For Jaguar enthusiasts, the pairing of the letters ‘X’ and ‘K’ has long heralded excitement.

Although the mainstay of the British sporting marque’s business is rooted in saloons, it's sports cars and coupés that have put Jags on people’s most-wanted lists for decades.

And today is no different: the XK remains one of the most beautiful, desirable and dynamically impressive sports coupes available anywhere in the world.

More than 65 years ago, Jaguar redefined sports cars with the 1948 XK, clothing a big engine and big performance in bodywork that was svelte to the point of sensuality.

The firm has been offering much the same XK formula ever since, if with the occasional change of emphasis. The original XK was succeeded by the legendary E-type, known as the XKE in America.

Jaguar’s most famous car, it was a sensational looker and a monolithic landmark in the development of the sports car - the first production car that Autocar ever tested to exceed 150mph.

Gradually, through the XJS and XK8, the XK concept has evolved away from being an out-and-out sports car and more towards being a refined grand tourer. The XK now has to fill dual roles as a cosseting grand tourer at one end of the model range, and a full-blown hardcore sports car on the other – that role admirably taken by the unhinged XKR-S model, the most powerful car in the company’s long history.

The launch 4.2-litre V8 XK, though, is no more, replaced in 2009 by a more up-to-date 5.0-litre V8 running in normally aspirated guise in the base XK and supercharged form in the XKR and XKR-S.

Save money on your car insurance

Compare quotesCompare insurance quotes

First drives

Find an Autocar car review

Driven this week

  • Jaguar F-Type 2.0
    Car review
    24 November 2017
    Downsizing reaches Jag’s svelte F-Type coupé — but it’s more appetising than it sounds
  • Borgward BX7
    This is the Borgward BX7, a new SUV from the Chinese-owned brand
    First Drive
    24 November 2017
    The return of the Borgward brand is spearheaded by the BX7 SUV, a worthy Chinese equivalent of the BMW X3 and Audi Q5
  • Mercedes-Benz E-Class L
    This is the Chinese-market extended wheelbase Mercedes E-Class L
    First Drive
    24 November 2017
    Mercedes-Benz's decision to extend the wheelbase of the E-Class for the Chinese market is an inspired one, judging by our brief test drive
  • Aston Martin Vanquish S
    First Drive
    24 November 2017
    We bid Aston Martin’s era of VH-based cars a fond farewell, and what better way than by living with its Vanquish S super-GT for six months
  • Volkswagen Golf MHEV
    First Drive
    23 November 2017
    VW's 48V mild hybrid technology is still a few years away from production, but we’ve sampled a prototype Golf fitted with it and are suitably impressed