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DEL MAR, California — The Jaguar XKR is one of those rare cars with myriad talents: It makes you feel happy to be driving, it coddles you in comfort while egging you on to insane speeds, and it makes other drivers British-racing-green with envy.
And when it’s a convertible, it makes a compelling argument for the best way to spend those future lottery winnings.
Better start playing — the XKR goes on sale in a scant two weeks. The coupe costs $76,800, the convertible $81,800. Both prices include destination charges.
The foundation for the XKR is well-known to enthusiasts by now. Its forebear, the XK8, swung stylishly onto the scene in 1997, its riveting, sculptural form powered by a 290-hp V-8. The XKR doesn’t vary widely from that formula, except in one striking way — it supplants the standard engine with a supercharged V-8. And it takes on a more sporting version of the XK8’s handling to put it on par with its natural competitors — the Porsche 911 and Mercedes-Benz SL500, Jaguar says.
The newly invigorated engine is Jaguar’s AJ V-8, a 4.0-liter engine that in naturally aspirated form makes 290 hp. With the addition of the supercharger, it surges to 370 hp. It’s very similar to the supercharged powerplant in the XJR sedan, but to fit under the XKR’s sloping hood, some minor modifications to the intercoolers and cooling system were made.
Purists should no longer be shocked to learn that Jaguar uses a five-speed automatic transmission built by Mercedes-Benz. (The car world would be a better place if we all just went ahead with it and used GM or Benz automatics, Nissan and Honda manuals, and such.)
What we all want from Jaguars are stunning looks and breathtaking speed, which is what the XKR delivers in abundance. It accelerates from 0-60 in 5.2 seconds (a tick more for the slightly heavier convertible) and charges to an electronically limited top speed of 155 mph. It bears noting that Jaguar times the XKR as faster than the 911 or SL500.