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Mrs. Cockerham and I love top-down motoring. Confronted with the Jaguar XKR Convertible—such a beautiful, energetic conveyance, so invigorating to the senses and spirit—we found ourselves cruising, top down, along a sub-freezing, upstate New York freeway one cloudy, mid-December evening, and it seemed like the most natural thing in the world.

It’s a good thing that Jaguar heating systems have evolved from the day that the late, great Uncle Tom McCahill of Mechanix Illustrated compared one to “an old lady breathing on your leg.”

Will and grace

The XKR is the fastest cat in Jaguar’s jungle, with zero-to-60 acceleration times in the 5.2-second neighborhood for the coupe, a tenth slower for the convertible. It also gets the most attention. Our Phoenix Red tester with beige top evoked flat-out stares from reserved Park Avenue fauna and righteous “Yeahs!” from the homies. With its nostalgic, wire-mesh grille and hood vents, optional 20-inch BBS alloys and subtle rear spoiler lip, the XKR Convertible certainly comes home first in the top-end convertible competition, grace and class division.

Its 4.0-liter V-8 boasts a 90-degree, aluminum cylinder block and aluminum heads. Nestled between those heads is a belt-driven, Roots-type blower that provides instantaneous throttle response, the sort that makes one grateful for solidly anchored teeth. The heads have dual overhead cams and 32 valves, and hold perfectly square (bore and stroke) 3.39-inch cylinders. The cams run in a fixed phase to generate a lot of low-end torque, which peaks at 387 lb-ft at 3600 rpm. Jaguar notes that at 1600 rpm this arrangement provides more power than does the XK8’s unblown mill running at full song. The compression is still a conservative 9.0:1; ignition and fuel injection are fully electronic. The 370 hp is 80 more than that found in the base engine.

Stomp on the gas and the whine of the supercharger is superimposed on the rumble exiting the dual exhausts; at first encounter this chorus had me double-checking to make sure I had taken my blood-pressure medication that morning. I had, so I turned off the traction control and, starting to giggle, charged off towards the local rural twisties.

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