Is Jaguar trying to bribe us? Why else would they drop off the keys to their fastest droptop for some end-of-summer fun? Are they trying to sway us with supercharged V8 muscle? They must think our opinion is for sale (it is.)
But Jaguar never needed to pay us off. We’ve always liked Jaguar for the stylish alternatives they offer. Oh wait, I get it…This XKR convertible is not a bribe; it’s a reward…
This is what Jaguar does best, unassuming elegance. The silver color of our tester understates the little bit of chrome the car has. From a distance, the car looks a little ordinary, but once you get about ten feet out, the car seems to come to life. The round corners become known, the slippery sides become more pronounced, and the stub-nose of the front end starts to look bullish. Like the animal the car brand gets its name from, far away the XKR looks like a harmless cat, but it is deadly once you get into its kill zone.
The XKR convertible is a soft-top convertible. Considering that the car starts at around $92,000, there is other competition out there that offers a hard top at similar or lower price points (like Mercedes ). But the cloth works well on this car. The black roof breaks up the silver color well, and more importantly, lets the car keep its low and sleek lines.
The XKR has a very calming atmosphere. The last XK had so many buttons that it looked too busy and made you feel rushed. Instead the new touch screen menu reduces the amount of buttons and fuss in the interior. The calming effect is even in the touch screens software. Every time you give it a command, it takes a moment to do a little animation before executing. It is a little annoying (although cool looking to you passengers) if you are in a rush, so just don’t be.
Jaguar never had a problem with the feel of its interior, and all the trim pieces are of nice quality. Where the company had a real problem was with the execution. Years ago, Jaguars were notorious for having knobs, buttons, switches, and every other electrical part would stop working at some point, and then miraculously fix itself 24 hours later without being touched. The electrical niggles have been worked out when Ford bought Jaguar. Now, everything you touch is Jaguar, but everything that runs it is courtesy of Uncle Henry – that’s an acceptable combination.
The soft top is well insolated and doesn’t let in much road noise. Its operation can take you from coupe to convertible with one button. Even better is that it will go down at reasonable speeds (we were still able to do it at 20 mph.)
The biggest difference between the XK and the XKR is the supercharger. It takes the shared 4.2-liter V8 and transforms it from 300 horsepower to 420. Power from this supercharger is almost immediately on tap. In most driving situations, you will already have built up enough pressure to have the full power on demand. But from a standing start, it feels a little different. At the beginning you have to make due with the standard 300 horsepower, but within a few seconds the cat hits its stride. While still in first gear, the car will feel like it downshifted (there is no zero gear.) Everything comes alive, and the extra 120 horsepower converts this sports car into something mean.
With this kind of power comes some responsibility. If you drive the XKR how you really want to on public roads, you will get to know all of the local police by first name. Instead Jaguar is helping to give you some responsibility by installing an Automatic Speed Limiter (ASL) button next to the transmission. What this does is allows you to set a maximum speed that the car will not exceed. This is great for the city/highway driving because the miles will sneak up on you. But also be warned, the ASL cancels itself when the accelerator is floored. In a car that does 0-60 in under five seconds, if you don’t know the ASL has gone away, you will be in trouble before you actually have time to think.
Honestly most of our driving happened in the city. We only had a few opportunities to take the XKR for a proper run on private roads. This revealed the dual nature of the car. It was absolutely find in the city. The steering was as heavy as a sports car should be, but never a burden. When we were able to take the XKR on open roads, the car didn’t miss a step. The steering communicated the road conditions, and there was never the “out of control” feeling that can sometimes come with the over-400 horsepower club.
Another part of the dual personality came from the transmission. The XKR has a six-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifts on the steering wheel. We are always fans of manuals, but we also live in the real world. We will admit that a smooth automatic is appreciated in the city. But in “sport” mode the paddles let you take your fate into your own hands.
Stopping all this power is pretty easy. The brakes understand what you are trying to do. Apply a little pressure to the brakes and the car will stop like a luxury car; but stomp on them and it feels like you’re attached to a boat anchor.
There are other cars out there that have a little more horsepower or a few extra gadgets, but those are the other car’s selling points. What gets Jaguar s out of the dealerships is its style and uniqueness. Two very important things happen when you own an XKR: you will be the only one on the block who has one, and it’s easy to blend back in with the crowd because not many people will tell at first glance the difference between your car and a regular XK.
The XKR works perfectly. No matter if Jaguar made it look like pig and painted hot pink, we would still love this car for its handling and the supercharger. Lucky for us, the XRK looks like a supermodel and is a deep silver color. The only problem is now I have a large sunburn and all of the staff had to find good excuses to take the car home (for some reason no one sympathized with my “I told her it was my car” excuse.)