Soon thereafter, we exit the tranquility of the highway and head for the twisty hills where high-powered European machines can demonstrate their athleticism. Our guide, the Englishman piloting a right-hand drive XJ Super V8 full of luggage, simply hammers his large sedan along narrow stretches of ascending and descending pavement set amidst wind-swept backcountry fields. We follow close enough to practically swap paint, an accomplished Formula Three racer turned journalist at the XKR's wheel next to me, and I'm exhibiting both an increased respiratory rate and utmost confidence. Curvy roads are straightened, paddle shifting is executed with precise efficiency, left-foot braking perfectly addresses entry speed without scrubbing kph's, and the laws of physics are tested at the end of each and every straightaway. With the speedometer needle reaching roughly 200 kph, the 2007 Jaguar XKR never breaks a sweat and tracks squarely all the while with nary a whimper from the traction or stability control systems. Smooth. Guardrails are left unmarred for another day; my digestive system remains intact. Dancing with death has never been so exhilarating.
Under the direction of a semi-professional, the 2007 Jaguar XKR, available in both coupe and convertible versions starting after the first of the year, proves successful at blending luxurious refinement with a genuine grand touring character. And with all that supercharged power, not to mention a rich interior and stable chassis, average Joes and Janes are guaranteed their own level of fun and excitement. That's good news for Jaguar, a Ford-owned company with an ongoing aversion to profitability and competing with heavyweights such as BMW and Mercedes-Benz. But a possible turnaround is on the horizon – the new XJ sedan has drawn its share of praise, and the redesigned XK, on which the XKR is based, has been a hot seller. With more grunt and testosterone, the 2007 XKR looks to continue the upward swing.
So, you and your $86,000 can't get along. Maybe it's time to kick the family of greenbacks crowding your portfolio to the curb, exchanging them for a 2007 Jaguar XKR. Opt for the coupe, priced at $86,500 including a $665 destination charge, and instead of digits in a balance column you'll enjoy the convenience of a touch-screen navigation system; the safety of front-side airbags with head protection and active front headrests; the comfort of heated, leather bucket seats with multiple power adjustments and memory settings; and the sounds of music coming from a 160-watt Alpine audio system, including a six-disc CD changer and MP3/WMA player. Given the price, you'd probably expect more, and rightly so. Hence, the standard features list goes on with 19-inch Jupiter alloy wheels, a rear park-aid system, dual-zone climate control, keyless ignition, Bluetooth connectivity, and a power tilting and telescoping leather-wrapped steering wheel. Options are relatively few, though they make up in price what they lack in abundance. At $2,100, the Luxury Package provides unique 19-inch alloy wheels, soft leather on nearly every interior surface, front sport bucket seats with adjustable bolsters and perforated leather upholstery, a heated steering wheel, and burl walnut trim; 20-inch alloy wheels rolling on front 255/35 and rear 285/30 tires can be had for $5,000; a mere $1,875 purchases a 525-watt Alpine surround sound system with prewiring for Sirius satellite radio; intelligent cruise control is a $2,200 option; and selection of a non-standard color combination requires an outlay of $1,000.
For sun-worshiping enthusiasts, the 2007 Jaguar XKR convertible is delivered with the same specifications, albeit at the slightly higher price of $92,500 to cover the costs of a power soft-top with a glass rear window and a hidden roll bar.
Nuts and Bolts
To most, an engine boasting 300 horsepower and 303 lb.-ft. of torque is more than adequate. However, there are certain folks for whom those seemingly lofty figures simply won't suffice. For them, Jaguar offers the 2007 XKR. Using the XK's 4.2-liter, 32-valve V8 with variable-valve timing and dual overhead cams, the XKR adds an Eaton supercharger boosting horsepower up to 420 at 6,250 rpm with torque climbing to 413 lb.-ft. at 4,000 rpm. A six-speed manually-interactive automatic transmission with a sport mode and plastic paddle shifters delivers the goods to the rear wheels. Weighing in at 3,671 pounds (154 pounds lighter than the previous XKR), Jaguar claims the XKR coupe will reach 60 mph in 4.9 seconds; the 3,781-lb. convertible (220 pounds lighter that its predecessor) barely lags behind, screaming to 60 in five seconds flat. More important, at least for anyone who drives outside the confines of a drag strip, are the supercharged XKR's improvements over the normally-aspirated XK when accelerating at speed: 60 – 90 mph is achieved 30 percent quicker and 50-70 mph is achieved 25 percent quicker. Top speed is electronically limited to 155 mph, though pedal-to-the-aluminum runs suggest such a figure relegates gobs of velocity to the unavailable reserves.
Standard Dunlop rubber reads 240/40R19 up front and 275/35R19 on the rear, backed up by larger ventilated discs designed to increase effectiveness and fade resistance. Aiding in the effort are ABS, electronic brake-force distribution, and electronic brake assistance systems, while revised traction and stability control technology works in conjunction with a sport-tuned suspension to keep the XKR's four feet planted on terra firma. Compared to the relatively tame XK, the 2007 Jaguar XKR's front and rear springs are 26 and 38 percent stiffer, respectively, the shocks are 25 percent stiffer, the anti-roll bar grows in circumference by one millimeter, and a rear structural brace is positioned behind the seats. The XK's adaptive variable suspension has been retuned for XKR use, as has the Servotronic rack-and-pinion variable-assist steering system.
Following the introduction of the redesigned 2006 XK, the 2007 Jaguar XKR arrives looking much the same with the exception of a few tasteful styling enhancements. Accenting the sleek, Aston Martin-esque body are reworked front and rear fascias, the former set off by a silver grille finish and lower insert as well as vents below the fog lights. Changes to the rear are less pronounced, consisting of quad instead of dual chrome tailpipes separated by a body-colored panel and a subtle R badge positioned below the right taillight. The XKR's side profile differs little from the base XK, though an eye for detail might notice the angled hood vents with Supercharged script, side vents set in an aluminum rather than body-colored finish, unique 19-inch or optional 20-inch alloy wheels, and the fog lights set closer to the outer edge of the front bumper. Unlike the more common approach to creating a sporting variant, Jaguar has added only select muscular styling cues to demark the XKR as something more than a sexy European machine – no massive wings, outlandish body kits, or go-fast bonnet stripes here.
In keeping with that theme, the 2007 Jaguar XKR's interior is equally subtle. As expected, quality leather coats most surfaces and the few plastics feel durable and substantial. The R logo is embossed into the front headrests (there are no rear headrests), atop the gear shift, and due north on the tachometer. Aluminum dash, instrument panel and center console panels feature a unique weave pattern, though burl walnut is available as a no-cost option.
Technically, the XKR is a four-passenger coupe or convertible. Realistically, putting a dog back there for any amount of time would draw the ire of PETA. Even with the front seats adjusted completely forward, rear leg room is almost non-existent, getting in and out is guaranteed to require a visit to the chiropractor, and if/when you do make it back there, you'll be greeted by a hostile vertical backrest and sharply angled bucket. Head room is…well, just don't go there. There are accommodations for fitting car seats in the rear, and except for the occasional small package or hostage, that's about all one should consider appropriate for the space. Unfortunately, the rear seatback doesn't fold down or split because directly behind it the rear structural brace runs the width of the vehicle. As a result, cargo area is limited, especially when considering the sleek angle of the trunk lid, though there is room for a large suitcase and a decent-sized overnight bag. That's with the coupe – the soft-top convertible, which requires 15 seconds to lower and 23 seconds to raise the roof (including all side windows), provides less storage space.
One thing you'll quickly notice about driving through Madrid and the Basque country of northern Spain – it's a helluva lot quieter than Los Angeles. Echoes of cranked sound systems, blaring aftermarket exhaust pipes, incessantly blaring horns, and the general hum of too many noxious gas producing vehicles in too tight a confine are blessedly absent. Instead, the bustling streets and narrow, winding back roads play host to surprisingly quiet diesels en masse, with more of the relatively small rides fitting on each square inch of asphalt.
That serenity was soon transformed by the thunderous song of a fleet of 2007 Jaguar XKRs. Out of the city and en route, we abided by the road signs directing us to slow to 50 or 70 kph, the XKR's exhaust settling into a quiet, subdued tone that allowed the curious townspeople, those not shut in during the afternoon's extended siesta, to appreciate the grace and style of Jaguar's ultimate sports car. Kids cheered, elderly ladies smiled and waved, and men of all ages appeared a bit dumbfounded in this land of well-used Opels and Citroens. However, marking the villages' exits were often signs reading 90 or 100 kph, at which time we hammered down the XKR's well-modulated throttle. The exhaust opened up wide and alerted everyone within earshot that the town's brief visitor was hell bent on reaching maximum velocity.
With a 0-60 mph acceleration time of only 4.9 seconds in coupe trim, one might imagine some mild neck-snapping upon wide-open takeoff, though that's not the case. Jaguar engineers claim their goal was to marry outright performance with some semblance of refinement, luxury, and control. The result is impressive launch speed, albeit not amazing. Find a flat stretch of isolated roadway, turn off the traction/stability control, and a hard jump on the throttle will unleash solid acceleration, though there will be no rubber marks on the road to signify the event. Instead, the heart of the supercharged V8's power lies in the mid range, a point where the driver will find an unyielding ability to rocket from high speeds to rates those puny little Spanish police cars couldn't even dream of matching. On numerous occasions, we saw the speedometer, set at a comfortable 170 kph, effortlessly jump to 210 and beyond. It felt like 105 kph in your average sport coupe, with the suspension hunkering down and providing the perfect blend of comfort and stability. Except for some wind noise and tire noise, the cabin remained quiet in the coupe, and nearly as much so in the convertible.
Strolling slowly between historic cobblestone buildings, the XKR's suspension made for a stiff ride, though the sport bucket seats were extremely supportive and the Servotronic steering required little effort at such slow speeds. Visibility was a trick in convertibles and coupes because of wide rear pillars and small rear windows. Venture out into the twisties only to unleash a chassis that remains utterly flat during hard cornering, Dunlop SP Sport Maxx tires hungering for abuse, and responsive brakes that certainly smell hot under duress but never show signs of fade. If there's an area needing improvement, it might be the steering – even though it has been tuned for use in the XKR, the system feels lighter than expected in such a capable machine.
That leaves one point for discussion – the exquisite six-speed automatic transmission. In normal mode, shifts are smooth, with hard dumps of the throttle resulting in aggressive downshifts. Click the tranny into sport mode and, as expected, the 420 horses feel more eager to let loose and revs are held longer and higher before upshifts. Furthermore, the transmission recognizes driving styles, gradients, and speeds, allowing it to react appropriately, such as blipping the throttle and downshifting as the driver heads downhill into a curve. And then there are the paddles (downshift on the left, upshift on the right), which Jaguar claims change gears in fewer than 600 milliseconds – we didn't pull out the stopwatch, but the only time we felt a bit of delay was when trying to downshift before the XKR agreed we were in the proper rev range.
In terms of price and power, how does the 2007 Jaguar XKR compare to the 2007 BMW M6? Available in coupe form only, the $99,795 M6 requires a $13,000 premium over the $86,500 XKR coupe. From a power perspective, the 500-horsepower Bimmer offers an additional 80 ponies, though its 383 lb.-ft. of torque comes up shy of the XKR's 413 lb.-ft.
Is the 2007 Jaguar XKR a comfortable car to drive? If you're like our editor, meaning five-feet-eight-inches tall or less and of medium build, the XKR will provide plenty of overall room and a comfortable bucket seat. Padded armrests and a power tilt and telescoping steering wheel help, too. However, even with the seat positioned as far back as possible, we were able to reach and operate the pedals, so long-legged drivers might feel cramped. Also, the foot well is on the narrow side, and drivers of all sizes will want to use caution when entering the XKR, so as to prevent bumping their head on the sloping roof.
The last Jag I saw with satellite radio looked like a hatchet job where a separate unit was placed in the dash. Is there a new design in the 2007 XKR? Yes. Sirius satellite radio, an option on the XKR, is directly integrated with the standard sound system.
Test Vehicle: 2007 Jaguar XKR
Base Price: $86,500 (coupe); $92,500 (convertible); includes $665 destination charge
Engine Size and Type: Supercharged 4.2-liter V8
Engine Horsepower: 420 at 6,250 rpm
Engine Torque: 413 lb.-ft. at 4,000 rpm
Transmission: Six-speed automatic
Curb Weight, lbs.: 3,671 (coupe); 3,781 (convertible)
EPA Fuel Economy (city/highway): 18/27 mpg
Length: 188.6 inches
Width: 74.5 inches
Wheelbase: 108.3 inches
Height: 52 inches (coupe); 52.3 inches (convertible)
Legroom (front/rear): 45.1/28 inches
Headroom (front/rear): 38.2/33.3 inches (coupe); 38.3/33.2 inches (convertible)
Max. Seating Capacity: Four
Max. Cargo Volume: 10.6 cubic feet (coupe); 10 cubic feet (convertible)
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Photos by Thom Blackett