The new Jag is a car that has gone on a diet, gone to the gym and been to a health farm. And come back totally renewed. Indeed, it's pretty much all new, this Jaguar XK, even if it looks pretty similar, at first glance, to the XK8 that it replaces. Its silhouette may appear the same, and the long, elliptically grilled bonnet familiar, but the more you stare, the more it differs in the detail. Appropriately, this brand-new Jag will be Daniel Craig's wheels when he debuts as the brand-new Bond in Casino Royale later this year.
It is a handsome car. It's also a much better car. There are many reasons for this, but fundamental is the fact that the XK's immensely strong body is fashioned from aluminium, just like the bigger XJ saloon's. It's thus much lighter, saving fuel, improving its performance and making it more willing to corner and easier to stop.
What makes it go is the same 4.2 litre all-aluminium V8 that propelled the previous car, but with more efficient fuel injection apparatus. It's attached to a six-speed automatic transmission, as before, but it comes with a controlling brain that has a near-psychic ability to select the right gear at the right time if you're in a sporting frame of mind. The Jag's suspension is similar to the XK8's too, though you can trace the origins of its rear suspension back to the 1961 E-Type Jaguar, to which the bodywork of this new XK pays obvious homage. It's an ingenious and sophisticated layout that works well.
Just how well you'll discover at the first briskly charged curve, when you'll notice this Jaguar's slightly surprising eagerness to change direction.
It's not flighty but it is keen, and combined with steering whose precision and power assistance encourages you to exploit the V8's sportily burbling zest. The gearbox, complete with paddle shifts, only boosts this Jag's athleticism.
But the XK is just as good at being restful. That starts with a luxuriously upholstered interior, which is decidedly more modern than the old car's and, amazingly, can be ordered with aluminium trim rather than the fine wood that Jaguar has been wedded to for decades. You can still go arboreal if you like, though. There's more space in here now for front-seat occupants, although the rear bench is good for no more than small kids or the luggage that won't fit in the less-than-capacious boot.
The ride is firm but quietly cushioned, and progress is serene apart from the occasional welcome burbling of the exhausts. It makes a superb long-distance mile eater, especially as it's equipped with satellite navigation as standard. And quite an economical one with that weight-saving - and very safe - aluminium body.
Jaguar may have fallen off your radar lately with its retro-look saloons, but this excellent new XK deserves to put it straight back on again.
SPECIFICATION Price £58,995 (Jaguar XK Coupe) Max power 295 bhp Max torque 310 lb ft Max speed 155 mph 0-62 mph 6.2 sec Fuel consumption 25.0 mpg CO2 emissions 269 g/km RIVALS BMW 650i £57,515 Good all-rounder, seating four in reasonable comfort, but less athletic and less economical. Mercedes SL500 £75,880 Pricier, but comes with a folding metal roof as standard. Faster but less economical and deft.