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.
2000 Jaguar XK
The XKR’s suspension and tires work together to make the application of that power a delight, in a way that might surprise passers-by — and even Jaguar faithful. The XKR’s suspension consists of control arms and shocks in front and a hallmark quasi-independent rear suspension that uses the driveshafts along with control arms and coils as suspension components. In addition, the XKR features a Computer Active Technology Suspension (CATS — the acronym proved too difficult to resist, we’re sure) that harnesses computer processing power to change shock settings.
The blend of a comfortably firm ride and responsive handling is appealing. While road impacts can be felt slightly, the sum of its responses makes it a cozy vehicle for long highway jaunts and for assaulting your favorite sharp corners. Its variable-ratio power steering is exceptionally sharp without wander and abrupt kickback, too. And with 18-inch tires front and back (245/45s in front, 255s in back) the amount of grip available to the driver is confidence-inspiring.
Top or no top
The differences here between the coupe and convertible are minor. The coupe has a rocklike solidity that previous experiences in 1980s-vintage Jaguars made seemingly impossible. The convertible shudders a bit over the largest road crevasses, but not improperly. The convertible’s cloth-lined top also seals well against wind noise, and remains one of the few convertible tops that actually looks pleasing.
Jaguar plotted the XKR as a stealthy speeder, which explains the relatively minor cosmetic changes that distinguish it from the XK8. The XKR’s grille is wire mesh, for example, and the crests of its fenders bear louvers — the Jaguar equivalent of a pierced nose, we think. A brief spoiler crests atop the trunk’s aft edge, XKR lettering adorns the trunk lid and doorsills, and the traditional Jaguar badges have red backgrounds.
2000 Jaguar XK
Nothing detracts from the gorgeous shape, however. We’re growing even more fond of the XK8/XKR silhouette, with its leonine lines and subtle body curvature. It’s anthropomorphic art — supermodels translated into sheet metal. There’s a distinctly feminine air about the XKR, especially inside, where voluptuous curves dominate the outward view, unlike the Teutonic creases evident form a Mercedes SL.
You’ll never want for sybaritic accoutrements inside the XKR. Rich leather, dense and plush wool carpeting, and a swath of wood the size of a twin headboard transform the plainly shaped dash into an exquisite piece of retro architecture. The only option available is a DVD-based navigation system that contains maps for most of the United States on one disc, as opposed to the handful standard CD-ROMs might hold.
The XK8, for the lucky few whom can afford it, makes a convincing case to be considered along the stalwart 911s and SLs. When it’s supercharged, it’s no longer a question. The only question is whether it’s the best of the trio.
|2000 Jaguar XKRBase Price: $76,800 (coupe), $81,800 (convertible)
Engine: 4.0-liter V-8, 370 hp
Transmission: electronically controlled five-speed automatic
Wheelbase: 101.9 in
Length: 187.4 in
Width: 79.3 in
Height: 50.3 in (coupe), 50.7 in (convertible)
Weight: 3785 lb (coupe), 4021 lb (convertible)
Fuel economy: 16 city/22 hwy (convertible 22 hwy)Major standard equipment:
Connolly leather interior
Power-operated top (convertible)
320-watt audio system with six-disc CD changer
Computer Active Technology System
Rain-sensing windshield wipers
10-spoke alloy wheels with 18-inch Pirelli P-Zero tires
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