Deceptively fast and delectably styled

The folks over at Jaguar are having a banner year due to the recent introduction of the slinky F-Type roadster, a car which represents the brand’s first true sports car in nearly four decades.

While two-seat sports cars have their appeal, they tend to fall short in the practicality department when it comes to fitting into our daily lives.

This is where big grand touring (GT) machines like Jaguar’s sexy XKR come into play. This stunning machine provides seating for four and a reasonably sized cargo area, two traits which make it much easier for the consumer to justify their purchase decision.

Some may argue that the XKR is starting to look a bit dated. The current styling has been around for six years, but this is by design. The long hood and teardrop shape of the XKR reflect the iconic styling of the great GT cars of the 1960s and 1970s.

They also help this particular Jaguar establish its own identity in this age of largely cookie-cutter designs. In fact, the curvaceous all-aluminum bodywork of the XKR remains one of the most visually appealing designs on the road today.

Styling cues unique to the R model include an aggressive front fascia complete with chin spoiler, hood mounted air intakes, subtle side skirts, and a bold rear diffuser. To complete the sporty look, the car is fitted with a deck lid spoiler and quad exhaust pipes.

The Polaris White test vehicle came fitted with the optional Black Pack, which features 20-inch Takoba alloy wheels finished in gloss black, black mesh grilles, black window surrounds and black brake calipers. One glance at the car and you will recognize that it has been designed for high-performance driving, but the overall appearance is classy and subdued, rather than over-the-top.

The product planners at Jaguar automobiles are renowned for their attention to detail when it comes to their interior design work, and the passenger cabin of the XKR is very refined. Highlights include a compact instrument cluster, a telescoping gear selector dial (JaguarDrive Selector), exceptional quality leather hides, and a sweet sounding Bowers and Wilkins audio system.

I stand six-foot-two and am a rather broad fellow, so I appreciated the amount of leg-, hip- and headroom offered me while seated behind the wheel. The sport bucket seat hugged my body like a tailored garment, and all vital instruments and switchgear are within
easy reach of both hand and eye.

While the XKR is equipped with four seats, I should point out that the rear seating area is best reserved for children and gym bags, as the space is seriously lacking leg room.

The car will likely appeal to business types, so the rear seatbacks fold down to ensure that there is sufficient cargo room for a couple of golf bags.

The XKR gets its motivation from a proven 5.0-litre, supercharged V8 engine. This mechanical marvel produces a healthy 510-horsepower and 461 foot-pounds of torque. Power is delivered to the rear wheels through a ZF engineered, six-speed, adaptive automatic gearbox equipped with steering-wheel mounted paddle shifters.

This car is deceptively fast. Jaguar’s literature claims that this big cat can accelerate from a standstill to 100 km/h in a mere 4.8 seconds, but I have a feeling that the car is a little quicker.

JaguarDrive Control allows you to select from several driving modes to best prepare the car to match your driving style or the prevailing conditions. Dynamic Mode will prove addictive, as it remaps the car’s software to enhance the driving experience. The car becomes a precision tool, as throttle response is sharpened, steering feel is improved, and the transmission is dialed in for performance.

The traction and stability systems will also be optimized to permit the driver to extract the most from the car.

Carefully selected gear ratios and a broad torque band ensure that the driver will have access to the car’s prodigious power reserves in short order. However, extra attention is required when the road surface is wet as it is easy to get the XKR’s tail wagging if you are too heavy on the throttle.

When the roads become twisty, the XKR comes into its own as this car has been engineered to track straight and true. Body roll is minimal, and the car’s phenomenal balance lets you carry more speed into corners.

Aggressive driving requires high-performance brakes, and I found the big binders mounted to the XKR to be both responsive and fade free throughout the testing period.

Jaguar’s Adaptive Dynamics system instinctively modifies the car’s suspension in response to conditions and driver inputs. The suspension setup features up-rated springs and adaptive dampers, the latter which can be adjusted almost instantaneously to help maintain control, stability and handling. The resulting ride is firm, but it doesn’t beat you up, and enthusiast drivers will appreciate the feedback it transmits through the seat.

Part of the appeal of driving a car powered by a V8 engine is the throaty roar that comes along for the ride. The XKR is fitted with an active exhaust system which emits a pleasant rumble when the vehicle is operating under normal driving conditions, but when the car is driven in anger this big cat wails for attention. As a bonus, if you listen closely, trained ears will pick up the subtle whine of the big Eaton supercharger.

The Jaguar XKR may not be the latest, or greatest example of a modern GT car, but its classic lines, impressive performance, and obvious prestige continue to attract image-conscious buyers to the storied English brand.

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The Specs

Type of vehicle: Rear-wheel-drive, front-engine, sports coupe.
Engine: 5.0-litre, supercharged, DOHC, V-8
Power: 510 hp @ 6,000 – 6,500 rpm; 461 lb.-ft. @ 2,500 – 5,500 rpm
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
Brakes: Four-wheel disc with ABS
Price: base / as tested $110,575 / $115,775
Destination charge: $1,350
Natural Resources Canada fuel economy L / 100 km: City 13.9 L (20.3 mpg); Hwy 9.2 L (30.7 mpg)

About Russell Purcell