SEE ALSO: Jaguar Buyer's Guide
Few surviving automotive marques have the romance and heritage of Jaguar. From its beginnings in the 1930s (as the Swallow Sidecar Company) to the present, its sedans and, especially, sports cars have been acclaimed for their design and performance. The SS100 of the late 1930s, the XK120 of the late 1940s, XK140, and XK150 of the 1950s, and the XKE of the 1960s are all sought-after classics. The XK8 added to that heritage when it debuted in 1997, and the new-for 2000 XKR will do nothing to diminish it.
The XKR was created, basically, by dropping the supercharged version of Jaguar's 4.0-liter AJ-V8 first introduced in the 1998 XJR into the XK8's engine bay. The Eaton Roots-type supercharger fits compactly into the vee of the engine, with plenty of clearance under the XK's long hood. The intercooler and engine cooling system needed only slight modification. The XK8 is a quick car, but the XKR is the fastest-accelerating car in the current Jaguar line, and one of the fastest ever.
I had been scheduled for an XKR coupe, but "had to settle" for a convertible. Life can be so rough.... Ah, but the car brought British weather with it for part of the week, with a late- season rainstorm. No problem, the top is operated at the touch of a button, with no messy latches. Convertibles are usually less rigid than coupes because of that hole in the top, where the roof was, and the XK is no exception. But cowl shake is minimal, and the car tracks straight and true in all conditions. Don't be fooled by the Olde English use of wood in the interior, this big cat is a modern thoroughbred, and exquisitely comfortable. It's not a pure sports car, with such a machine's emphasis on handling and speed over comfort. Like the XK8, it emphasizes comfort as much as power.
But there's no lack of power, not with 370 horses on tap. And, like all Jaguars, the XKR is a very good value for the money. True, with a price over $80,000 for the convertible, there is a large amount of money at stake. But it's competitors cost considerably more, and are nowhere near as sumptuously luxurious.
APPEARANCE: The XKR shares most body panels with the XK8, and is available in the same coupe and convertible body styles. It is distinguished from the XK8 by its wire-mesh grille, functional hood louvers, small "ducktail" decklid spoiler, and 18-inch "double five"-spoke alloy wheels and ultra-low profile tires. The styling pays homage to the XK-E and the D-Type and XK-SS before it without being self-consciously retro. It is a gorgeous car, with classic proportions, and turns heads even in upscale areas where expensive cars are the norm. Jaguars have long been known for beautiful styling, and the XKR (and XK8 upon which it is based) continue the tradition.
COMFORT: Many have tried, but no other volume manufacturer does burled walnut and leather like Jaguar. Amounts of wood that could seem excessive in other hands are entirely appropriate here. The instrument panel is completely wood, and large amounts are found on the steering wheel, doors, and console. It's the last vestige of the British Empire. There is a brow across the top of the dash for shade, and the instruments are deeply set into the panel so glare is no problem. The video display for the optional navigation system, in the center of the dash, does seem a bit incongruous, in interesting juxtaposition of technology and tradition. The heated leather seats are superbly comfortable, and the rear seat will hold two small adults - people will make themselves fit for a ride in a Jaguar convertible! Cabin storage is minimal, but the trunk is larger than expected, and should be able to hold luggage for two for several days with no problem. The fully-lined top is raised or lowered quickly with the touch of a button, no manual latching is required. Visibility is better than average with the top up, helped by a heated glass backlight. Top up, the XK is snug and quiet, even in inclement weather. With the top down, wind buffering is just right even at highway speeds. The XKR is every bit a British luxury car, but it's a luxury car with serious power.
SAFETY: The Jaguar XKR has dual depowered front air bags, all- speed traction control, four-wheel antilock disc brakes, and rain- sensing windshield wipers.
ROADABILITY: With a curb weight of just over a ton, the XKR is not a small car. Size, mass, and inertia work against its being a canyon-carver, but that was never its mission. It is a fast, upper- class touring car that combines comfort, performance, and refinement. If its balance is tipped more toward all-day comfort than ultimate roadholding, that is because the XKR is a machine for the street, not the track. But, don't underestimate its abilities. The huge, 18-inch Pirellis have monstrous contact patches and plenty of traction. The suspension is somewhat softer than a "pure sports" tuning, but works well enough and leaves the driver refreshed after a long drive. Its use of the driveshafts as the upper locating links for the rear suspension is a design similar to that used in the XK-E. That and the standard variable-rate electronically-damped shock absorbers of the "Computer Active Technology Suspension" (CATS...) ensure comfort and stability at all speeds.
PERFORMANCE: Power is plentiful from the XKR's supercharged and intercooled version of the 4.0-liter Jaguar AJ-V8 engine. The naturally-aspirated version in the XK8 has maxima of 290 horsepower and 290 lb-ft of torque; the XKR has 370 hp and 387 lb-ft maximum. At 1600 rpm, it already has as much torque as the XK8's maximum. The result through the five-speed automatic transmission is a refined, seamless, turbine-like rush of power. The XK8 accelerates like a jet on the runway – it's a little slow right off the line, and then keeps gathering speed. And gathering speed, and gathering speed.... Sixty mph comes up in just over five seconds, with a claimed top speed of 155.
CONCLUSIONS: The Jaguar XKR combines civility and performance.
SPECIFICATIONS 2000 Jaguar XKR Base Price $ 81,800 Price As Tested $ 84,795 Engine Type dual overhead cam, 32-valve supercharged and intercooled V8 Engine Size 4.0 liters / 244 cu. in. Horsepower 370 @ 6150 rpm Torque (lb-ft) 387 @ 3600 rpm Transmission 5-speed electronically-controlled automatic Wheelbase / Length 101.9 in. / 187.5 in. Curb Weight 4021 lbs. Pounds Per Horsepower 10.9 Fuel Capacity 19.9 gal. Fuel Requirement unleaded premium, 92 octane Tires front: P245/45 ZR18 Pirelli Direzionale rear: P255/45 ZR18 Pirelli Asimmetrico Brakes, front/rear vented disc / vented disc, antilock standard Suspension, front/rear independent unequal-length double wishbone with coil springs / independent with driveshafts acting as upper links Drivetrain front engine, rear-wheel drive
PERFORMANCE EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon city / highway / observed 16 / 22 / 19 0 to 60 mph 5.3 sec 1/4 mile (E.T.) 13.8 sec Coefficient of Drag (cd) 0.35
OPTIONS AND CHARGES GPS navigation system $ 2,400 Destination charge $ 595