2007 Jaguar XKR ConvertiblePosted on November 5th, 2007
Jaguar’s 420-horsepower drop top takes no prisoners.
By Nina Russin
The jaguar is the biggest cat indigenous to North America. The Jaguar XKR convertible is the automaker’s most powerful leaper: its supercharged V8 engine produces 420 horsepower, and accelerates from zero-to-sixty in five seconds.
Like its namesake, the XKR is the ultimate predator: stealthy, and supremely powerful. It is both the most civilized convertible on the roads, and when the driver demands, the most untamed.
Styling hearkens back to the Jaguar C, D and E Types of the 1950s and 60s: a long, bulbous front end, with an oval grille and teardrop shaped headlamps that punctuate the front fender swells. Based on the XK sports car introduced in late 2005, the XKR exterior is distinguished by a vented hood, aluminum blades on the quarter panels, special wheels and badging.
On the inside, the two-plus-two roadster is pure European luxury: leather trim, burl veneer, and a state-of-the-art sound system. Since rear visibility on a convertible is poor with the top in place, there’s an obstacle warning system that sends an audible alarm when it detects objects to the car’s sides and rear.
The second-row seat is for insurance purposes only. It will hold a dachshund, some golf clubs, or a duffle bag: a human being of any size is out of the question.
Keyless ignition is standard. So is a touchscreen navigation system, dual automatic climate control, ten-way power front seats and seat heaters. The standard audio system includes an in-dash six-CD changer, but it doesn’t include satellite radio. That surprised me in a car with a base price of ninety-one thousand dollars.
The top retracts by depressing a button at the top of the windshield. The windows lower automatically, and the top folds into the rear boot. The whole operation takes less than a minute. I put the top down after a run on a cooler-than average morning. No problem: the automatic temperature control quickly bumped up the heat, raising the air temperature to a balmy seventy-five degrees. This is a car I could easily learn to live with.
The XKR chassis reflects Jaguar’s racing heritage. Engineers used aluminum body panels to keep the curb weight light: the convertible weighs 220 pounds less than the outgoing model. Standard nineteen-inch wheels with low profile Pirelli tires give the chassis a wide stable footprint: fourteen-inch vented disc brakes in front and 12.8-inch rotors in the rear provide exceptional stopping power.
An active suspension system automatically adjusts shock damping to speed and road conditions. Dynamic stability control and traction control are standard. Speed-sensitive rack-and pinion steering is light enough to make parking easy, but has enough effort for good on-center response at high speeds.
While it’s a lovely car to drive around town, the XKR begs to go fast. It has a sweet spot between ninety and a hundred miles per hour, at which the power feels effortless, the suspension and steering buttery smooth. Driving through a series of sweepers en route to Arizona’s high country was pure exhilaration. I didn’t dare go faster, since I didn’t want to share my seat time with the local authorities.
The supercharged V-8 engine has excellent fuel economy: averaging about 21 miles-per-gallon for city and highway driving. Supercharging pushes air through the engine to make it breathe better: it also reduces the amount of uncombusted fuel, and hence emissions.
Superchargers have been around for years, but modern fuel injection makes a big difference in their performance. There’s a slight surge when the boost kicks in: it feels like mild shift shock. But unlike the good old days, the engine never shudders because fuel delivery can’t keep up with the blower.
Superchargers are driven off the engine, unlike turbo chargers that work off the exhaust. Because of that, there’s no lag time when the driver opens the throttle on a supercharged car. The problem with superchargers is packaging: they’re harder to squeeze under a low profile hood than turbos, which are smaller. Kudos to the engineering team for accomplishing the difficult: the supercharger is invisible with the hood shut, save an extra air vent.
The driver can use the J-shifter to change between regular and sport modes. The sport mode makes the six-speed automatic transmission hold onto low gears longer on hills for better acceleration. Paddles on the steering wheel are similar to those used in Formula-One racing: the driver uses the paddles to upshift or downshift. Redundant audio controls on the front of the wheel allow the driver to change channels or volume without taking his eyes off the road.
Not bicycle friendly
The XKR has a tiny trunk. With the top in place, I was barely able to squeeze an overnight suitcase, gear bag and small cooler inside. While it won’t hold passengers, the back seat is useful for carrying additional cargo.
I suppose it’s possible to stuff a bicycle behind the front seat with the top down and the bike’s front wheel removed. Better yet, get a second vehicle more suited for the job, with less expensive upholstery to tear.
It should go without saying that it’s also not a car for driving off-road. With low profile tires, it doesn’t take much to bend a rim. I did drive on a graded dirt road up in the high country, but I’d recommend keeping the speed low and the distance short.
I didn’t get a chance to test the XKR in rain or snow. While the chassis is rear-wheel drive, antilock braking and traction control should give drivers better directional control. Other standard features include a rollover protection system, tire pressure monitor, dynamic stability control, front and side airbags. Buyers can purchase an optional first aid kit.
Bi-xenon headlamps that throw a long, bright beam of light are standard. So is adaptive lighting: it sends an extra beam of light to the side when the driver is cornering.
Price on the test car is $94,600, including a luxury package and $665 delivery charge. While I can’t imagine buying a car that cost more than my house, driving the XKR for a week was a lovely experience. The XKR is as beautiful as any car I’ve seen, with handling and performance worthy of the leaper.
Likes: Outstanding acceleration, steering response, and braking. The supercharged engine with six-speed automatic transmission is buttery smooth at any speed, combining the power of a race car with the manners of a luxury car.
Dislikes: Very little cargo space, even with the top in place. The audio system on a car at this price should include standard satellite radio.
Model: XKR convertible
Base price: $91,835
As tested: $94,600
Horsepower: 420 Hp @ 6000 rpm
Torque: 413 lbs.-ft. @ 4000 rpm
Zero-to-sixty: 5 seconds
Bicycle friendly: No
Off-road capability: No
Antilock brakes: Standard
Side curtain airbags: Not available
First aid kit: Available as an option
Fuel economy: 17/25 m.p.g. city/highway
Comments: Base price does not include a $665 transportation and handling fee.
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