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  • 2012 Los Angeles Auto Show

    OEMs predict a brighter 2013

    By Nina Russin

    The fourth-generation Range Rover made its North American debut in LA

    Los Angeles is the first of four major auto shows in the United States, and therefore sets the tenor for the remainder of the season. While sales statistics can be misleading, catering spreads which accompany the various press conferences are much more telling.

    Before the crash of 2008, the show floor was rife with the spoils of success. It was rare to find any press conference without an espresso machine and plates of scones. Full-fledged buffets with open bars were not unusual. I remember one automaker inviting journalists to take home folding chairs set out for the event. The chairs were nice enough to furnish a summer cabin.

    When things went black four years ago, it was hard to find a bottle of water on the show floor, much less a cappuccino. While I don’t condone swag wagons at editorial functions, the lack thereof was certainly telling.

    Gradually, the amenities came back, beginning with some ice buckets with refreshments and the occasional Danish pastry. But it was not until the 2012 show which opened to the media this week that “real food” made its reappearance on the show floor. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2012 Jaguar XJL Supercharged

    Long-wheelbase luxury sedan is king of the highway

    By Nina Russin

    Jaguar XJL Sedan

    I’m going to go out on a limb, and say that any person who doesn’t have a visceral reaction to the Jaguar XJL sedan probably doesn’t have a pulse. Even individuals who aren’t car enthusiasts can’t help but be transfixed by the XJL exterior which is, in a word, breathtaking. It’s everything the fiercest cat in the jungle should be: long, lean and muscular. With its extreme aero profile, the XJL appears to be traveling at 100 miles-per-hour, whether or not it’s moving at all.

    The XJL is the long-wheelbase version of Jaguar’s flagship high-luxury sedan. By adding five inches to the wheelbase as compared to the base model, engineers gave second-row passengers significantly more legroom. The XJL comes in three grades: the naturally-aspirated base, Supercharged and Supersport models. The engine-driven blower makes a huge difference in performance for the long-wheelbase sedan. Forty-three hundred pounds is a lot of mass to move off the line.

    The supercharger enables the XJL’s direct injection V8 engine to achieve peak torque, 424 foot-pounds, at 2500 rpm. The manufacturer estimates zero-to-sixty acceleration at 4.9 seconds: a full half second faster than the naturally-aspirated car. Peak horsepower is 470: 85 more than the base XJ. Top speed is electronically limited to 155 miles-per-hour, which is a good thing, since it’s frightfully easy to reach in a hurry.

    Base price for the XJL Supercharged is $91,600, excluding the $875 delivery charge. The test car comes equipped with one option: a $1700 illumination package which adds lighted door and trunks sills and illuminated air vents ($1700). MSRP is $94,175. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2011 Jaguar XF Premium

    Sleek sport sedan offers three engine choices

    By Nina Russin

    2011 Jaguar XF

    Recently, I was thinking about which of Jaguar’s stylish sedans I would choose to own, assuming that money was no object: the flagship XJ, or slightly smaller XF. I would choose the XF. Part of this has to do with lifestyle. I rarely travel with more than one passenger, so I don’t need the XJ’s spacious second-row seats.

    But I also prefer the performance of the smaller platform. Even though the XF test car, equipped with a naturally-aspirated V-8 engine, was considerably less powerful than the XJ with a supercharged V-8, I had more fun behind the wheel.

    While zero-to-sixty acceleration is important, to me at least, it isn’t everything. The XF test car reaches sixty miles per hour in 5.5 seconds, as opposed to 4.9 for the supercharged XJ. On a dragstrip, the XJ would blow the doors off the XF. But the XF’s shorter wheelbase makes it feel more nimble. It also gets slightly better gas mileage.

    Base price for the XF premium is $56,500, not including an $875 destination charge. The five liter V-8 engine rated at 385 horsepower mates to a six-speed automatic transmission. Formula-style paddle shifters on the steering wheel allow the driver to downshift harder for more aggressive performance.

    Standard convenience features include keyless entry and start, heated and cooled front seats, a premium audio system with satellite radio, navigation, Bluetooth interface, blind spot monitoring and xenon headlamps.

    There are two, no-cost options on the test car: burl walnut veneer and a dove grey headliner. Price as tested is $57,375. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2011 Jaguar XJ Supercharged

    Sport sedan melds classic styling with forward-thinking performance

    By Nina Russin

    2011 Jaguar XJ

    The sinuous XJ sedan is classic Jaguar, from its bulbous front end to the aero passenger cabin. In profile, the new XJ evokes memories of landmark designs such as the Mark II, XK 120 and XK 140.

    But what’s underneath the skin is as forward-thinking as any sport sedan on the road. Power comes from a 470-horsepower supercharged five liter engine, mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. The shift mechanism is similar to the XF: a rotary dial which rises out of the center console when the driver turns on the ignition.

    Zero-to-sixty acceleration is under five seconds. The engine’s massive 424 foot-pounds of torque is available from 2500 rpm: a flick of the throttle. Fortunately, active differential control keeps the rear axle from sliding sideways off the line.

    Active damping automatically adjusts the suspension to the road surface. Twenty-inch wheels and tires keep the XJ glued to the ground in the corners. Quick-ratio steering gives the sedan exceptional response at all speeds.

    Jaguar first unveiled its flagship sedan at the Frankfort International Auto Show in September of 2009, with three available engines: a naturally aspirated five liter block rated at 385 horsepower, and two supercharged blocks. Engineers shaved weight off the body with extensive use of aluminum and magnesium. Still, the XJ is a fairly heavy car, weighing in at just over 4000 pounds.

    Base price on the test car is $87,700, not including an $875 destination fee. Options include a heated windshield, upgraded 20- inch wheels, carbon fiber trim and a canvas headliner, bringing the price as tested to $92,025. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2011 Jaguar XKR Convertible

    Classic sports car evolves with new technology

    By Nina Russin

    2011 Jaguar XKR Convertible

    2011 Jaguar XKR Convertible

    In my next life, I plan to be an obscenely rich rock star, and drive a Jaguar XKR. The only thing keeping me from buying one now is the convertible’s hundred-thousand dollar price tag.

    Is the XKR well suited for active lifestyles? No particularly. Do I care? Not a whit. The fact that the XKR is both exquisitely beautiful and scarily fast is good enough for me.

    Jaguar’s two-plus-two, available as both a coupe and convertible, is the latest in a long line of classic sports cars, dating back to the XK120, C, D and E-types. The current versions rolled out in 2009 as 2010 models, with new, more powerful engines and revised styling. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2010 Jaguar XF Premium

    Sport sedan is more than a pretty face

    By Nina Russin

    2010 Jaguar XF

    2010 Jaguar XF

    It’s hard not to love a beautiful car. The Jaguar XF is an exquisitely-designed sport sedan with performance befitting the most powerful feline predator.

    A naturally-aspirated, five-liter V8 is one of two new direct-injection gasoline engines available in the XF. Jaguar is also producing a diesel XF for Europe. With the new engines, the XF becomes a four-passenger version of Jaguar’s XK sports car.

    The premium model tested is one of four available grades. This year, Jaguar adds two upscale models: the stylish XF portfolio with special wheels, interior and audio upgrade, and the high-performance XFR, powered by a supercharged version of the V-8 engine. Engineers made Jaguar’s active differential control and adaptive dynamics systems standard on the XFR, giving the sedan better traction at speed. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2010 Jaguar XK Convertible

    All-new models have enhanced power and performance technology

    By Nina Russin

    2010 Jaguar XK Convertible

    2010 Jaguar XK Convertible

    The XK is the archetypal Jaguar, melding styling reminiscent of the XK120 and E-Type, with modern performance. As I slip into the driver’s seat and stare across its expansive hood, I am stupidly happy.

    This year, all-new XK models come with a choice of naturally aspirated or supercharged V8 engines: more powerful and fuel efficient than the ones they replace. All cars come with a ZF six-speed automatic transmission that the driver controls using shift paddles on the steering wheel, or a rotary knob similar to that on the Jaguar ZF, mounted on the center console.

    Keyless start is standard. Upon entering the car, a start button on the center console pulses red in a heartbeat rhythm. Depressing it raises the adjacent shift knob: the shift knob retracts flush with the surface when the ignition is off. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2009 Jaguar XF Premium Luxury

    New sport sedan raises the bar for style and technology
    By Nina Russin

    What’s not to love about a pearl white Jaguar with a 300 horsepower

    2009 Jaguar XF

    2009 Jaguar XF

    engine? The only problem is: I can’t figure out how to shift it into drive.

    There’s no gearshift lever on the floor console or steering column. If I was in a dealership, the sales manager would have explained this in his walk-around. Problem is, I’m not in a dealership, and there’s no owner’s manual in the glove compartment.

    I went to college: how difficult can it be to find the gearshift? Fortunately none of my neighbors are out, watching me make a complete and total fool of myself.

    At least the “start” button is easy to find. As the engine turns over, a knob rises out of the floor console. It’s a rather large rotary knob, with familiar letters such as P, D, R, and S around it’s perimeter. It finally dawns on me that the rotary knob is the gearshift mechanism.

    The rotary gear selector is just one of the high-tech devices on Jaguar’s new XF sport sedan. The rest of the controls are easier to figure out. Once in “drive,” formula-one style paddles on the back of the steering wheel allow one to manually select gears.

    The power tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel has redundant audio and cruise control buttons, to minimize driver distraction on the road. A screen at the top of the center stack displays media, navigation and temperature settings, while a second smaller screen between the speedometer and tachometer shows the time and gear selection.

    Styled for sport

    A quick glance at the XF’s exterior makes it obvious that this is not a car to be driven slowly. From the side, the XF looks more like a coupe than a sedan, with a long front end and sharply raked roof. The sharp roof angle and large wheel arches give the appearance of a cat ready to pounce.

    The premium luxury model comes with standard nineteen inch wheels and low-profile R-rated tires. Large rotors peek out from inside the wheels: definitely all business.

    Up front, the Jaguar logo sits perched in the center of a mesh grille flanked by wrap-around headlamps. Air intakes in the lower bumper help the engine breathe.

    In back, a second leaper graces the trunk lid. LED taillamps wrap around the back corners, making the rear of the car look wider and more planted. Two large exhaust pipes are perched beneath the rear bumper. 

    Quiet sinuous ride

    In keeping with its namesake, the XF doesn’t roar; it purrs. Unlike many sport coupes with loud, rumbling exhaust notes, the XF takes care of business in stealth-like fashion. There is very little noise intrusion to the interior from the wheels or engine bay.

    Goose the throttle, and the 4.2-liter V8 engine comes to life. Zero-to-sixty acceleration time is 6.2 seconds. For those who want more torque, a supercharged block on the top grade reaches sixty in 5.1 seconds.

    All models come standard with a six-speed automatic transmission. Though it took me some time to find the gear selector, I’m glad that Jaguar engineers have abandoned the J-shift lever. I always found rounding the corner to shift into manual mode a little awkward. A sport mode on the rotary knob adjusts the shift points for more aggressive driving.

    A fully independent suspension with double wishbones front and rear provides a compliant ride, while keeping the chassis flat in the corners. The low profile tires create four large contact patches with the road: the driver can dive into decreasing radius turns as fast as he or she dares.

    Understeer control logic prevents the car from pushing in the corners. If the driver needs to stop suddenly, electronic controls precharge the brakes with hydraulic fluid for better pedal response.

    Standard dynamic stability control has two modes: normal and winter. The winter mode allows some wheel slippage for maneuvering through snow.

    Power rack-and-pinion steering produces more assist at low speeds: steering is tighter at highway speeds for a positive on-center feel. Visibility is good all the way around the car. Buyers can opt to add a blind spot detection system, that automatically warns the driver about vehicles in the car’s blind spots.

    All models come standard with park assist: it produces audible signals to warn the driver about obstacles to the front and rear of the car.

    The nicest thing about all of this technology is how invisible it is to the driver. With the exceptional of the park assist feature, there are a minimum of flashes and bleeps when the electronic controls take over. This leaves the driver free to enjoy the ride, and the sound of the upscale Alpine audio system inside.

    Monsoon rainstorm

    One of the problems I have test driving cars in Phoenix is that it almost never rains, except for the mid-summer monsoon season. As luck would have it, I happened to have the XF in mid-July, just in time for a whopper of a storm.

    Since there are few sewers in the city, an inch of rain is more than enough to flood the roads. In this case, the east valley got two inches of rain in less than an hour. I grabbed my keys.

    Turns out, this cat doesn’t mind getting its feet wet. The XF had no trouble maintaining traction on flooded streets and intersections: at least those that the local authorities hadn’t bothered to barricade off.

    Luxury cabin for four

    Jaguar calls the XF a five-passenger sedan, but it’s really meant for four. Up front, the driver and passenger enjoy power adjustable heated seats. The rotary gear shift and electronic parking brake clear up clutter in the center console, making room for three cupholders, one of which is large enough for water bottles.

    Audio and temperature controls are located in the center stack under the information screen: both are easy to reach from either front seating position.

    A bin in the center console under the driver’s armrest contains iPod and MP3 plug-ins, as well as a USB port and 12-volt power point. The XF is also Bluetooth compatible.

    Leg and hip room are plentiful in back, though headroom is limited by the sharply raked roof. A fold-down armrest in the center seating position has two cupholders that are big enough for bottles. Second-row passengers get a separate set of air vents and separate overhead reading lamps.

    All four doors contain map pockets, with additional pockets in the front seatbacks.

    Spacious trunk

    A deep trunk with standard pass-through should hold most of what passengers need to carry, assuming that it doesn’t involve anything larger than a golf bag. Because of the high liftover height, I wouldn’t want to try putting a bicycle in the trunk.

    Base price on the model tested is $55,200, not including a $775 delivery charge.

    Likes: Beautiful exterior in the tradition of classic Jaguar design. The XF is a quiet, elegant car with enough power and performance to satisfy driving enthusiasts.

    Dislikes: Average fuel economy of nineteen miles-per-gallon is not particularly good for a vehicle this size.

    Quick facts:

    Make: Jaguar
    Model: XF Premium Luxury
    Year: 2009
    Base price: $55,200
    As tested: $55,975
    Horsepower: 300 Hp @ 6000 rpm
    Torque: 310 lbs.-ft. @ 4100 rpm
    Zero-to-sixty: 6.2 seconds
    Antilock brakes: Standard
    Side curtain airbags: Standard
    First aid kit: N/A
    Bicycle friendly: No
    Off-road: No
    Towing: No
    Fuel economy: 16/25 mpg city/highway

  • 2008 Jaguar XKR Coupe

    Supercharged leaper
    By Nina Russin

    Jaguar XKR Coupe

    Jaguar XKR Coupe

    Of all the panthers in Jaguar’s den, the bullet-shaped XKR is its most alluring animal. The supercharged version of the XK coupe packs 420-horsepower inside an aluminum monocoque shell, atop twenty-inch rims with low-profile, Z-rated tires.

    Jaguar’s most powerful leaper accelerates from zero-to-sixty in 4.9 seconds, with top speed electrically limited to 155 miles-per-hour. With styling that harkens back to the legendary E-type, the XKR stands out in any crowd as harmonic, kinetic sculpture.

    Last summer, I had the opportunity to drive the XKR convertible; this spring, it was the coupe. Base price is $86,035. In addition to the optional twenty-inch wheels ($5000), the coupe has adaptive cruise control ($2200), aluminum weave interior finish ($2500), and a premium sound package ($1875). After a $665 delivery charge, MSRP comes to $98,275.

    Power to the rear haunches

    The supercharger boosts engine power by 120-horsepower over the naturally-aspirated XK, and adds about a third more torque. Despite its animal instincts, the Jaguar’s ride and handling have a fluidity more characteristic of grand tourers than club racers.

    The aluminum monocoque on the current car replaces a steel body in the previous generation, significantly decreasing its curb weight while enhancing torsional stiffness. What that means to the driver is better steering response and on-center feel, especially at speed.

    A six-speed automatic transmission with manual shift option closely matches gears to the car’s power output for better fuel economy. The driver can shift manually using the gear shift lever, or Formula 1 style, using paddles on back of the steering wheel.

    Variable valve timing also boosts fuel economy, and minimizes toxic emissions. Despite the gas saving technology, the 4.2-liter engine is thirsty. Average fuel economy is about 18 miles per gallon.

    Fun has its price. But for those who can afford it, the XKR is money well spent. Computer active technology suspension makes real time adjustments for the driver’s style and terrain. The driver chooses between comfort and sport modes, and the car does the rest.

    Spring rates are stiffer than on the XK to keep the XKR flat in the corners. Engineers added a brace between the rear dampers to accommodate the stiffer springs. I’ve taken the XKR downhill fast on a decreasing radius turn, and felt completely in control all the way.

    Speed-sensitive power steering makes it easy to maneuver through a parking lot at low speeds, and still have good steering feel on the highway. I had to play around with the side mirrors a little to get the position right, but once done, they did a good job of minimizing blind spots to the rear.

    Fourteen-inch rotors in front and 12.8 discs in back make the Jaguar stop on a dime. Four-channel antilock braking, electronic brake force distribution and hydraulic brake assist are standard safety features.

    Makes the daily commute an out-of-body experience

    It’s hard to lose patience in traffic while fondling a leather, three spoke steering wheel. My first experience in the driver’s seat was at the height of Phoenix rush-hour, on the 101 freeway that runs north/south in the east valley.

    The XKR’s low end torque comes in handy when making sudden lane changes. The four exhaust pipes emit an all-business growl during hard acceleration, that puts surrounding drivers on alert.

    On highways awash with full-sized trucks, speed is a small car’s best friend. Being able to move out of the way of drivers who might or might not be able to see the low-profile coupe gave me an added measure of comfort.

    At speed, the Jaguar’s light weight and enhanced torsional stiffness give it a nimble feel. Ride and handling are, like its namesake, cat-like. The Jaguar runs circles around slower, heavier cars on the road, and revels in its ability to do so.

    Active front lighting, standard on all models, makes it easier to see on poorly lit roads. The lights follow the steering wheel movements, illuminating dark corners when the driver turns. Adaptive cruise control on the test car allows the driver to maintain a preset distance from the car in front. It’s a great feature on long trips, but not very practical in thick traffic, since other drivers will dive into any hole they can find.

    Inside, luxury for two

    While it’s technically a two-plus-two, there is no possible way for adults to sit in the back seats. Just to be sure, I tried it myself. The front seatbelt is routed through an anchor on the driver’s seatback: to get in back I had to climb under the belt, and over the large rear wheel arch.

    Once inside, I was unable to keep my feet on the floor with the front seatback in place. Because of the low roofline, there was no headroom either. My only option was to curl up in a fetal position: an uncomfortable posture that makes it impossible to secure the three-point seatbelt. I’d recommend using the rear seats is as a storage shelf, or for a very small animal.

    Up front, both driver and passenger ride in luxury, with ten-way adjustable power seats. The  car can store several seat, steering wheel and outside mirror configurations in the its memory, so multiple family members can share driving pleasures. There is a separate set of memory controls for the front passenger.

    The test car has available aluminum weave veneer, similar to the design on the 2006 show car. It contrasts nicely with the white leather trim to give the interior an upscale, modern look.

    The Alpine six-speaker audio system produces perfectly balanced sound throughout the cockpit. Redundant volume controls on the steering wheel allow the driver to make changes with a minimum of distraction.

    All models come standard with Sirius satellite radio and Bluetooth connectivity, which integrates mobile phones for hands-free use. A DVD-based navigation system is standard on all models.

    While storage areas in the passenger cabin are adequate for daily commuting, athletes will probably want larger cupholders, and more storage capacity. There are only two cupholders, located under the armrest next to the center console bin. The armrest slides fore and aft to expose the cupholders. The cigarette lighter also serves as a the car’s only twelve-volt power point.

    An electronic brake release is located on one side of the shift lever. The ignition start/stop button is also on the floor console, opposite an on/off switch for the dynamic stability control. There are small map pockets in the doors, and the glove box is big enough to hold a few items in addition to the owner’s manual and registration papers. Both front seatbacks also have map pockets.

    While the cargo bay is too small to hold a bicycle, it is much larger than the trunk on the convertible. I had no problem loading large cartons and duffle bags inside. An undersized spare tire is stowed, with the jack, in a compartment under the cargo floor.

    Standard safety

    Standard safety features include front and side airbags, rollover and whiplash protection, electronic stability program, antilock brakes, traction control and an available first aid kit. Side curtain airbags are not available.

    While it isn’t a car for everyone, I can’t imagine any driving enthusiast turning down the opportunity to get behind the wheel of a Jaguar XKR. In addition to its outstanding ride and handling, the coupe’s quiet, luxurious cabin makes it a comfortable car to take on a road trip. The XKR has the power and performance to be a formidable contender on the track, and the sophistication to be equally adept at the daily commute.

    Likes: The XKR is an outstanding performer that is extremely easy to drive, thanks to its refined drivetrain, and active safety features such as dynamic stability control, antilock brakes, adaptive cruise control and active front lighting. The coupe’s design, inspired by the legendary E-type, makes the XKR an instant classic.

    Dislikes: Rear seats are useless, except as a way to lower insurance costs. Active adults will feel limited by the small cargo area, small cupholders, lack of power points, and limited storage options within the passenger compartment.

    Quick facts:

    Make: Jaguar
    Model: XKR coupe
    Year: 2008
    Base price: $86,035
    As tested: $98,275
    Horsepower: 420 Hp @ 6000 rpm
    Torque: 413 lbs.-ft. @ 4000 rpm
    Zero-to-sixty: 4.9 seconds
    Antilock brakes: Standard
    Side curtain airbags: Not available
    First aid kit: Optional
    Bicycle friendly: No
    Off-road: No
    Towing: No
    Fuel economy: 15/23 mpg city/highway
    Comments: Base price does not include a $665 destination charge.

  • 2007 Jaguar XKR Convertible

    Jaguar’s 420-horsepower drop top takes no prisoners.
    By Nina Russin

    2007 Jaguar XKR Convertible

    2007 Jaguar XKR Convertible

    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.

    Race-inspired performance

    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.

    Paddle shifting

    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.

    Standard safety

    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.

    Quick Facts:

    Make: Jaguar
    Model: XKR convertible
    Year: 2007
    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
    Towing: 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.