The Jaguar XK convertible is one of the most graceful droptops around, but you might be surprised by how engaging a driver's car it is — especially the XKR version, which packs a big punch thanks to its supercharged V-8 engine.
On the other hand, while the XKR's driving experience is everything you could want from a convertible sports car, some elements of its cabin leave a little to be desired, especially considering its $100,000-plus starting price.
The 2011 model year is the fifth for this generation of the XKR, and it has aged remarkably well. It received some mild styling tweaks centered on the front bumper last year, but even though it looks pretty much the same for 2011, the presence and beauty this car possesses haven't been diminished. It's a design for the ages.
The XKR's fully powered soft-top roof lowers or raises in roughly 20 seconds. It stores beneath a body-colored hard cover when lowered, which gives the XKR a clean look that enhances the convertible's lines.
The cabin is breezy at highway speeds, with some occasional wind buffeting, but the windshield does a good job of protecting front occupants from excessive wind rush. You'll have no problem leaving the top down for a long highway drive.
For a convertible this big, the XKR has a pretty stiff body. It doesn't squeak or rattle over bumps and, for the most part, it lacks the body shudder that plagues the Mercedes-Benz E-Class Cabriolet, among others.
The XKR is startlingly quick. Jaguar cites a zero-to-60-mph time of 4.6 seconds, and it feels that swift. What's particularly impressive about the car is how much power the supercharged 5.0-liter V-8 has in reserve when cruising on the highway. Jab the gas pedal partway at 70 mph and the transmission quickly kicks down. Before you know it, you're doing 85. In everyday driving, there's little need for full-throttle acceleration because part-throttle produces such a powerful response. The XKR demands great restraint — if you don't respect it you could quickly find yourself at odds with law enforcement.
The XKR features a traditional six-speed automatic transmission, and it functions well in this high-powered convertible, regardless of whether you're cruising or driving aggressively.
Its shifts are smooth and unobtrusive during leisurely motoring, but if you want to take control of the transmission you can do so with the steering-wheel paddle shifters. Pull either the downshift or upshift paddle and the transmission responds quickly; there's no waiting around for the gear change to happen, like there is with some clutchless-manual systems. Because it's so responsive, you'll probably be more inclined to use the paddles when traveling your favorite winding road.
The XKR gets an EPA-estimated 15/22 mpg city/highway and takes premium gas.
Ride & Handling
The XKR is pretty large for a car with sporting intentions — it's longer than some midsize SUVs — but you don't feel its size when sitting in the driver's seat. It masks its size well, driving like a car three-quarters its size.
Jaguar has done a great job tuning the steering. The car turns-in quickly, with the nimbleness of a smaller sports car. It takes a medium amount of effort to turn the steering wheel, which suits the car quite well. I wouldn't mind a little more steering feedback, but overall the setup does a good job connecting the driver with the car.
You become a little more aware of the XKR's size when cornering, but it remains relatively flat through turns. That said, you immediately realize that corners aren't where this car longs to be; it wants to blast across the country, sucking down gas and spitting out mile after mile of road.
Despite its formidable power, the XKR is still comfortable enough for everyday driving. It's not softly sprung, mind you, but it won't pummel you over every road imperfection. There are always mild body motions — like a hundred miniature earthquakes every mile — but the suspension does handle buckled pavement and potholes with no drama. You and your passengers won't feel the full force of the impacts.
The XKR includes a Dynamic Mode that's activated by a button on the center console. It firms the adaptive suspension and heightens the transmission's responsiveness, but the most noticeable changes are a more sensitive gas pedal and a louder exhaust note, thanks to valves that open in the tailpipes.
There are some elements of the XKR convertible's cabin that befit its $102,125 starting price, including nice leather bucket seats, classy power-seat switches and Suedecloth-wrapped windshield pillars. However, there are also parts-bin power-window and mirror controls, run-of-the-mill silver-colored plastic on the dashboard and a slow navigation interface. In a car that costs this much, you expect everything in the cabin to be exceptional, and it's not.
Jaguar provides seating for four, but the XKR is really a two-person car. To get a comfortable driving position, I had to move the driver's seat back to a point where there was effectively no legroom for anyone riding behind me. The seat's travel was at its limit; if I tried to move it rearward any farther, the backrest would tilt forward automatically. I'm somewhat tall — 6-foot-1 — but not that tall. Especially tall folks might feel cramped.
The convertible's trunk measures 11.1 cubic feet with the top up and the movable partition out of the way, but it drops to 7.1 cubic feet when you put the top down. Either way, it's a small space for your things, which makes you appreciate the storage possibilities the small backseat provides.
Check out the Standard Equipment & Specs page for a full list of safety features.
XKR in the Market
Measured any number of ways, the XKR is a terrific convertible; it looks gorgeous and drives great. While it's hard to safely use all of the supercharged V-8's performance capability in everyday driving, that doesn't diminish the drivetrain's appeal.
For the XKR convertible's $102,125 base price you could get the keys to a Porsche 911 convertible or a Mercedes-Benz SL550 retractable-hardtop roadster. Those are two impressive luxury convertibles — see them compared to the Jaguar here — but the XKR holds up well against them, and remains a great choice in this segment.
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