the harder suspension; a touch more growling audible from under the bonnet but no need for raised voices, not even when I left a 50mph stretch of roadworks and, omitting to pre-warn my wife, tested Jaguar’s claims of 50 – 70 in 2.5 seconds. (Official figure for acceleration from 0 – 60 is 5.3 seconds. I didn’t actually put a stopwatch on it later that day on a deserted bit of straight Cornish road, but I’ll buy it. The V8 five-litre power plant flexes an awesome set of muscles when you ask politely).
There’s nothing to criticise in the way the XK handles; it’s tight as a drum on bends and wherever you point the nose, that’s where it goes, without hesitation or deviation. I switched in the sports setting on the six-speed automatic transmission a few times but to be honest it seemed unnecessary and even a bit showy. Yes, you get the extra-screaming revs and snapping gear changes, but who needs that when the regular drive setting sends power enough to spare surging smoothly down to the back wheels?
Points… the new-look Jaguar satnav display is a bit more garish than the old but much clearer. They’ve also ironed out that irritating business of the screen going to night-time setting when you put the side-lights on; now it just dims slightly so you can still read it, even in bright sunlight. It doesn’t distract at night.
I liked the cruise control function of keeping you at a safe distance from cars in front. On the motorway someone pulled out sharply in front of me without signalling and although I was on it, the cruise was already decelerating the engine by the time I hit the brakes. You can override this function but it’s a nice touch, especially for long journeys where attention can wander sometimes.
There’s surprisingly little breeze with the top down and the rear wind baffle up. Less, for example, than in Judy’s VW Beetle convertible. So we had none of our usual top down/top up arguments on this trip, even when I touched 70mph in the early autumn sunshine along the September-quiet Cornish roads.
The XK is a beauty and deserves to out-sell all its competitors. All right, I would have said that if it drove like a tank and looked like a warthog. But it didn’t, and doesn’t. In fact, on the subject of looks, returning to the car from a lunch in the little port of Fowey, I saw two fishermen giving it an eyeful as their boat bobbed past. ‘That’s lovely, that is,’ one called out. ‘Can’t quite see from here… is it an Aston Martin?’
No. It’s a Jag and a half, is what it is.
Jaguar XK 5.0 Portfolio Convertible Quick Tech Specs
- Engine: 5.0 litre, 503bhp Supercharged
- Performance: 0-60mph 5.3 seconds / Top Speed 155mph (limited) / 50-70mph 2.5 seconds
- Economy: 25.2 mpg – Official
- Emissions: 264g/km
- Price: £64,900 / Price as tested £69,475.53
- Full Jaguar XK 5.0 Portfolio Convertible Specifications