Jaguar XK not for families, but fun worth it

2011 Jaguar XK

2011 Jaguar XK (Credit: Cars.com)

Being a parent is a tough job. You have to be a skilled multitasker and mediator who's armed with tons of disciplinary and diversionary tactics, and of course, you have to be able to do it all while driving. If you can afford to do it all while driving the 2011 Jaguar XK convertible, more power to you.

I drove the Jaguar XK convertible with my family in tow for a full week. My 8- and 10-year-old daughters fit the limited age/size range to be able to ride in the XK convertible's backseat, which is so small that it's better to think of it as an additional cargo area. My girls are old enough that they no longer have to ride in booster seats (Colorado law says kids must stay in boosters until age 8), and they're still small enough to scrunch into the convertible's Thumbelina-sized rear seats. They quite liked the "just-their-size" rear bucket seats when the top was down, but with the top up, the complaints of feeling crowded started to flood in. It's probably best to keep the XK in the heated garage until the kids go to Grandma's for the weekend. When the kids are away, the parents must play!

After driving a slew of cars with overly harsh suspensions to make them seem sportier or overly cush rides in an attempt to appear more luxurious, the rear-wheel-drive convertible's suspension hit the sweet spot in the middle for me. It was responsive and offered enough road feedback for me to feel connected to the sport of driving while still being smooth enough to enjoy a mundane drive to the grocery store.

With Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) fuel economy estimates at 16/22 mpg city/highway, a premium fuel requirement and a premium price tag to boot -- my base model test car cost $89,000 -- you may need to hit Grandpa up for more than just weekend baby-sitting in order to add this gem to your family fleet.

Exterior

With Denver's crazy weather, I only got one full day of weather cooperation to test out the XK convertible in topless mode. The power soft-top opens with the press of a button on the overhead console. In no time I was on the road, enjoying the wind in my hair. With the soft-top up, wind noise is definitely noticeable; for nearly $90K, I wish Jaguar would offer a quieter hardtop version of this convertible.

The XK convertible's two doors opened easily for both my kiddos and me. My girls easily maneuvered into the backseat by lifting a lever on the front passenger seat that folded it forward and out of the way, making room for their little legs to climb in.

The four-seater has sleek, classic Jaguar lines that look equally feminine and powerful to me. Of course, driving though the carpool lane in anything this fancy, especially with the top down, is guaranteed to warrant plenty of oohs and aahs. More important than impressing the elementary school sect is keeping Mama happy, and the XK convertible made me feel like I looked hot driving it, even when reality may not equal fantasy.

The XK convertible I drove featured a 385-horsepower, 5.0-liter V-8 engine with a six-speed automatic transmission. If that's not enough horsepower, the top-of-the-line XKR convertible has a 510-hp V-8.

SENSE AND STYLE

Family Friendly (Not Really, Fair, Great, Excellent): Not Really (but who cares?)

Fun-Factor (None, Some, Good Times, Groove-On): Groove-On

Interior

The first thing I noticed when jumping into the XK convertible for the first time is the low-profile turn-dial gearshift. I love this clean, simple design. How often do you use a gearshift during a drive anyway -- once to put it in Reverse, once in Drive and once in Park? This design makes it unobtrusive and keeps it out of the way. Of course, if you want to play around with the convertible's sportiness you can use the steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters.

The XK convertible pampers both the driver and front passenger with seats that adjust in a nearly infinite number of ways, including the hug-like adjustable bolsters, and heated and cooled leather seats. The power tilt/telescoping steering wheel features both audio and cruise controls that use a spring-loaded toggle switch. This makes it easy and satisfying tactilely to quickly adjust the stereo system's volume or set the cruise control with a single touch. The steering wheel is heated to take the chill out of those brisk mornings or cool late nights when you're driving around with the top down.

The rear seats offer nearly no legroom (depending upon the height of the driver and front passenger) and are deeply bucketed, rendering them useless for children requiring child-safety seats of any kind and those who have grown out of their tadpole stage into gangly legged pre-teens.

Up front, two cupholders, shallow in-door pockets and a small center console (with integrated iPod connector) forced me to streamline the amount of stuff I bring into a car, which was a big bonus in my book.

However, the thing that continues to boggle my mind about the XK convertible is the touch-screen controls for the heat as well as the audio and navigation systems in the XK convertible. The menus aren't well-organized. For instance, to turn off the heat, I had to first enter the climate portion of the screen and then hunt for the power button rather than just turning the air flow down to Off. Every press of the screen took a second or two longer to load than it should, which increased my annoyance level.

The trunk space in the XK convertible has enough room to stash a couple of backpacks or a few bags of groceries, but only when the top is up. When the top is folded, the trunk has enough space to fit -- well, the folded top.

IT'S THE LITTLE THINGS THAT COUNT

Storage Compartments (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore): Puny

Cargo/Trunk Space (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore): Fair

Safety

While my daughters fit in the XK convertible's tiny backseat, a lot of families, especially those on the taller side, will find they don't.

In the backseat, my children and I were extremely grateful for the easy-to-use seat belts buckles that don't flop around. I can't imagine ducking under the roofline and twisting behind the front seat to help them buckle up every time.

On the flip side, the two sets of lower Latch anchors in the backseat were inaccessible. In theory, they'd be easy to use with a slit in the seats that offers access to the anchors. The reality of my test car was another story altogether. The slit was there, but a layer of cloth webbing covered the Latch anchors. I spoke with a Jaguar representative about the Latch anchors and was told to simply push my fingers through the webbing to open up access. Seriously?

Even if you were to cut open the access to the Latch anchors, you wouldn't be able to fit a car seat in the backseat. The highly contoured bucket seats aren't a good fit for child-safety seats.

The XK convertible offers all the safety features you'd expect, including front- and side-impact airbags with head protection for the front-seat passengers (but none for the rear passengers, boo!), a pop-up roll bar in the convertible, four-wheel-disc antilock brakes with brake assist, an electronic stability system, traction control, front and rear parking sensors, rear-wheel drive, daytime running lights and active head restraints in the front seats.

An Advanced Technology Package offers optional safety equipment such as adaptive headlights and adaptive cruise control for $2,625.

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