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2007 Jaguar XK Coupe first take

2007 Jaguar XK Coupe first take

It's difficult to know where to look while waiting in traffic behind the wheel of the 2007 Jaguar XK Coupe. Do you stare straight ahead into the middle distance, trying to avoid the rubbernecking pedestrians crossing in front, or do you look out of the side window to meet the longing gaze of the cab driver to the right or the Toyota driver to the left? And if you do make eye contact, what is the appropriate response? A friendly nod? A knowing smile? A wink? We found it best just to occupy ourselves with the dash-mounted touch-screen display until the light--like the people around us--turned green.

Originally envisioned as a convertible, the redesigned, all-aluminum 2007 XK is heartbreakingly gorgeous. Flared rear haunches, a short snout, and an arcing hood that goes on forever combine to give the XK a character of brawny elegance. A couple of vertical vents in the front fenders topped by Jaguar badges break up the car's lines and serve to inform passersby that this is not an Aston Martin.

While it does wonders for the ego to drive the new XK around town, this car is best enjoyed far from the madding crowd. We took the newest Big Cat through its paces on the twisting roads of California's Marin headlands and found it more than equal to the challenge. Jaguar's Electronically Computer Active Technology Suspension (eCATS) with automatic damping comes as standard on the XK and made for precision turn-in and firm, balletic handling through the winding mountain roads. With a 300-horsepower, naturally aspirated V-8, the '07 XK is not the fastest or most powerful car in its class, but its lightweight body (3,671 lbs.) means that a squeeze of the accelerator will push driver and passenger back into their perforated soft-grain leather seats.

Other interior trim is in keeping with Jaguar's luxury reputation: burled walnut veneer, 16-way power-adjustable seats, and a wood-and-leather-trimmed shifter came as part of our car's $3,300 Luxury Package. Amid the classical interior details, there is plenty of cabin tech to differentiate the 2007 XK from its predecessors. The most conspicuous of these is a red Start push-button set into the wood-trimmed center console, which allows drivers to fire up the XK without removing the key fob from their Gucci jacket pockets. Our car also came with the optional Advanced Technology Package ($2,500), comprising adaptive cruise control--enabling drivers to program a preset distance when following other cars on the highway--and adaptive front lights, which actively correspond to the direction of the car's steering wheel to better illuminate the road when cornering.

The 2007 Jaguar XK comes with touch-screen navigation and Bluetooth hands-free calling as standard. We found the navigation system easy to program, although a little slower to operate than other units' due to the integration of Macromedia Flash, which makes the menu screens appear and disappear using animated graphics--a nice visual touch, but a little annoying when you want to find the nearest gas station before the lights change. The XK's navigation system has been overhauled and updated since we evaluated it in the 2006 XKR, and we found its high-resolution maps and turn-by-turn voice guidance accurate and quick to help us out when we missed our highway exit (one of the perils of driving permanently in the left-hand lane).

Pairing our Bluetooth phone however, was not so straightforward. While Jaguar gives its assurance that its Bluetooth systems are compatible with LG's VX8100 cell phone, the XK failed to find it.

Another slight disappointment from our first impression is the XK's standard stereo. There is nothing terrible about the 160-watt, 6-speaker audio system: it plays MP3 and WMA CDs, giving detailed ID3 tag information, and the folder/track navigation is logical and user-friendly. However, sound quality is not all it could be for a car of this class; bass becomes buzzy near the top of the range, and while clarity and depth are good, the midrange has a tendency to squawk at high volume. Jaguar offers an optional 8-speaker, 525-watt Alpine premium sound system with Sirius Satellite Radio for an extra $1,875--a worthwhile drop in the ocean if you've already parted with $81,300 (the price of our optioned-up tester). For an extra six grand, the 2007 Jaguar XK can also be had as a convertible, but we advise against it: with the top down, there's nowhere to hide from all those envious eyes.