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2008 Jaguar XKR Convertible Review

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By Annabelle Frankl
The Auto Channel

I have very fond memories of driving an XKR from London to Monaco for the Grand Prix some 10 or more years ago. It was a thrilling journey and the car was the perfect traveling companion, with just the right amounts of room and oomph. Evidently, this cat has changed its stripes somewhat since then and the all-new XK series is a lovely sight to behold.

Cruising around town I realize I haven’t gotten this much attention from a ‘set of wheels’ in quite a long time. The Radiance Red – more pinot noir than fire engine - XKR convertible turns heads left and right, it’s more than passing resemblance to its Aston Martin brethren likely helping. The car is elegant and shapely with just the right amounts of chrome detailing hinting at what’s ready to pounce into action under all that sleek aluminum bodywork.

The XKR takes the XK’s 4.2 liter V8 and supercharges and intercools it to a very respectable 420 horsepower and 413 ft-lbs of torque. Sound burbles pleasingly out of quad exhausts that give a hefty roar under harder acceleration. More coastal highway cruiser than canyon carver, the XKR is nevertheless impressively quick, with a 0-60 just under 5 seconds and a top speed at home on any Autobahn. The 6-speed ZF electronic automative transmission keeps the engine in its prime power band and ensures a smooth – and fast – ascent around the speedo, with paddles on the steering wheel for when you’re feeling more hands-on.

Send the XKR through the twisties, or over rough pavement, and in comparison to its predecessor, it acts like the cat that got the cream. The lightweight all-aluminum construction not only reduces the car’s curb weight, it gives it 50% more stiffness over the previous XK and this vast improvement is quickly evident in the car’s firm and rigid demeanor.

19-inch chrome rims fill out the wheel wells nicely and are fitted with ‘R’ badged ventilated performance disc brakes. A 2-level stability control system that integrates the car’s ABS and traction control keeps you pointed in the right direction if things get squiggly, although Jaguar also allows you to turn the system off completely, for when sideways is your preferred direction. That said, this driver was happy to maintain a constant, forward momentum! Other safety features include front and side airbags plus a rollover protection system that auto-deploys two aluminum hoops it detects turning upside down is imminent.

The 2 + 2 is, in reality, a 2 + bags, the back seats perhaps accommodating a full-size adult sideways but, more comfortably, acting as an extension of the trunk. One space-saving measure is the use of an electronic ‘e’ brake – nice touch. The luxury package on my XKR takes the leather quotient up a few notches, with soft grain hide adorning the seats, instrument panel, doors, shift knob, steering wheel – that’s also heated - and center console. The pack also adds power fold mirrors and 16-way adjustable seats.

Control of all the main systems – audio, climate, navigation – is through a 7-inch ‘touch’ screen affair in the middle of the cockpit. It’s intuitive and simple enough, although sometimes it seems to need more of a ‘push’ than a ‘touch’. It also provides the information for the car’s reversing system that is excellent. Frankly, if you hit something whilst maneuvering rearwards, go back to driving school!

With the top down and the windows up, everything remains pretty calm in the cabin – all the better for hearing the 160watt Alpine stereo. Lower the glass and you’re definitely going to feel the wind in your hair. Should the heavens open, you’ll have the top up before the traffic lights have time to change. Sound insulation is very good when you’re driving in ‘coupe’ mode. The retractable hard top look of, say, an SL550 might be preferable for some, giving a cleaner and more integrated look, but the extra weight and loss of trunk space are worth considering.

At an as tested price of $96,800, the XKR convertible is playing among an expensive crowd. The emphasis is still more luxury than sport, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have a whole lot of fun with this pretty kitty, and turn some heads while you’re at it.

MSRP:		$92,700
As Tested:	$96,800 (incl: $665 transport & handling charge)

Engine:			4.2L V8
Horsepower:			420 @ 6250 rpm
Torque (lb-ft):		413 @ 4000 rpm
Transmission:	6-speed ZF electronic automatic w/ sequential shift paddles
Wheelbase / Length:		108.3 in. / 188.6 in.
Curb Weight:			3,924 lbs.
Fuel Requirement:		91 octane premium unleaded gasoline
Brakes, front/rear:		ventilated disc / ventilated disc, ABS standard
Suspension, front/rear:	Enhanced Computer Active Technology (eCATS)
EPA Fuel economy:		city: 17 / highway: 25