The 2011 Jaguar XKR: A savage in a Seville Row suit
In an age when almost every manufacturer is trying to make a crossover Jaguar has designed the new, very non-crossover XKR to do one thing: inspire passionate driving.
Like the sidelines at a Milan catwalk, there are no bad angles to look at with the XKR. The front end is a testament to speed heritage; smooth, lightly adorned and muscular with the renowned ovoid grill that has been on fast Jags since the 60’s.
The rear is a broad-hipped swath of sculpture with a small blip of a spoiler and tail lamps that float over the four exhaust ports. Those ports ring like the bells of Saint Andrew’s when the hammer is dropped, but more on that later.
The lines from the hood to the tail are the kind of curvaceous visage that some manufacturers have simply chosen to give up on. And rightfully so, because it seems that Ian Callum and his cadre of Jag designers may well have raised the bar far beyond reach. To make the car more drop-dead gorgeous would be near impossible.
A priest seen driving the XKR would be excommunicated for impure thoughts long before the church knew the coffers were bare. It is that good looking.
The interior is no slouch either. Lavishly awash in double-stitched leather and smoothly varnished wood, with hints of brushed aluminum and chromed dials, the layout is as one might expect for a rear wheel drive coupe of this status. Everything is at arms reach, and everything is plainly available, in the finest fashion.
The zinc and stainless steel, periscope-like shifter knob sits center, forward of the armrest. The center stack provides the infotainment and A/C controls all combined into the touch-control screen. Curiously, there are still A/C dials for those who don’t care to use the touch screen to change their zone temperature.
Sitting behind the heated steering wheel, with ample headroom thanks to the 10-way adjustable heated seats, the feeling of luxury consumes the driver. One feels enveloped, almost coddled, but not confined in some firm leather throne. That sense of opulence continues unrelenting, until the ‘Start’ button is depressed.
510 HP. These days it really isn’t all that much power. There are lots of vehicles that tout 500+ horses, but the Jag’s Supercharged V-8 provides more than a hammer blow to the backside, it provides a cavalcade to the senses. The tone of the XKR while revving the engine would shoo an angry bear.
Inside the cabin, a tweak of the very responsive accelerator takes the already warming, heavy burble of the exhaust and skyrockets the throaty rhythm to reveal the engine’s secret. One feels so comfortable inside the cabin of the XKR that that kind of exclamation sends a smile across the driver’s face as opposed to a chill up their spine.
While idling in park the exhaust mumbles quietly as a sound of refined restraint. It is the look of the beauty as she sees she could easily slay all of those around her. Press the arch of a loafer deeply into the gas pedal and all that power is sent directly to the gates, howling wildly, only to be controlled, and sensibly so, by the anti-skid/traction control system and Jaguar’s Active Differential Control. With 510 horses on tap in a rear-wheel drive package in rainy Portland, nobody wants to show off a beautiful car by spinning it out at an intersection or on an off-ramp.
The electric nanny controls the tumult of power to the rear wheels with great ease, and even under very heavy acceleration in very wet conditions the XKR was a blast to drive.
The svelte coupe felt light and nimble in the corners. The steering almost begged to be played with as the cat carved rounds and pushed hard through spaces where fun could be cut from the tedium of Portland’s west hills. It seems that only fools and racetracks might approach the limits of her capabilities.
The lithe two door absolutely ate up pavement, leaving little in the rear-view but objects getting smaller, rapidly. And then the XKR did something only a Jag could do. When it was time to drive like an upstanding citizen, it rode like a Jag.
Not only did the XKR drive like a Jag, with comfort, panache and manners, it did so while whispering silently as though it was trying to hide its real intent. Driving through town the interior noise level was miniscule. Over muddled pavement, rail trestles, and construction sites the loudest noise in the car was a back seat A/C blower, and it was whisper silent.
So maybe Jaguar does build a crossover after all. In the XKR they’ve managed to cross the sublime handling and unrepentant, loin shaking power of a super car with the good looks and sophistication of a two-door luxury tourer.
If you’re in the market for a car that can flex its lithe and extraordinary muscles while dressed in a Savile Row suit, feel free to call Dave Soots at Monte Shelton Jaguar. (503) 224-3232