So that’s it, then. The dear old Jaguar XK is no more. Last week, someone at Jaguar had the not especially pleasant task of hitting the stop button on the production line at Castle Bromwich, Birmingham, where the XK has been built since 1996.
And for the foreseeable future, Jaguar’s elegantly styled big coupé will not see the light of day again.
The official line from Jaguar is that no decision has been made yet over the car’s future. Jaguar says it simply hasn’t made up its mind whether there’s a business case for a new XK now that the F-type has been unleashed upon the world. Behind the scenes, however, an internal debate is raging – it may even be a full-blown argument – over the XK’s replacement.
Certain people at Jaguar believe it to be a travesty not to replace the XK at some point in the future with a super-elegant, high-performing, luxuriant GT car – with a machine that, broadly speaking, replaces like with like at the top of Jaguar’s range, albeit with more modern thinking and architecture at its core.
Others in the company, however, claim that a new XK simply doesn’t add up commercially in 2014 and beyond. They will point out that just 3223 XKs found homes worldwide last year, while a mere 1970 of them were sold between January and June this year, out of a total of 145,320 sales globally since 1996.
The XK’s naysayers will also point out that a Jaguar SUV or something similar would make far more sense – and shift much more metal, which would in turn net massively more profit – than a new version of a car that is already perceived to be something of a dinosaur.
Whatever the XK’s fate – and right now it doesn’t look good, if you’re being realistic – Jaguar has produced one last and final version to celebrate the car’s 18 years on the road. It’s not exactly a bells and whistles with extra chilli sauce on top kind of run-out model.
Instead, the XK Dynamic R, as it is officially entitled, is basically eight-and-a-half-tenths of an XKR-S but for £30k less than the big daddy variant. And in its way, it’s a car that befits the XK’s legacy to perfection.
That’s because despite the extra power and performance that accompanied the carbonfibre wings and eye-watering £100k price of the RS versions, which were available in coupé and convertible forms, it was actually the lesser XKs that were arguably the sweetest to drive.
With 542bhp, the XKR-S could, on occasions, feel like it was trying to eat itself dynamically. But knock the power back to 503bhp and the torque down to a still-rousing 461lb ft and the XKR’s chassis always felt that little bit less stressed. And rather better balanced as a result.
So it seems entirely appropriate, somehow, that Jaguar has decided not to give this last and final version of its faithful but fading XK the full-fat 542bhp engine. Instead, it gets the regular XKR engine (503bhp and 461lb ft, as intimated) but with most of the juiciest bits from the XKR-S elsewhere. It costs £69,975 and is as well equipped inside as any car that Jaguar has ever produced.
And in no-cost optional Italian Racing Red with £515 of 20-inch Vulcan Gloss Black alloy wheels, it also still looks completely stunning in the metal. On the road, in isolation, at least, it still drives quite tidily, too.
There has always been a lightness of touch and a fluidity to the XKR’s steering and chassis responses that make driving it something of a rare pleasure.