Head to head: 2011 Jaguar XKR Coupe
Kevin Mio: Every time I would mention to my wife that I was trying to book a Jaguar for a test drive, she would always ask me why. In her eyes, Jaguars were meant for old men and they didn’t really appeal to her.
Try as I might to convince her otherwise, she refused to change her mind.
So I decided the best way to have her see things my way was to book one for the week and take her for a spin.
Turns out, all she needed was to see the 2011 Jaguar XKR Coupe pull into our driveway to change her mind. This vehicle can easily be described as art on wheels – but I haven’t seen any art work that can move as fast or as nimbly as this cat did.
The XK Coupe – which would be welcome in anyone’s driveway, I think – has a starting price of $96,500. But the XKR Coupe tester takes things up a notch, both in power and price, with a starting point of $107,000.
The tester also had a few optional packages to perk things up a little bit. The biggest option was the Black Pack, which costs $6,500.
It includes a piano black paint job, 20-inch Kalimnos alloy wheels with gloss black finish, gloss black finish to upper and lower grilles and side intakes, gloss black finish to window surrounds, body coloured Aerodynamic Pack – front chin spoiler and larger rear spoiler – and body coloured rear trunk lid finisher.
Two other standalone options included the red brake calipers with R log, something that is required with Black Pack, but well worth the $500. The red calipers definitely stand out and give the XKR an extra sporty appearance.
The final option was a $300 heated front windshield, an option that is fairly common in European cars but not seen very often in Canada, where it would come in very handy during our cold winters.
Once you add in the $1,350 destination charge, the total price for the XKR Coupe tester hit $115,650.
They say crossing paths with a black cat is bad luck, but I was happy to look this one right in the eyes – and so were many others I encountered on the road.
Is there a bad angle from which to admire the XKR? Not really.
The front end is surprisingly simple in its elegance. The black grille, matched with the piano black paint, makes the Jaguar logo and the headlights stand out.
From the side, the XKR’s sleek profile is the first thing that you notice, but on the tester, the all-black wheels and low-profile tires also make an impression, especially with those red calipers poking out from behind the mags.
The back end features quad chrome exhausts that emit one of the most guttural of notes when you mat the gas and push the engine to the limit – a very good thing.
The back hatch features a large glass panel that allows a lot of light into the well-designed cabin.
With the XKR being a rather pricey luxury vehicle, you would expect nothing but the best when it comes to creature comforts. It doesn’t disappoint.
The interior is nicely appointed in leather, from the seats to the steering wheel and even the ceiling panels – which are normally cloth in most cars.
Then again, the XKR is not most cars. How many other cars allow you to adjust the width of the sides of the driver’s seat to better fit the driver?
And don’t bother looking for a shift lever in the XKR, there is none. Instead, when the ignition is turned on, a knob rises out of the centre console. That is how you select the drive mode. Very cool!
The XK and XKR come with the same engine under that long, sleek hood. It’s a 5.0-litre V8 that when naturally aspirated produces 385 horsepower and 380 foot-pounds of torque in the base XK – already more than anyone needs for a street car.
However, the XKR adds an Eaton twin vortex supercharger and dual intercoolers to ramp up the power to 510 horsepower and a stump-pulling 461 foot-pounds of torque.
Those numbers are more suited for a race track than Montreal streets and highways, but that is where I was confined for my testing.
Suffice it to say that the XKR Coupe has all the muscle and agility of the feline the company is named after. It can reach 100 kilometres per hour in 4.9 seconds and has a top speed – which is electronically limited – of 250 km/h.
Power is sent to the rear wheels of the sports coupe through a six-speed electronic automatic transmission with steering-wheel-mounted paddles.
And not that anyone buying the fun-to-drive XKR will look at fuel consumption, for the record it is 14.1 litres per 100 kilometres in the city and 9.1 L/100 km on the highway.
With all that speed, those big red calipers have a lot of work to do stopping the XKR, and they do an excellent job combined with the four-wheel ventilated disc brakes.
The XKR’s braking is enhanced by electronic brake-force distribution, anti-lock brakes and emergency brake assist.
The XKR is by no means a family car. And if you do have a family, you better have some pretty small kids to fit in the back seat of the 2+2 Coupe. There really is not much room in the rear.
But that is of little consequence to the person behind the wheel.
The XKR was definitely fun to drive, but the cat had to be reined in because it’s easy to get above the speed limit in a hurry without even noticing.
I get the feeling the XKR would rather be driving around Circuit Gilles Villeneuve than the tranquil streets of the West Island.
It’s hard to get into much trouble with the XKR when most of the driving aids are activated, but you can turn some off and really let loose.
Pushing that throttle to the floor on damp pavement elicited the slightest wiggle as the rear-wheel drive coupe roared off the line, but it quickly righted itself.
But the best part of pushing the XKR to the limit is the sound that comes from the exhaust pipes. To driving and racing enthusiasts, that is pure gold.
If you do use this in the city, you should know that you at least have 11.7 cubic feet of trunk space – for whatever that’s worth.
High craftsmanship will impress your friends
Jim Leggett: I consider myself very fortunate to test drive about 50 vehicles a year. And while some quickly fade from memory there are those that leave an indelible impression upon my exhaust-fume-addled mind. I knew an XKR was scheduled for review this week but I didn’t know it would be fitted with the Black Pack option. “Holy (beep)!” I said out loud to myself in my 2002 clunker.
Say the name Jaguar in mixed company and even automotively challenged people will oooooh and aaaaah. Some will think of high performance, some will think of motoring luxury and both would be correct. This iconic mark has brought us the C-type and D-type racing cars with their distinctive vertical tails that took on the world at events like the 24 hours of Le Mans. Grand touring on European autobahns in an XK120 or the dead-sexy E-types of the 1960s brought Jaguar fame and some fortune. But the late 1970s and ’80s were dark times for the brand with questionable management and poor build quality.
Fortunately it began to rise again in the mid-’90s, and today Jaguar is celebrating 75 years with the XKR 175 with 175 cars in the U.S. and 15 for Canada ($9,000 for the XKR 175 option), but we have a nearly identical car with the $6,500 Black Pack. The differences between the two are a rear diffuser, special interior trim and the Black Pack version electronically limits speed to 250 km/h instead of 280 km/h.
Big deal, your driver’s license is vaporized if you’re caught anywhere near those speeds.
I’ll start by saying that the rest of this article is biased, because I fell in love with the XKR the moment I laid my eyes on her curvaceous bodywork. It was an effort to maintain my usual suave and slightly aloof demeanour befitting an automotive journalist as I signed my name and snatched the keys from the Jaguar rep.
The overall design is classic sports car with a very long hood, aerodynamic cabin and short tail. Looking a bit like the love-child of a Jaguar E type and an Aston Martin DB7, the nose has the familiar oval opening of the C, D and E types. On the XKR, the wire mesh grille is finished in gloss black with absolutely no chrome trim except for the Jaguar badge.
The headlights give this big cat a feline look and include a power wash function, dynamic leveling and corner lights activated by the turn signals.
The long hood is perforated by twin functional air vents that work with a pair of additional vents to keep underhood temperatures within reason. The hood vents are subtly lettered “SUPERCHARGED”.
The XKR 175 package includes a larger front chin spoiler as part of the Aerodynamic Pack, but I wish that some projector-type driving/fog lamps had been included as I found the lower part of the front fascia a little too similar to the XK models. A touch of functional sparkle would tickle the eye.
The Jag’s side profile is one of the nicest on the market today, with fenders mimicking a jaguar’s haunches, poised to leap forward. The roof line is one sweeping curve from the windshield up and over to the rear window, finished by a ducktail rear spoiler that can obviously produce some serious amounts of downforce at speed.
The XKR is fitted with one of the industry’s best cockpits. Its interior showcases Jaguar’s renowned craftsmanship and attention to luxurious detail featuring soft-grain leather.
Although the XKR is a 2+2, the rear seats are best left for carrying packages as there is virtually no legroom for passengers.
Take a close look at the windshield, a very close look. The entire windshield is heated internally by extremely fine wires similar to a standard rear window defogger.
The instrument panel is all business. The instruments embellish its performance character with classic red pointers, while all models feature white instrument gauge illumination. There are no fancy graphics, charts or graphs to distract you, but all pertinent information is available at a glance.
The centre console stack is refreshingly simple, topped by the seven-inch touch screen for accessing the climate control, navigation and audio systems.
The XKR is fitted with the most advanced power plant Jaguar has ever produced, the AJ-V8 Gen III 5.0-litre V8 engine, introduced for the 2010 model year and carried over for 2011. The naturally aspirated version in the XK produces 385 horsepower and 380 foot-pounds of torque. An XK Coupe can accelerate from zero to 100 km/h in 5.5 seconds. The XKR’s supercharged version produces 510 horsepower and 461 foot-pounds of torque. Jaguar claims the XKR Coupe can sprint from zero to 100 km/h in just 4.9 seconds, and I have no reason to doubt them.
The engineers at Jaguar have tuned the XK’s exhaust sound for a deep, powerful note befitting a high-performance GT. The XKR is additionally equipped with an active exhaust system in which valves open at higher rpms to provide an even more powerful note. Only the XKR has a special acoustic filter at the rear of the engine, tuned to “tenor C” that feeds intake “music” to the cabin under hard acceleration. I am no musician, but the XKR is one instrument that even I could make sing!
In what has to be classified as very cool, as in the Jaguar XF and XJ models, the XK models greet the driver with a handshake sequence. Press the engine start button, and the cast alloy JaguarDrive Selector rises from the console. When the engine is stopped, it lowers automatically. Trust me, you will do this several times to show friends, family and even complete strangers.
Straight from the aerospace industry, Jaguar uses pressed, cast and extruded aluminum alloy components for a lightweight (1,753 kilograms) but extremely rigid body shell and chassis. This in turn makes acceleration, braking and handling immediate and razor sharp.
The active damping system optimizes handling agility and ride comfort by monitoring body movements 100 times per second and wheel position 500 times per second. The system automatically increases the damping rate as the suspension approaches the limits of its travel. Adaptive Dynamics also controls wheel hop on uneven roads by rapidly varying the damping to move any wheel out of a natural bouncing frequency, increasing ride comfort, handling and tire grip.
The XKR provided a visceral driving experience that tantalized all my senses – the rich smell of the leather interior, the instantaneous feedback through the fat-rimmed steering wheel, the combination of supercharger whine and a semi-open exhaust system. It’s an intoxicating mix of sounds, smells, sights and G-forces. I’m in love.
But there’s always a cost to falling head over heels in love. In the case of the 2011 Jaguar XKR, the numbers look like this: XKR Coupe: $107,000, Heated windshield: $300, Black Pack: $6,500, red brake calipers: $500, plus freight ($1,350) for a total before-tax cost of $115,650.