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Write What You Drive

A showcase of independent motoring journalism and automotive travails

Farewell: Jaguar XK

Jaguar has been doing a pretty good job of getting itself and its products in the news recently - with the XF Sportbrake (or estate if you're a '90s sort of guy) being used as a support car by Team Sky in the Tour de France, a Superbowl half-time commercial and even escorting the greatest footballer ever to pull on an England shirt to his final resting place.

This summer though, without fanfare, the Jaguar XK went out of production and the nameplate (for now at least) was consigned to the history books. With it goes the last chance to buy the naturally aspirated 380 bhp version of Jaguar's V8 in the UK.

The engine has been around in its current design since 2009, when it replaced the 4.2L V8 across the Jaguar and Land Rover range. Technically, Aston Martin still uses a bored out, hand built version of the old 4.2L NA in the V8 Vantage but that too has a limited lifetime due to their new engine tie-in with AMG.

Whilst 5 years is by no means a long production run for an engine, the end of the NA V8's life is a wider indication of the demise of large, naturally aspirated engines for European markets. After all, if Jaguar doesn't have use for a lazy NA V8 mated to an auto gearbox in their GTs and saloons - who does?

Similarly - the NA V8 represents a zenith for off-roading Land Rover customers. Providing formidable low-down torque (or grunt in off roading nomenclature) without the need to spool up a supercharger, or turbocharger as in a diesel. Just the ticket for standing starts up a 1 in 1 rock face.

All NA V8 applications in the UK Jaguar Land Rover range have been substituted with their supercharged V6 - an engine largely based on the architecture of the V8 but the winds of change now demand the deletion of 2 cylinders rather than the Eaton supercharger to create a lower power variant than the 500+ bhp range-topper. The NA does live on for a few export markets but it's soon to depart UK model lists - probably for good.

Jaguar, preferring to focus attention on its new halo F-Type Coupe and Convertibles, is also no longer present in the Grand Tourer segment for the first time since 1975. This obviously isn't a segment that their competitors consider defunct as I recently read a first drive of the Mercedes S Class Coupe in CAR Magazine.

The XK itself was admittedly fairly long in the tooth (older than the aforementioned engine that powers it) and the motoring press took pot-shots at its dated interior and switchgear towards the end of its life. Jaguar's arguably misguided attempts to spice things up with the XKR-S and clumsily named XKR-S GT's carbon additions, bucket seats and higher power outputs also didn't exactly serve as a dignified end for the old girl.

These were attempts at turning the XK into the 911 rival that it was always going to struggle to be. I've spoken before on what makes a sports car and I'm afraid a 1700kg kerb weight wasn't on the list.

To some extent though, Jaguar came back around to celebrate the XK for being good at what it is with the roll-out models. Even for a seven year old car, the final Signature and Dynamic R models stack up fairly well against the brand spanking new Merc Coupe.

The 500bhp Dynamic R model costs just £80,000, against the Merc's £100k entry point - which buys you 50bhp less and a car with similar shortcomings in the rear seat space department. As always things aren't quite that simple as Mercedes' arrow lands squarely in the XK's achilles heel(s); the interior is streets ahead and it manages 30mpg and 219g/km against the Jag's rather backwards 23mpg and 292g/km.

The S Class also comes armed with a fancy new curve tilt function that can anticipate not only undulations in the road but also bends so that the electronic Valentino Rossi can tilt the car into the corner. I can't say I have experienced it but I'd imagine it blows the widely derided bumpy ride of the XK out of the water somewhat.

The XK Signature model however, with that NA engine and at £60k, is a certified bargain. It's the best the X150 XK has ever looked (X100s still make me swoon whenever I see one), with a purposeful stance but clean lines devoid of the XKR-S (and even XKR) bodywork accoutrements and still far more handsome than the Mercedes despite its age.

Jaguar hasn't officially commented on the future of the XK name badge - I suspect they will concentrate efforts on the F-Type for some time yet - riding the wave of publicity (and sales) it has generated before a replacement Grand Tourer needs to be considered.

But for a limited time only - £60k for a brand new, V8 engined Jaguar coupe that enjoys both exclusivity and some good old fashioned British good looks and's an absolute steal.

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