(The photo gives away my final choice but still read the post please.)
In the slightly under $100k range, there are two grand touring cars that can always be counted on to turn heads. The BMW 650i convertible and the Jaguar XK convertible.
I spent time in each recently and realized that these two cars are very likely to be compared when someone is looking for a convertible, since they are under $100k (base) and have similar features.
This isn’t a full blown review of either or both of these cars, just my observations about both and how they compare. I do have a separate review of the XK coupe here.
The 650i sports a V8 with turbo charger. It’s a typical German car in that most of the power rolls on at higher RPMs, but the turbo kicks in at low-enough RPM to give the feeling of more low-end torque. It’s a different experience than most cars in the class. It’s hard to put a finger on, but it’s just odd. As for the XK it has a reliable power band across its range. It seems to have all the torque you need at any speed. But it’s certainly got more low-end torque and a more typical throaty V8 growl.
In the engine category, the slight bit of turbo lag in the BMW bothers me a bit so I’d give the slight edge to the throaty 385 horsepower motor in the Jaguar. Both engines are solid, reliable performers. Long-term, I always worry about turbo-charged engines. The turbos tend to crap out sooner or later.
Both cars are lovely and which design you prefer is strictly a matter of taste. I don’t have a favorite when it comes to exterior. I think the BMW has a little nicer interior (because of the audio interface) but not by much. This is shocking because BMW is not known for its interiors. In my opinion, they got it right in the new 650i. The Jaguar interior is stunning as well, but its outdated nav system and head-end unit interface, combined with cheap plastic chrome in places where the BMW has wood cost the Jag a few points.
In terms of cabin room, the BMW wins again but only by a hair. It’s slightly wider and more comfortable than the Jag, but it’s not a huge difference. You’d only notice if you’re as big as I am.
Both convertibles open and close quickly with the touch of a button, but the BMW top can be opened and closed from the key fob, even if you aren’t in the car. The Jag requires you to get in first. It’s not a big deal but I’d like to see Jag catch up with the BMW here.
The road noise is well controlled in each car. There is no cowl flex in either car, probably due to the fact that both use a super rigid aluminum frame. They each handle as well as a coupe in my opinion. And if you want to know why these convertibles cost so much, test drive a Camaro convertible and then get into one of these. It’s absolutely night and day.
The suspension on the BMW is a bit firm by comparison to the Jag. The Jag does a better job in my opinion of finding the perfect balance between race car and touring car feel. After all, these are grand tourers. They are supposed to be zippy and handle well, but they aren’t track cars. For that you’d go M5 and XKR respectively.
Each car has a splendid automatic transmission. The BMW requires you to buy an option package to get the real sporty handling. The Jag includes that feature although it’s possibly not quite as firm in the suspension category. I think it’s a toss up when it comes to transmissions. Both are superb.
I think the standard audio system, navigation unit and interface is noticeably better in the BMW, but it’s not that big a deal with the top down in either car – and after all, you should only buy a convertible if you plan on doing most of your driving with the top off. If I were buying a coupe, I’d give far more consideration to the BMW due to the poor audio/nav interface in the Jag.
The feel of both cars is great, but the BMW is about 20% heavier. It doesn’t FEEL that much heavier than the Jag, but it is something I was aware of. I prefer the feel of the Jag. It has a shorter turning radius and feels more like a sports car than a tourer.
Both cars have good steering, but most race car drivers would prefer more input from the wheel in both cars. I’d give the nod to the Jag here but as with all the comparisons I’ve mentioned it’s only a very slight edge.
The BMW and Jaguar warranties are almost identical, being pretty much all inclusive – even including regular maintenance. Now that is nice.
The Jaguar’s lineage is a bit more refined than the BMW’s but at the end of the day, I love both cars. It’s a coin toss. Depending on how you want to equip the two, the BMW is probably going to cost five to ten percent more. For that reason, all things otherwise being equal, I gave the nod to the Jag. When it comes to the “grace and pace” of the Jaguar, there’s no doubt that the lineage of the Jag is very appealing. Because it’s a tad cheaper equipped the way I want it, and because of the throaty, naturally aspirated V8, I ended up buying the Jag.
The XK convertible now joins its big brother, the XJL in my stable. The photo above was taken at the dealership Christmas Eve. Happy Christmas to me!
Both cars are highly recommended. Drive them both and pick the one you like best.