Versus the competiton:
There have been hundreds of changes made to the Jaguar XK series since it debuted in 1996, but not that many to the exterior. Perhaps that’s a good thing if you believe the XK’s design is classic and should not be tampered with.
Or perhaps it’s a bad thing if you spent upward of $93,000 on a 2003 XKR, but realize it looks an awful lot like a 1997 XK8 convertible, currently retailing for about $29,500.
Or maybe it just doesn’t matter. In a week people will be able to see the latest James Bond film, Die Another Day, and you XKR owners can mention that the villainous Zao is driving an XKR just like yours, though presumably yours does not have missiles (behind the grille), machine gun (between the seats), rocket launchers (in the door), and mortars (in the trunk). Of course, Bond’s Aston Martin Vanquish has its share of not-from-the-factory options, too. The fact that the filmmakers required Jaguar to supply eight XKRs suggests that mayhem ensues.
Our test of the 2003 XKR convertible was thankfully mayhem-free, but the car is not exactly anonymous. With 390 horsepower on tap from the supercharged 4.2-liter V-8, a gentle right foot is required to maintain a low profile.
The XKR is a higher-performance version of the XK8, which has 294 horsepower. The 2003 XKR gets a 30-horsepower boost over last year, thanks mostly to an increase in the engine’s size from 4.0 to 4.2 liters. There’s also an eager new six-speed automatic transmission which that works hard to maximize the engine’s power.
Inside, it’s all leather and wood and wonderful Recaro bucket seats. Rear seats exist in theory only: No one over two feet tall could possibly fit.
On the road, the XKR is very fast. but The power does not come in a kick-in-the-pants sort of way, but a bit more gradually. The engine is very quiet, and the only sound you hear is the supercharger’s whine, augmented by your passenger’s whine as you near maximum velocity.
The test car had the optional Momo steering wheel and gearshift knob ($300), and the “Montreal” tire and wheel package, which consisted of gorgeous 20-inch BBS wheels and Pirelli P-Zero tires, which added a heady $6,000. The ride was jittery on uneven pavement, but handling was superb.
The one-button power top worked well, and even left a reasonable amount of trunk space when down.
The XKR is a delightful car, a bit ostentatious but prepared to deliver the performance its styling suggests. I haven’t seen Die Another Day, but I’m confident that if Bond defeats the evil Zao, it isn’t the Jaguar’s fault.
Base price: $86,330
Price as tested: $93,275
EPA rating: 16 mpg city, 23 mpg highway
Details: Front-engine, rear-wheel-drive luxury sports convertible with 4.2-liter, 390 horsepower supercharged V-8 with six-speed automatic transmission.