The Jaguar XK turns 19 next year, and after nearly two decades of service, the brand has granted the aging grand tourer a retirement it deserves. But what’s so special about a long-in-the-tooth GT car from the English West Midlands? More than you might think.
The XK burst onto the scene in 1996 with the XK8, and though it might look quite antiquated now, at the time it was a huge deal. Bare in mind, if you wanted a two-door Jag before then, it had to be the mostly-unchanged-since-1976 Jaguar XJS. Not going to happen. The XK yanked Jaguar up by the bootstraps courtesy of Jag’s newly developed AJV8 engine, which still sees service in the current version.
Two years later, the revitalized Jaguar dropped its first performance upgrade to the range, the supercharged XKR. Performance was paramount, and Jaguar’s supercharged 4.0L V8 delivered with 370-horsepower and a solid 0-60 sprint of just 5.2 seconds. But the XK8 and XKR kept evolving and bulking up over the course of ten years (and various limited editions), until 2006 came around and it was time for a nip-tuck.
The 2006 Frankfurt Motor Show brought with it the second generation XK, designed by Ian Callum; better known as the guy who penned the Aston Martin DB7 and DB9. Big shoes to fill, eh? The new model boasted a lighter weight aluminum monocoque chassis, 3.5L base engine, updated styling, and in 2009 – the bombastic 5.0L V8. It lead the way for a generation of truly grown-up Jag’s with the XF in 2007 and redesigned XJ in 2009.
But Jaguar wasn’t one to rest on their laurels: this was 911-territory. In 2011, the hardened and knife-edged XKR-S appeared. Jaguar squeezed 542-horsepower and 502 lb.-ft. of torque out of its supercharged V8, which allowed for a stratospheric 0-60 sprint in just under 4.2 seconds. It wasn’t cheap however. Jag’s X-rated super coupe tipped the scales at over $130,000.
Thankfully somehow that wasn’t good enough and Jaguar felt compelled to build the ballistically quick, alphabet soup XKR-S GT – the fastest Jag since the XJ220. Fitted with carbon brakes, a supercharged V8, and road-sucking aero, the XKR-S GT dashes from 0-60 in 3.9 seconds and up to 186mph (where it generates 320 pounds of downforce). Its production run was limited to 25 US-market versions, so count your blessings if you see one. The car was unveiled last year at the New York International Auto Show, bringing us full circle.
Now with all the other special editions and the trackday monsters put to bed, the concerto has reached its final encore – the 2015 XKR Final Fifty. Jag has set aside 50 XKR models (25 coupes and 25 convertibles) to be sold in the US market, curtailing the 2015 production; a tip of the hat to the final 50 E-Types produced back in 1974 that ended in a similar jubilee.
It’s a bit hard not to lament the end of an era. The XK has led the brand from rough times to green pastures. And although you can still see a bit of ’96 in the car’s design, in terms of impact, they don’t get much bigger than this.