I raved about the 2007 Jaguar XK coupe and convertible in a separate review, so I'll focus here on what distinguishes the XKR from the regular XK ... and cools my enthusiasm.
Power to Spare
A supercharged version of the XK's 4.2-liter V-8 shaves 1 second off the XKR's 0 - 60 mph times: The coupe does it in 4.9 seconds and the convertible is close behind at 5.0 seconds, according to Jaguar. Unlike a turbo, the supercharger provides its boost at lower engine speeds, so the character of the regular XK's drivetrain is preserved; it has loads of gusto right off the line. This version is simply stronger. Thanks to its six speeds, the automatic transmission assures good passing power at highway speeds, too. The EPA gas-mileage estimates are, shockingly, the same as the XK model's. (It surprised Jaguar, too.) Early fuel-economy estimates can be unreliable, but even if they're adjusted downward, this is bound to be a very efficient car compared to its competitors, many of which are subject to a gas-guzzler tax. The XKR is not.
|XK Series Engines|
|Engine||4.2-liter V-8||Supercharged 4.2-liter V-8|
(lbs.-ft. @ rpm)
|EPA-estimated gas mileage (city/highway, mpg)||18/27||18/27|
The XK's six-speed automatic, one of the best transmissions I've driven, performed just as well here in the R, always seeming to do what I wanted it to do — especially in Sport mode — without my having to resort to the shift paddles. It also exacts its shifts — up and down — exceptionally quickly.
Sound Without Noise
Noise is very well-managed in the XK series, especially in the convertible, where noise is expected and usually accepted. Credit the thick, insulated soft-top. The most noticeable sound in my XKR convertible was the exhaust rumble, which, like that of the regular XK, is among the best-sounding on the market. To keep a low profile, the Active Exhaust System mutes the exhaust during normal driving, but it opens a louver in the muffler during heavy acceleration, unleashing the growl. Jaguar opted to keep the supercharger's characteristic moan to a minimum. I was a little disappointed, because I like the way these chargers sound, but I suppose it makes sense for a luxury car.
Athletic & Balanced
I was impressed by the XK's athleticism and balance, and the R dials it up a notch with firmer springs and shock absorbers. Though the ride quality is more taut, I found it liveable in normal driving. Anyone concerned about the ride might want to stick with the standard 19-inch wheels. The optional 20-inchers on my test car come with lower-series tires that are even less compliant.
Jaguar recalibrated the adaptive suspension to work with the new spring and shock rates, and it still does a good job of controlling body roll. Like the XK, the R has a very grounded feel and balanced handling. The new arrangement probably makes for better roadholding on the smoothest roads, but when cornering on bumpy pavement I experienced a little lateral hopping that I don't remember from the regular XK. If you have any experience with the cars, drop me an email. The XKR has less power-steering assist than the XK, and thus more feedback.
Better From a Distance
The first thing you notice on the XKR is its silvery grille, which happens to be the worst mistake Jaguar could have made — especially on this beautiful, high-profile model. Historically, R variants have had stainless-steel woven-wire mesh grilles in place of the regular model's conventional black mesh. On the 2007 it's clearly a plastic matrix with what Jaguar calls an aluminum finish. It looks like plastic — cheap, low-class, inexcusable plastic. I was also crestfallen to find the same detached trunk liner in this car that I reported on in the XK review. It's obviously a chronic problem. I also found fault with the interior, in which the optional semi-gloss wood trim looked good, but some of the trim pieces — like the shifter bezel and steering wheel spokes — just don't have the finish quality one expects at this price.
Remember, we're talking about a $92,000 car here — $102,000 as equipped, in the case of my test car. For that price you can get a BMW M6, a Mercedes-Benz CLK63 AMG or an Audi S6 that's loaded to the gills, with cash left over. Though they're not perfect, these models' shortcomings aren't as glaring. Jaguar has an image problem — partly deserved and partly not. A decade or so of nightmarish reliability and dodgy electrical systems haunts the brand to this day, years after they've been improved. Then there's the fact that Ford Motor Co. has owned the brand for about 17 years. I personally don't care who owns what; the proof is in the product. But many buyers do care. A surprising number know that Ford owns Jaguar, and many consider this a bad thing — perhaps because they've had a problem with a Ford in the past, or perhaps just because Ford is a modest American brand that is perceived to sully the historic British luxury line and in some way diminish its international intrigue.
How much could a real wire-mesh grille cost, and how could that not be appropriate for a car that costs this much? Yes, the XKR's entire body is constructed of expensive aluminum, the many computerized systems onboard are sophisticated and costly, and the car's underlying quality could actually be quite good. But does it matter, if shoppers don't get close enough to experience any of this? The look of a grille is more than enough to turn away a would-be buyer — especially one who has negative preconceived notions.
One would think Ford would be aware of this bias and go out of its way to prevent anything that could put its products' quality in question. That the automotive industry as a whole continues to shave cents (yes, in some cases just cents) off each car it builds and then throw, in some cases, thousands of dollars worth of incentives on the hood remains one of the most asinine practices in any industry anywhere.
The XKR is such a good-looking, great-driving car. It deserves better, and buyers demand it.
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