While Jaguar is best known these days for building elegant luxury cars, the company actually made its reputation on bare bones performance cars. And throughout the years, Jaguar has always turned to its performance roots when they want to remind us that they build more than just posh people movers. Well, the latest revival of their performance past is the XKR. But there is nothing scrawny about this new cat. Because this new XKR is loaded with features that fulfill the desires of every Jaguar admirer, with the emphasis clearly on power. More power in fact than previous street-legal Jaguar coupes.
Adapted from the impressive XJR sedan, the XKR’s supercharged and intercooled AJ-V8 engine roars with 370 horsepower and a crushing 387 pound-feet of torque. And thanks to a high pressure Eaton M112 blower, all that torque is available at only 3,600 rpm. Which translates into a 0-to-60 time of only 5.4 seconds and a 1/4 mile blast of 13.6 seconds at 107 miles-per-hour. Bloody quick, old chap!
But this 4-wheel cruise missile is still a Jaguar, so even this ferocious acceleration is delivered with luxury car refinement. Much of that due to the superb, ultra-smooth, 5-speed automatic transmission, and all despite a muscular weight of 3,785 pounds. This cat is big, sleek and powerful!
And it looks the part, thanks to a series of subtle styling changes that allow both the XKR coupe and convertible to stand apart from the normally aspirated XK8s. Such as the R-exclusive badging, with its red background, the front grille opening is filled with vintage-look wire mesh, while the hood wears functional louvers that provide cooler intake air while venting heat from the busy engine bay.
Out back, the sleek, rounded XK tail wears a subtle rear deck spoiler Jaguar swears helps balance the car at high speeds, while the whole package rides on 18-inch alloy wheels, wearing super-low profile ZR-rated Pirelli P-Zero tires.
With its 101.9-inch wheelbase and 187.4-inch length, the XKR is a lot longer than pure sports cars like the Porsche 911. But Jaguar owners won’t be afraid to challenge 911s in a handling match, thanks to those P-Zeros, an expertly tuned double-wishbone suspension, and computer controlled Bilstien shocks.
On our test track, our surprisingly nimble XKR delivered superb balance, massive amounts of grip, and with little of the body roll typical of luxurious Jaguars. But the variable-ratio rack and pinion steering is a little soft and light for sports car tastes, lessening the warning when the back end finally lets go. Though you have to push the XKR well beyond prudent, or legal, speeds to really get it that loose.
But once up to those speeds, the anti-lock equipped, ventilated 4-wheel disc brakes haul the hefty XKR down from 60 in an average of only 118 feet. Like the steering, brake pedal feel is very soft. Yet, despite a healthy amount of nose dive, the big cat remains very stable.
In real life urban traffic, the XKR’s luxury side emerges into the sunshine. The straight-line ride is smooth and quiet, although a little firmer over sharp impacts than the XK8. Likewise, bumps and potholes in corners upset our coupe’s suspension slightly, producing an odd lateral shake that is even more evident in the convertible.
On the open highway, however, the XKR is one of the best high-speed grand tourers that we’ve ever driven. The XKR is almost oblivious to how fast miles pass, with an effortless endurance that few other cars can match.
Few other cars can match its level of interior luxury and refinement either. As with all Jaguars, the XKR cockpit is absolutely dripping with fine grain wood and ultra-soft leather. The wide dash is dominated by large analog gauges, and the only option, a GPS navigation system, with DVD map data storage. Jaguar’s navigation system gives clear directions and is easier to use than most competitors.
The powered adjustable front buckets lack the lateral support needed for aggressive driving, but are very comfortable for long trips. The standard automatic climate controls are easy to operate, as are those of the standard 320-watt Alpine stereo, with 6-disc CD changer.
The XKR coupe’s rear seat room is 2+2 tight. Better it be used as a luggage shelf, which is what you’ll find in this space on the convertible. After all, the trunk is small at 11.1 cubic-feet on the coupe, and only 9.5 cubic-feet on the soft top.
But then, you’re not paying for space here. Rather, you’re paying for exclusivity in the motoring class. And, you will pay. For the XKR, the price of admission begins at $76,800. Choose the XKR convertible, and it’s an even loftier $81,800. The GPS navigation system, the only option, adds another $2,400. Yes, it’s a lot of money, but it’s right in line with the more common Mercedes-Benz SL500.
While the XKR is neither bare bones or overstuffed, this brawny and voluptuous cat may be the quintessential Jaguar, capable of satisfying all desires of fans of every Jaguar era. A thoroughly modern feline that is most true to the Jaguar heritage of uncompromising luxury and performance.
Engine: Supercharged And Intercooled Aj-v8
Torque: 387 Lb Feet
0-60 MPH: 5.4 Seconds
1/4 Mile: 13.6 Seconds @ 107 MPH
60-0 MPH: 118 Feet