Despite a pending sale of the company and some lackluster product offerings in recent years, the 2007 Jaguar XKR proves that Jaguar is back with a snarling vengeance. The XKR is one of the most beautiful cars I’ve seen, let alone driven. But does the rest of the car live up to the looks? The XKR has a base price of $86,700 ($88,600 as tested), and comes with Jaguar’s 4-year/50,000 mile powertrain warranty and an EPA estimate of 17 mpg city/25 mpg highway.
First glance: Simply breathtaking
The last few years haven’t been kind to Jaguar, with declining sales and news that Ford (Jaguar’s parent company) is in talks with several buyers to sell off Jaguar to the highest bidder. It’s true that Jaguar hasn’t kept pace with the times, and has been slow to produce comparable vehicles to the best from Mercedes, BMW, Lexus and Cadillac. It appeared to all that dark clouds had begun to gather over one of the most quintessential British automakers.
But trying times can produce impressive results, which is definitely the case with the new Jaguar XK series. I recently had the good fortune to drive both a Jaguar XKR coupe (as well as the lesser XK), and came away mightily impressed. Jaguar as a company may be in distress, but the XK/XKR shows that Jaguar shouldn’t be written off yet.
The XKR is the performance variant of the XK, and it comes with a potent powerplant under the hood: a supercharged 4.2 liter V8 that produces 420 hp and 413 ft.lb of torque. Other than a pricey aluminum interior trim option ($2,100), my test car largely a base model XKR.
From the moment the Jaguar XKR rolled into our driveway, everyone who saw it was in unanimous agreement: this is one beautiful car. The design is artful from nearly every angle, with the long hood and bulging fender flares giving the XKR a purposeful, aggressive demeanor. There are dozens of beautiful cars on the road these days, but I’d argue that this one is near the top of the list.
In the Driver's Seat: Luxury and storage space
I didn't really lament my test car's lack of options owing to the huge amount of standard equipment. In addition to the heated and powered (and very comfortable) leather seats, the XKR includes a six CD Alpine stereo, a DVD touch screen navigation system, keyless entry and starting, and dual automatic climate control for the driver and front passenger. The instruments were legible and clearly labeled, with a clean, consistent look that serves as an excellent complement to the exterior design.
Like other sport touring coupes, the XKR has small rear seats that are really only suitable for children or extra storage. I found the deep buckets to be incompatible with most of the larger car seats I tried. Forgive me for stating the obvious, but the XKR shouldn’t be your first choice as a vehicle to ferry kids around. In contrast to the cramped rear seats, the XKR's hatchback-style trunk features an impressive amount of room. There’s more than enough space to swallow up a pair of large suitcases or other awkward cargo. Not everyone has storage needs that revolve around a set of golf clubs, so the extra space is welcome.Front occupants get front and side airbags, as well as seatbelt pretensioners, adaptive head restraints, electronic stability control (ESC) and traction control. The LATCH child-seat anchors are welcome, but as mentioned previously it may take some work to find a car seat small enough to fit easily into the backseat.
On the Road: Power and agility
Aside from the more powerful engine (420 horsepower vs. 300 for the regular XK), the XKR gets some subtle grillework and R-type badging to differentiate it from its lesser XK brethren. The price difference in base price between the XK ($75,500) and XKR ($86,500) may not seem like a big deal to someone who can afford them, but the driving experience is significantly different -- and I’d argue that the more expensive XKR is the better deal.
The powerful engine makes every onramp an opportunity to drop the throttle and feel all those horses at work. Sliding the automatic transmission into the sport setting (no manual transmission is offered) delays shifting into higher RPM ranges, giving the car even more impressive performance. Jaguar claims that the XKR can blast from 0-60 in the high 4 second range, and I wouldn’t dispute that—this is one fast car. On the XK, sport mode shifts more abruptly, undoubtedly due to having a smaller power band to match with available gears.
The XKR also shines in the handling department. My wife and I took the XKR for a trip through some very hilly and mountainous terrain close to Horsetooth Reservoir in Northern Colorado, and the Jag managed elevation changes, curves and mixed road surfaces with ease. Handling was flat in the corners, body roll was kept to a minimum, and the brakes helped shed speed quickly. From the way it handles, it's hard to believe that the XKR weighs almost two tons. In fact, I found it more planted and balanced than the Chevrolet Corvette I recently drove.
Journey's End: Beauty is the beast
I’ve spent most of my review using superlatives to describe the XK and XKR, but both vehicles have their faults. The base XK is underpowered for what you pay, and both feature some gimmicky bits like plastic side vents. The XK had some headlight alignment issues, and the rear seat in both vehicles isn’t suitable for most car seats.
Seriously, though, I need to stop griping now. Why? Because pointing out flaws in this vehicle is like telling Claudia Schiffer she didn’t use the right shampoo. I'm sure plenty of you are reading this and thinking the Corvette Z06 can smoke the XKR at a stoplight (and save you about $25K), or the Porsche Cayman S offers better handling, or any number of other comparisons. Those are valid arguments, but I’m not buying them. The XK series is arguably one of the most beautiful and well-sorted luxury sport coupes on the road today, and if I had the money I’d buy one myself.
I could go on for a few paragraphs why the Jaguar XKR doesn't make much sense from a rational, "I have a mortgage to pay and kids to put through college" standpoint, but why bother? Every so often, a car comes along that manages to combine beautiful styling, exhilarating performance and peerless luxury into a envy-inducing package -- a vehicle that nearly everyone stares at in wonder. It may not be flawless, but the Jaguar XKR is about as close to sport touring perfection as you can get. As for me, I’ll take an XKR in British Racing Green, please—perhaps after I win the lottery. --Jeff James