Review and photos by
Jil McIntosh, CanadianDriver.com
I’m writing this review while sitting on an airplane. Working on the photos, I had several pictures of my 2010 Jaguar XKR Coupe test car up on my laptop screen. A flight attendant, catching a glimpse over my shoulder, stopped dead in his tracks. “Is that your car?” he said. “I need you to take me for a drive in it!” Such is the appeal of Jaguar’s sportiest cat that even a photo will pique interest.
Both the XK coupe and convertible are redesigned for 2010, with new engines, exterior styling, and several new interior features, including standard heated and cooled seats, a 525-watt speaker system and the now-famous rotary gear selector.
The XK line-up, previously equipped with 4.2-litre engines, now uses 5.0-litre V8 powerplants. My tester, the XKR, has its eight pistons force-fed their air by a supercharger, resulting in 510 racehorses, along with 461 lb-ft of torque that peaks at 2,500 rpm, sent to the rear wheels through a six-speed automatic transmission.
Tickets for the ride ain’t cheap. The XKR coupe starts at $107,000, and mine was further goosed with options that took it to $115,100 before tax and delivery. For that, though, the XKR is as exhilarating and luxurious as you’d expect. This coupe accelerates with such power and smoothness that my husband dubbed its paint shade “Goin’-to-Jail Black.” That paint code is part of a $6,500 package, the “Black Pack,” that can only be optioned on the XKR Coupe. It adds 20-inch gloss black wheels, gloss black grilles, intakes and window surrounds, body-colour chin and rear spoilers, and black rear trunk lid finisher. Oh, and the package also requires that you order red brake calipers, which are an additional $500. But they sure do look good.
It’s no wonder people stop and stare: the XKR is one of the snarliest-looking cars on the planet, with low-slung body, slippery styling and muscular haunches. The two-door configuration is fine for front-seat passengers, but only those truly desperate for a ride, or perhaps a couple of Munchkins, could curl up into the deep-set buckets that pass for rear seats. The XKR is really a two-seater with some extra space behind the front chairs.
Once you get in, the red light in the console-mounted starter button flashes rhythmically to mimic a heartbeat. Press it, and you’re rewarded with the sound of that massive V8 coming to life and sending its rumble out the quad pipes. As the engine starts, a dial slowly rises out of the centre console: it’s the gearshift selector, which you rotate to the desired gear. It’s a showstopper for first-time drivers and passengers, although I’ve heard horror stories from tow truck drivers who say that if it fails to emerge, the centre console must be dismantled in order to put the car into neutral for towing. It remains pretty much the only offbeat trick in Jaguar’s offerings. Vents that closed completely to form a smooth dash when the car was shut off, and slid silently open when it was started, have been replaced with the plain-Jane variety. Likewise, sensors that opened the glovebox door or turned on the reading lights when a hand was waved in front of them have been swapped for garden-variety buttons. There is a limit to how much gee-whiz you want in a car that’s dependent on a British electrical system.
Driving the XKR is an absolute joy. The front wheels almost anticipate your next move, and they constantly communicate the road surfaces back through the feline-logo multifunction steering wheel. The car sticks around corners with virtually no body roll, and the brakes bring it down hard and fast from high speeds – must be the red paint – without nose-diving. At pretty much any speed, and during any driving manoeuvre, this cat is completely composed. Paddle shifters move up or down the gears temporarily when the gear selector is in Drive. Spin it one more time into Sport and you can still let the transmission do its thing, but if you tap a paddle, it will stay in manual shift mode. Buttons on the console include a winter mode, which takes off in second and reduces acceleration, and a dynamic mode for the spirited stuff.
Premium fuel is the norm, of course, and the XKR is rated at 14.1 L/100 km (20 mpg Imp) in the city and 9.1 (31) on the highway. In combined driving, and with absolutely no intention of relinquishing any foot-to-the-floor opportunities, I managed 13.1 L/100 km (22 mpg Imp).
The gorgeous interior is a mix of the good and the not-so-good. On the plus side, the navigation system is very easy to use, the power seat controls are mounted on the door for painless access, and as you’d expect, the quality of materials, the craftsmanship and the design are all top-notch. What didn’t I like? The heated and cooled seats don’t use a button, but rather, must be accessed through a computer screen, which is too distracting when you’re concentrating on driving and the seat suddenly gets too hot. The “switch” for the seat settings on the screen is also far too small, and unless your fingers are spaghetti-thin, you inevitably end up hitting the fan speed control under it as well. The heated steering wheel setting is found here, too. The seats, for all their smooth black leather glory, get a bit hard on the gluteus after an hour or so. And while there is a parking sensor, which brings up a drawing of the car with bubbles around it to indicate the presence of anything that might mar that flawless paint job, for 100-large-plus, I really expected to see a back-up camera.
Still, Jaguar stuffs a lot into the XKR nevertheless: LED tail lamps, power-folding auto-dimming mirrors, adaptive bi-xenon headlamps, 16-way front seats, suede-style headliner, rain-sensing wipers, USB and auxiliary input, Bluetooth, and the aforementioned Bowers & Wilkins 525-watt sound system, which turns the Jaguar’s cabin into a concert hall. The hatch opens to reveal a carpeted cargo area. Lift the floor, and there’s a fairly deep, carpeted storage bin underneath.
Of course, my flight attendant wasn’t the only one who stopped to look. Every time I took the Jaguar out, I was guaranteed an audience, whether from other drivers stopped at lights, from pedestrians, or from people who walked over in parking lots to check out my ride. There was considerable concern about Jaguar’s future when Ford put the venerable British company up for sale, and eventually transferred ownership, along with Land Rover, to India’s Tata Motors. If Tata can keep up this momentum of style and substance, Jaguar will probably be around for a long time to come.
Pricing: 2010 Jaguar XKR Coupe
Base price: $107,000
Options: $8,100 (Black Pack of 20-inch gloss black alloy wheels, gloss black upper and lower grilles and side intakes, gloss black window surrounds, body-colour chin and rear spoilers, and body-colour rear trunk lid finisher, $6,500; red brake calipers with R logo, $500; heated windshield, $300; suede cloth headliner, $800)
A/C tax: $100
Price as tested: $116,550
Crash test results
Jil McIntosh is a freelance writer, a member of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC) and Assistant Editor for CanadianDriver.com. Her personal website can be found at http://www.JilMcIntosh.com
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