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.
2002 Jaguar XK
This cat was equipped with the $8,700 R4 performance package option, which includes the above-mentioned modular BBS wheels (nine inches wide in front, 10 inches in back), and humongous Brembo brake pots that chomp down on cross-drilled rotors. Unidirectional Pirelli P-Zeros (255/35s in front, 285/30s aft) helped establish a throttle-touch brake-aim/throttle-touch brake-aim rhythm that was intoxicating in its rapidity. I did miss the “leaper” hood ornament on this Jag, for the word perfectly describes this convertible’s road-gobbling tendencies.
The basic torsional stiffness of the XK8 unibody provides a rigid framework for superb directional control and stability, and invited engineers to beef up springs and roll bars in the XKR. Computer Active Technology Suspension (CATS, of course) stiffened the shocks for my backroad romp (by which time the giggles had changed to roaring howls of delight), but returned to a more spine-friendly setting for the legal, primary-road return trip.
The interior, with its gorgeous ivory Connolly hides, vast expanses of wood inlays and thick woolen carpets, could be featured on the pages of the major shelter magazines, but it is not the most effective office for a high-performance car. It is somewhat cramped, and one longs for the substantial support of the Recaro seats found in the limited edition XKR 100 model. The instrument dials, straight from the Ford parts bin, are effective but lack the panache you’d expect in such an elegant machine. And Jaguar still insists you load your CDs in the trunk.
But these are minor quibbles. Jaguar’s XKR Convertible has all the beauty one could want, and it will still let your inner beast shine through. Should you find a life partner with the same traits, head for the altar.
2002 Jaguar XKR Convertible
Base Price: $86,330; as tested: $95,675
Engine: 4.0-liter supercharged V-8, 370 hp
Transmission: five-speed automatic (normal/sport modes), rear-wheel drive
Wheelbase: 101.9 in
Length: 187.4 in
Width: 72.0 in
Height: 50.7 in
Weight: 4,021 lb
Fuel economy: 16 city/ 22 hwy
Standard safety equipment: Adaptive Restraint Technology System (ARTS), dual-stage driver and passenger airbags, traction control, automatic stability control, four-wheel disc brakes w/anti-lock control
Major standard equipment: Alloy wheels, speed-sensitive power steering, electric power-latching convertible top, 320-watt Alpine Audiophile sound system w/six-CD changer, integrated DVD navigation system
Warranty: Four years/50,000 miles
The Car Connection Consumer Review
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