Jaguar XKR Coupe (2009) review

By Nick Trott 20 February 2009

By Nick Trott

20 February 2009

Ok, let’s try to get through this piece without mentioning the credit crunch. It won’t be easy, seeing as Jaguar’s revised XKR is a 911/M6/SL-rivalling, mile-munching supercharged GT costing £72,400, but we’ll give it a go.

In a conscious effort to shake off the shackles of the ‘old man’ image Jaguar is making bold claims about the technology in not only the XKR but also the new XFR reviewed earlier this week. Indeed, on the launch this week it was impossible to hold a conversation with any Jaguar engineer or employee without ‘Adaptive Dynamics’ or ‘JaguarDrive Control’ being dropped into the conversation every 10 seconds (‘do you want an Active Diff with your coffee?’)…

The revised XKR is 6% faster to 60mph than the previous XKR, 24% faster between 50-70mph and matches it for mpg and C02. Power is up by a whopping 93bhp from 410bhp to 503bhp and torque rises from 413lb ft to 461 lb ft. Top speed is limited to 155mph; without the limiter this is a 190mph car.

So what else in new on the Jaguar XKR?

The revised XKR exploits many of the new technologies also showcased on the XFR – not least the all-new ‘AJ-V8 Gen III R’ direct-injection supercharged 510bhp engine. This snappily named motor is Jaguar’s most advanced, powerful and efficient engine ever.

Matched to an uprated six-speed automatic gearbox (sorry JaguarDrive Control system) the XKR delivers enough performance to give 911 owners the willies. 0-60mph? 4.6seconds. Other tech highlights include a new adaptive suspension system and active differential with variable 0-100% lockup.

The XKR body receives a tweaked front-end including some distinctly odd intake ‘fangs’, a set of de-rigueur LED rear lights and a revised lower rear valence. The styling revisions will split opinion but there can be no doubt that the essential XK aesthetic is glorious. Inside there’s a notable improvement in materials and details too.

>> Click 'Next' below to read more of our Jaguar XKR first drive

How is it on the straights?

Brilliant. Few cars make the driver feel so welcome, so special and so encouraged to drive quickly from the moment they engage first gear. Or in the XKR’s case, twist the JaguarDrive Control selector to D (gone and good riddance to the J-gate).

The new engine is a peach. The sixth generation Roots-type supercharger massages the V8’s essential brawn thanks partly to a redesigned air intake that reduces flow losses by 30%. On the road translation? A beautifully linear power delivery providing huge wallop across a usefully wide torque plateau (2500rpm to 5500rpm). The soundtrack is epic too; a multi-layered, hollow, pulsing V8 bellow accompanied by a refined but unobtrusive scream from the supercharger.

Can it take corners?

Despite the XKR’s aluminium construction it's not especially light – and at 1753kg it’s 88kg heavier than the car it replaces. However, Mike Cross and his chassis elves have once again worked their genius on the revised XKR - it handles with extraordinary grace and precision.

‘Adaptive Dynamics’ – a Jaguar designed and developed chassis ‘brain’ – constantly monitors body motion, steering, throttle, brake input and wheel position and adjusts the Bilstein dampers to suit. The result is an uncanny homogeny of grip, handling and ride comfort. Select ‘Dynamic’ and there’s a noticeable improvement in body control and pitch resistance; select ‘TracDSC’ and you get enough slip to play Loeb but a useful safety net should your slip angle exceed your talent level.

The mechanical Active Differential, also found in the new XFR, quells understeer as efficiently as it induces oversteer when you choose to play the hooligan. Enter a corner too fast and there’s a mildly frustrating pause as the diff’s electronics figure out how to compensate for your clumsiness, but establish a rapport with the car’s stability brain and you can overcome this.
 
Ultimately, a Porsche 911 offers a more involved, delicate driving experience – but a 911 can’t deliver the driver to their destination feeling quite so refreshed. BMW’s M6 (too hysterical) and Mercedes’ SL63 (too detached) don’t even get close to matching the XKR’s unique blend of pace, refinement and entertainment. Only Maserati’s GranTurismo gets close. 

>> Click 'Next' below to read more of our Jaguar XKR first drive

Wow. Any grumbles then?

Nothing that overshadows the XKR’s essential brilliance – but in the spirit of a fair and balanced review, here goes…. At 71 litres the fuel tank is too small (we emptied it in just under 200miles of spirited driving), the ‘supercharged’ script on the wheels is a little naff, the rear seats are for hobbits, the silver dash material is odd, the steering isn’t as communicative mid-corner as it could be, … and, er, that’s about it.

Verdict

I’m going to have to bring back the words ‘credit crunch’ to emphasise just how good the revised XKR is. Why? Because the XKR can stand toe-to-toe with the best GTs at any price. Fast, refined, beautiful, high-tech and compared with an M6 or an SL63 (not least a Continental GT or a DB9) etc an absolute bargain. How often do we get to say that about a £72,400 car in these times?

>> Click 'Add your comment' below and let us know what you think of the Jaguar XKR

Statistics

How much? £72,400
On sale in the UK: Summer 2009
Engine: 5000cc V8 32v, 503bhp @ 6000rpm, 461lb ft @ 2500rpm
Transmission: Six-speed automatic, rear-wheel drive
Performance: 4.6sec 0-60mph, 155mph, 23mpg, 292g/km CO2
How heavy / made of? 1753kg/aluminium
How big (length/width/height in mm)? 4794/1892/1322

Ratings

Handling 5 out of 5
Performance 4 out of 5
Usability 3 out of 5
Feelgood factor 5 out of 5
CAR's Rating 4 out of 5

Rivals

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