2007 Jaguar XKR Convertible Road Test

2007 Jaguar XKR Convertible Road Test

A Poor Man's Aston Martin?

There are many ways to spend $127,000+. Depending on one's "needs assessment," the sleek, virile Jag XKR may well be the preferred method.

A cat with pedigree
The Jaguar's XK8 series emerged in the 1997 model year as a replacement for the XJS line, Jaguar's "grand tourer" as they say in Europe. The XJS enjoyed a 21-year lifespan, and was the replacement for Jaguar's legendary E-Type coupes and convertibles.

The XKR has a certain similarity with Aston Martin products.

XK Chief Designer, Ian Callum, incorporated many traditional Jaguar design cues into the XK, most notable of which is the 1961 E-Type oval grille. An added design bonus is the resemblance the XK has to Aston Martin's DB7 (replaced by the DB9) and Vanquish, which were also penned by Ian Callum. However the XK shares more than just familial qualities with the DB7.

The XK and the Aston Martin DB7 are built upon the same platform, which was carried-over from the XJS. Of course much tweaking and engineering has been done to modernize the platform and provide each car with distinctive ride and handling properties.

R = 420-horsepower rage
When Jaguar adds an "R" to its naming convention, it brings with it a huge boost in performance. In the case of the XKR, I've equated the "R" with "rage," which is what one is subject to when the twin-supercharged 4.2 litre, DOHC V8 unleashes 420-horsepower @ 6,000 rpm and 413 pound-feet of torque @ 4,000 rpm. Rage that is both felt and heard.

With power flowing through a six-speed paddle-shift equipped automatic transmission, acceleration is brutally potent. Look for 0-100kph times of 5-seconds or so. Accompanying the g-forces is a soundtrack decidedly un-Jaguar-like. This refined cat has one heck of a ferocious roar, especially when its roof is retracted, leaving nothing between ears and the quadruple exhaust tips blatting-out a staccato crescendo of unparalleled intensity.

This mill provides spectacular performances.

From rage to refinement
When not intimidating the best Germany has to offer, the XKR is extremely well mannered and refined. I was immediately impressed with its ride quality and overall solidity. This is neither a twitchy cat nor a shaky one.

A convertible's structure is often characterized by a certain degree of torsion - it is not the case here.

Thanks to an aerospace-inspired aluminum monocoque body structure 31% more rigid than that of the XJS, my tester exhibited none of the flex and reverberation often associated with convertibles. In fact, the XK was engineered first as a convertible, then as a coupe to ensure its structural integrity was not compromised with the removal of a roof.

The XKR's smooth ride surpassed my expectations; it's really quite pleasant unlike performance models from other manufacturers that tend to punish owners opting for the "high performance" candidate in a model lineup. Despite its genteel ride dynamics, the XKR possesses very robust and exhilarating handling properties, thanks largely to its Computer Active Technology Suspension (CATS), which continuously adjusts suspension settings to maximize both ride and handling thresholds.

Feline tenacity on the road
The Jag's feline-like agility and tenacious grip keep it securely fastened to roadway while channeling back decent road feel to the driver. Performance enthusiasts may find the power steering, albeit quick to respond, slightly over-boosted and not as visceral as desired. Personally, I liked what I felt, and given my age I am likely representative of the XKR's target market- well at least I hope I am.

The XKR brings with it binders capable of incredible stopping power. The latest technologies are applied in creating powerful fade-resistant, antilock braking. My testing failed to produce anything other than consistent, trauma-free dramatically quick cessation of movement.

The braking power of this feline is impressive.

Elegance and luxury
I parked the XKR, roof down, in my garage overnight. In the morning, the distinctive aroma of Jaguar stitched leather upholstery had permeated the entire garage, suppressing the odour of tools, bikes and garage-type clutter. There is something almost magical about a Jaguar interior, and the XKR exemplifies that mysticism.

When you take place in a Jaguar, you can see, feel and smell the opulence.

Seating up front is tremendously comfortable and infinitely adjustable. A small, almost torturous rear seat is available to accommodate children or additional belongings for a weekend away. Trunk space with the roof retracted is marginal at best. As one would expect, the XKR is a fully loaded beast, although some wheel and premium option packages exist.

Many functions and related settings can only be adjusted through the touch-screen that also serves as a navigation screen. It takes time to acclimate to this process and understand the layering of information in the various programs. As sophisticated as this technology is, I would prefer a few more buttons and dials in place of screen-based manipulation.

Taming the cat
The XKR is a sweet ride, roof up or roof down. It's an easy feline to tame, fostering a sense of simplicity when confined to the limitations of city traffic. When circumstances permit a little athleticism, the XKR is always ready to pounce, but this is a thirsty cat that demands 91-octane or better. The onboard computer indicated an average consumption of 16.3 litres of fuel per 100K of top-down fun.

Of course fuel economy is not likely a burden to XKR owners. Quality and prestige are sure to outweigh such plebian concerns. The level of attention and wishful comments drawn by this car will certainly satisfy in that regard. When it comes to driving performance, satisfaction is a certainty. Yes, the XKR is the "not so poor," poor man's Aston Martin.
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