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2011 Jaguar XKR Coupe Review

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2011 Jaguar XKR Coupe

SEE ALSO: Jaguar Buyers Guide


2011 Jaguar XKR Coupe

No cat is completely domesticated. Not even your tabby, and most certainly not a Jaguar XKR. Especially at wide open throttle.

Press the right buttons -- twist the JaguarDrive Selector™ rotary shifter to "S" and set the "Dynamic Mode" switch -- then put right foot to floor, and the formerly docile luxury coupe becomes a snarling beast. It leaps forward at the rate of a 4.6 second 0-60 time, to an electronically-limited top speed of 155 mph if in an appropriate location, and the once-mellow V8 rumble becomes a sharp, menacing howl. Suddenly it's not all that far from its GT2 ALMS competition derivative.

Except that it is fully capable of providing sumptuous luxury transportation for two people for as long as necessary, and it easily deals with city and commute traffic. The 2011 Jaguar XKR may not be completely domesticated, but it is civilized. Quite.

If the 2011 versions of Jaguar's XK series -- the naturally-aspirated XK and supercharged XKR, both in coupe and convertible styles -- look little different from the 2007 models that heralded the second generation of the venerable British manufacturer's quintessential grand tourers, look more closely. As of model year 2010, and continuing to 2011, there are detail changes to front and rear styling, LED taillamps and turn signal repeaters integrated into the outside rearview mirrors. Typical mid- product cycle refresh material… Inside are a myriad of changes, each minor to moderate but adding to a pleasant upgrade. Again, though, mid-product cycle changes. Except for that JaguarDrive Selector.

Which connects, electronically, to a six-speed ZF automatic transmission. Which in turns connects to the newest iteration of Jaguar's AJ-V8 engine. The AJ-V8 Gen III is the significant attribute of the newest XK that serves notice to its competition. In both atmospheric and forced-induction form, it is more powerful, more compact, and more efficient. And larger in displacement, to 5.0 liters from the previous 4.2 and original 4.0. Direct fuel injection, variable cam phasing on all four camshafts, and other advances see significant increases in power -- to 385 horsepower for the XK engine and 510 for the XKR -- and a US LEV II emissions rating and, when driven modestly, commendable fuel economy.

Foot to the floor as noted above, debit the entertainment budget and enjoy. YMMV, as the saying goes…

During a short but intense week with a new XKR Coupe, I was able to enjoy both sides of its performance personality. It is, at heart, a definitive grand touring machine. Meaning a car made for easily and comfortably traveling long distances, at speed. Highway cruising was effortless, relaxing, even, with little demand on the drivetrain. Any need to change speed at speed, whether up or down, was met immediately -- top gear roll-on is ferocious, even in regular D mode, and four huge vented antilock discs are fully capable. Backroads, aka "sports car" roads? Again, happy Jaguar habitat, although wide sweepers are preferred to really tight corners as this is a large car. City and commute traffic? No stumbles, no fuss. But when a little adrenaline is needed, press the right buttons and it's right there…

APPEARANCE: The second-generation XK heralded new design cues for Jaguar when it debuted in model year 2007, more angular than the original but still unmistakably Jaguar. Much of that look showed up on the XF and the newest XJ. It's appropriately elegant, and announces performance with classic British understatement. A bit more chrome trim, a new front bumper design, LED taillights, and a revised spoiler highlight the XKR's 2011 styling refresh.

COMFORT: As outside, multiple small detail enhancements bring the newest XKR up to date without compromising its grand touring elegance and comfort. Most apparent is the JaguarDrive shift knob in the console. A little quirky? Yes, and so was the old J-gate shift in years past. Jaguar tradition… and the knob works simply and easily. A full suite of audio options are now standard equipment, with minijack, USB, and iPod interfaces in addition to AM, FM, and Sirius satellite radio and CDs. New instruments, with lit red needles on white numbers, grace the dash. Stitched leather covers the seats, steering wheel rim, instrument panel, and door panels. Jaguar does burled walnut trim in the classic British manner, but textured aluminum is found in the XKR -- appropriately, considering the car's construction and character. Front seats are multi-adjustable, completely powered, and provide top-notch comfort and support. The "+2" rear buckets are best though of as extra luggage space, as headroom limits occupant size to under 4' 6" in the coupe. Solid construction ensures no rattles from the large hatch, which ensures easy luggage loading and a surprisingly good capacity. Which is only fair, as this is a car that can go the distance, quickly and comfortably.

SAFETY: The 2011 Jaguar XKR protects its passengers with structural strength, front, side, and thorax airbags, huge antilock vented disc brakes, and a multi-mode dynamic stability-control system.

RIDE AND HANDLING: Thanks to its light and rigid aluminum chassis structure, the XKR feels solid on the road, and is appropriately quiet and refined. That structure 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 Adaptive Dynamics system continuously varies the shock damping to allow for both good ride comfort - even on poor road surfaces and even with the ultra low-profile 255/35 ZR20 front, 285/30 ZR20 rear tires - and minimal body roll in fast cornering. It is a capable, high-performance machine so don't expect luxury-car softness. Grip is tremendous, a given with with the huge contact patches, and steering and brake effort is moderate. At just under 4000 pounds, the new XKR coupe is 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: Jaguar's new "Gen III" 5.0-liter AJ-V8 engine has the same aluminum alloy, dual overhead cam, 32 valve architecture as its predecessors, but is significantly different and more compact. The block casting is all-new, and high-pressure die-cast with cross-bolted main bearings for strength and light weight. High-pressure direct fuel injection is used for the first time in a Jaguar, allowing higher compression for increased efficiency and power. Variable cam phasing on all four camshafts is actuated by valve torque, not oil pressure, for quicker reaction to driver demands. The naturally-aspirated engine has intake cam profile switching and a variable-length inlet manifold; the supercharged R variant has a more-efficient Roots supercharger, twin air-to-water intercoolers, and a redesigned, more efficient intake manifold. The result is 510 horsepower (at 6000-6500 rpm) and 461 lb-ft of torque between 2500 and 5500 rpm. That strong, flat torque curve is why the car responds immediately, at all times, and doesn't need to work hard for results. That, and the six-speed ZF 6HP28 automatic transmission, newly upgraded to handle the extra torque, ensure commendable fuel economy considering the power -- EPA ratings are 15/22, and I got an honest 18 even indulging in use of all 510 horses more than a few times. Adaptive shift logic ensures performance minimal fuel use in normal driving. In "D", use of the manual-shift paddles allows over-ride, and automatic shifting resumes shortly. In "S", it's manual all the way, with rev-matching downshifts that emulate an automated manual gearbox. Stepping smartly on the loud pedal of a supercharged Jaguar has always made me hear Pink Floyd's "Interstellar Overdrive" in my mind's ear; with the new engine it's through Marshall stacks at 11.

CONCLUSIONS: Prodigious power meets Jaguar refinement meets low emissions and excellent fuel economy (for a 500-horsepower beast) in the 2011 XKR.

2011 Jaguar XKR Coupe

Base Price			$ 96,000
Price As Tested			$ 101,000
Engine Type			supercharged and intercooled
				 dual overhead cam 32-valve V8
				 with direct fuel injection
				 and continuously-variable cam phasing
Engine Size			5.0 liters / 302 cu. in.
Horsepower			510 @ 6000-6500 rpm
Torque (lb-ft)			461 @ 2500-5500 rpm
Transmission			6-speed automatic (ZF 6HP28)
Wheelbase / Length		108.3 in. / 188.7 in.
Curb Weight			3968 lbs.
Pounds Per Horsepower		7.8
Fuel Capacity			16.1 gal.
Fuel Requirement		91 octane unleaded premium gasoline
Tires				Dunlop SP Sport maxx
				F: P255/35 ZR20 97Y  R: P285/30 ZR20 99Y
Brakes, front/rear		vented disc / vented disc,
				 ABS and DSC standard
Suspension, front/rear		independent double wishbone / 
				  independent multi-link with halfshafts
				  acting as upper suspension links. 					
                                electronically-controlled active damping 
Drivetrain			front engine, rear-wheel drive 

EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon
    city / highway / observed		15 / 22 / 18
0 to 60 mph				4.6  sec

20-inch Kalimnos alloy wheels 		$ 5,000