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Celebrating 60 Years of the Jaguar XK

Since Jaguar and Land Rover were acquired from Ford by fellow family-owned company Tata Motors earlier this year, new life has been breathed into these  traditional British car brands.

Tata Motors, which bought the pair for $2.3billion, is India's leading car manufacturer and has come a long way since starting out in 1945 as Tata Engineering and Locomotive Co Ltd. Today, it is part of the Tata and Sons Group, founded by Jamshetji Tata and J Baker.

Ratan Tata, head of the conglomerate, has earmarked hundreds of millions of dollars to develop new models and is also rumoured to be looking to revive Daimler, the luxury car marque favoured by the Queen and the oldest name in motoring.

"This is a momentous time for all at Tata Motors," said Tata, the company chairman, of the deal. "Jaguar and Landrover are two iconic British brands with worldwide growth prospects. We are looking to extend our full support to both teams to help them realise their competitive potential".

It seems that this injection of capital has already made an impact: during this time of worldwide economic crisis and credit crunch, Jaguar's sales have been rising steadily, while many other leading manufacturers of luxury car brands have been reporting a decline in their sales figures.

This year marks the 60th anniversary of the Jaguar XK, which for many people represents what makes Jaguar so special. Like the very first model, the 120, the newly launched XK and XKR have rewritten the rule books.

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Clearly the most advanced XK ever, the new car was designed and engineered around Jaguar's lightweight vehicle architecture technologies, pioneered in the XJ saloon.

The industry-leading bonded and riveted all-aluminium construction means the shell is much lighter and stiffer than some of its leading rivals - meaning better performance, better economy, better braking and handling and even more refinement.

The XKR is Jaguar's sporting flagship in the modern era and the standard-bearer for the marque's R- performance credentials. In an attempt to live up to this reputation, the latest issue has a Supercharged 4.2 litre V8 engine meaning it can do 0 to 60mph in just 4.9 seconds.

I picked up the 2-door, navy blue convertible XKR from Naples airport and drove through Sorrento to Amalfi. The stunning coast road, which took us in view of Mount Vesuvius, is notorious for narrow passages and winding bends.

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However, we discovered it is also not short of the odd pot hole and the car was seriously put to the test. The XKR didn't put a foot wrong thanks to its CATS™ system – Computer Active Technology Suspension analyses the road conditions and continually adjusts the suspension settings to provide the best possible balance between ride and handling.

Quite apart from its performance, the car is a real head-turner in the most dignified and understated way. Inside, the tan leather interior and well laid out dash were complemented by an easy-to-use Sat Nav – an essential ingredient when your mind wanders away from your route as you experience the XKR's awesome roar through tunnels at speeds over 100mph.

Photos by Andy Morgan

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