2008 Jaguar XKR Coupe Review
DRIVING DOWN THE ROAD
WITH CAREY RUSS
2008 Jaguar XKR Coupe
Building on the performance and looks of the regular XK by supercharging the 4.2-liter AJ-V8 engine and adding subtle musculature to the bodywork, the XKR is a fine example of a Grand Touring car, an oft-misunderstood term. What does the abbreviation "GT" mean? Not (shudder) the once all-too-common econobox with a spoiler on the trunk and "GT" on the sides. The real meaning is: a car that combines the performance of a true sports car with the comfort, for two people, of a luxury sedan, enabling it to be driven effortlessly for long distances at high average speeds. Because of this, it will be heavier than a pure sports car, with some consequent loss of ability near the limits. But in the real world of speed limits and traffic, that loss is moot. Divergent evolution since the end of World War II has ensured that a contemporary road-legal GT like the XKR is a long way from being a modern race car.
Changes to the XKR in the past year are few, really only limited to the introduction of a new special-edition "Portfolio" model. Available in both coupe and roadster body styles, the Portfolio gets exclusive Cremona Black paint, 20-inch alloy wheels with correspondingly upgraded tires, unique interior trim, and uprated braking and audio systems.
And no, that is not the car in the press fleet.
Changes to the XKR are not really necessary. It's a lovely car as is, well-balanced, comfortable, and thoroughly enjoyable. It has plenty of room for two people and luggage for a long weekend, and all of the expected modern electronic conveniences - with an interface much simpler than found in the German competition. At mostly-legal highway speeds, it even exhibits good fuel economy considering its size and power. I averaged over 20 mpg during the highway portion of my driving time. Yet if raw acceleration is needed, or wanted, it is instantly available thanks to 420 horsepower and 413 lb-ft of torque. Zero to sixty in under five seconds, top speed electronically-limited to 155, and fine roadholding, plus sumptuous comfort. "Iron fist in a velvet glove" was the saying, but it's not quite appropriate to the aluminum-intensive XKR. Aluminium fist in a velvet glove, then.
APPEARANCE: Sports XK Jaguars are graceful, feline, and, frankly gorgeous. That's a tradition going back to the XK120 of 1948, encompassing the later XK140 and XK150, and culminating in the XK-E (or E-Type) in 1961, considered by many to be the most beautiful car ever. Where the first-generation XK8 paid homage to the E-Type with its voluptuously-rounded lines, the second generation is more contemporary and angular, if still definitely influenced. Overhangs are shorter and angular character lines on the fenders and hood give the new XK a more masculine look. Jaguar's "R" supercharged performance models have used mesh grilles for differentiation from the naturally-aspirated versions, and such is the case with the XKR. It can readily be told from the XK at the front by its flat front fascia with mesh inserts for the upper and lower air intakes and faux brake scoops, and small vents in the hood with discreet "supercharged" lettering. From the side, there are aluminum vents and larger wheels and tires, and in the rear, a larger ducktail rear spoiler and quad exhausts.
COMFORT: Grand touring means luxury comfort as well as performance, and the XKR will not disappoint. High-quality leather abounds, and trim choices are burled wood or patterned aluminum veneer for a more high-tech look. The XKR's front seats have appropriately more bolstering than those of the XK, and are a fine place to spend the day. Many parameters of power-adjustability for both seats and the steering wheel allow a perfect driving position for all drivers. There is more head and leg room, and three-position memory for both seats. Seat heating control, like audio, navigation, and vehicle information system controls, is done through a logically-designed touch screen at the top of the center stack, while basic climate controls are separate. Recourse to a thick manual is not necessary to operate any of the electronic systems, and the CD changer plays MP3 CDs as well as regular ones. An electronic transponder fob and pushbutton are used to start and stop the engine. The venerable Jaguar "J-gate" shift pattern has been supplanted by an L gate with D and S (sport) shift modes, with paddles behind the steering wheel used in either for manual shifting.
All XK and XKR models are of "2+2" configuration, which means two adults and maybe two small children in the rear seat. And "small" means small - maximum height well under five feet in the coupe. It's best thought of as a padded parcel shelf. But there's plenty of room under the coupe's rear hatch (for which is will probably get classified as a "subcompact hatchback" by bureaucrats...), and it's easily accessible.
SAFETY: The 2008 Jaguar XKR protects its passengers with structural strength, front and front side airbags, large antilock vented disc brakes, and a multi-mode dynamic stability-control system.
RIDE AND HANDLING: With its lightweight and rigid aluminum monocoque chassis structure, the XKR feels solid on the road, and is appropriately quiet and refined. It also benefits the big cat's ride and handling, providing sturdy attachment points for its fully-independent suspension. Befitting its sports specification, the XKR's springs are stiffer than the XK's, but the Computer Active Technology Suspension (CATS) active damping system varies the shock damping to allow for both good ride comfort - even on poor road surfaces and even with the ultra low-profile 245/40 ZR19 front, 275/35 ZR19 rear tires - and minimal body roll in fast cornering. Grip is tremendous, a given with with the huge contact patches, and steering and brake efforts are moderate. At just over 3800 pounds, the new XKR coupe is lighter than the old model, but it's still a large, heavy car that responds best to a smooth driving. Long-distance, high-speed touring? That's what "grand touring" is all about, and that is the XKR's element.
PERFORMANCE: If there's nothing new under the XK/XKR hood this year, no worries. If the 300 horsepower of the naturally-aspirated 4.2-liter AJ-V8 in the XK isn't enough, the supercharged XKR's 420 is certainly more than adequate. Both versions of the twin-cam, 32-valve V8 benefit from variable cam phasing and fuel injection enhancements. The XKR's extra 120 horsepower comes from an Eaton Roots supercharger and intercooler. With 420 (at 6000 rpm) horsepower and 413 lb-ft of torque (at 4000 rpm), and a broad, flat torque curve, immense power is available with a touch of the right foot. The engine is quiet and refined in light-throttle operation, with an appropriate roar when pushed. The six-speed ZF automatic, now with the Jaguar Sequential Shift system, is a gem. It helps deliver power smoothly and efficiently, whether automatically or under manual control via the shift paddles. It even revs the engine a bit when downshifting for smoother, quicker shifts in manual mode, and suits the car's high-tech nature perfectly. Acceleration, with a 0-60 time of less than five seconds, is never a problem, nor is stopping thanks to extra-large vented antilock discs all around.
CONCLUSIONS: What is meant by "Grand Touring"? See a Jaguar XKR for the answer.
2008 Jaguar XKR Coupe
Base Price $ 86,035 Price As Tested $ 89,200 Engine Type supercharged and intercooled dual overhead cam 32-valve aluminum alloy V8 Engine Size 4.2 liters / 256 cu. in. Horsepower 420 @ 6000 rpm Torque (lb-ft) 413 @ 4000 rpm Transmission 6-speed automatic with manual-shift mode Wheelbase / Length 108.3 in. / 188.6 in. Curb Weight 3814 lbs. Pounds Per Horsepower 9.1 Fuel Capacity 18.8 gal. Fuel Requirement 91 octane unleaded premium gasoline Tires f: 245/40 ZR19, r: 275/35 ZR19 Pirelli PZero Rosso Brakes, front/rear vented disc / vented disc, ABS standard Suspension, front/rear independent double wishbone / independent multi-link with halfshaft acting as upper suspension link. eCATS electronically-controlled active damping control Drivetrain longitudinal front engine, rear-wheel drive PERFORMANCE EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon city / highway / observed 15 / 23 / 20.5 0 to 60 mph 4.9 sec OPTIONS AND CHARGES Lux aluminum weave package $ 2,500 Transportation and handling $ 665