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POISED TO POUNCE

This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!

Published on Sun, Oct 7, 2007

By: The LACar Editorial Staff

POISED TO POUNCE

By JOHN GRAFMAN

A quick, deliberate stab to the throttle, and this Jaguar, like its namesake, jumps to life. The ability to launch so aggressively is an eye opening experience. The melodic roar produced by the supercharged eight-cylinder cat gives credence to the 420 horses under hood. I'm not just referring to some off-the-line sprint; we are already at a brisk freeway pace heading northbound on the 405 breaching the OC county line into Los Angeles. Even short bursts are pure rapture for true enthusiasts.

But what is really gratifying is letting this car humble any naysayer besmirching the pedigree as just another corporate brand that has lost its way. This XKR convertible is worthy of the Jaguar label and its rich history.

Perhaps it's just too much for some to digest, Jaguar owned by Americans. It's true this has lost some of the quintessential Jag elements of days gone by, like unreliability. On the other hand this is a real-world contender by in large due to the parent company's involvement. Any serious contender in the automotive world today requires a seriously substantial dollar investment.

The body does follow to styling that the former stable mate Aston Martin established. Being the companies are now no longer under the same corporate roof, this can now compete head-to-head with the favored ride of Mr. Bond. The XKR convertible will undoubtedly provide many an upscale sports car some concern.

It is only fair to draw the comparison between the two companies as they are in many ways offering a similar product. The XKR is maybe trimmed with interior materials a hair downscale; however the price for this experience is notably less. The material in use on the door panel lower portions, or placement of the convertible top actuator button overhead could capture a better sense of elegance. Fortunately, there are few complaints to point at.

On the upside, this is haute ride. The XK combines good looks, agility, and some elaborate systems to achieve a refined sports machine. Few combine elements in balance so well. This isn't some small nimble Lotus-like product. The XK reminds us of the XKE from the 1960's in its size and purpose. Getting from point A to B in an elegant and rapid manner is why this car exists.

This generation of the XK is slightly less heavy than the prior XK8, in part due to weight saving measures like the aluminum monocoque chassis with riveted bonds and magnesium cross car beam. Even with advance techniques employed, this is no lightweight. In fact, for a sports car with really only room for two, this is rather portly coming in at nearly 3,900 pounds. There are some other cars that do tip the scales with even more baggage, but that is no excuse. To the credit of Jaguar, the XKR convertible more than makes up for the weight penalty with gobs of power.

The poundage and a hearty motor do suck up gas when the right foot gets impatient (albeit, driven like a Camry this gets decent fuel economy). My guess is if you can absorb a car that comes in at nearly six figures, the thought that the V8 absorbs gas like a sponge probably isn't a great cause for concern. Being able to handle the bill for petrol as easily as the car payment comes across as a testament to capitalism. God bless America and the Queen, all in one press of the ignition button. How civilized!

Dressed up as the R is with vented hood and all, I can't help but think that it's a nice change to actually see a car where the design matches the performance. Even with the top up, this is a nicely done package. While conceptually the touch screen controls on the display are logical and easier to digest than others, this still constitutes too much distraction while driving. If one needs to focus the eyes off the road for more than a split second, there is a problem in the making. In the two seconds while fiddling with the controls at 80 miles per hour, one covers 234 feet - over two thirds of a football field.

Speaking of speed, 80 miles per hour in this car is not just easy to accomplish, it feels as complacent as most cars do at 50. Cruising like a ballistic missile isn't much of a challenge for the XKR. This really shines on hills and curves. When the going gets tough, the tough cat gets going, and quickly I might add. The fat rubber gives all kinds of grip in spite of the heft and the power. Furthermore, repeated changes in direction don't unsettle its balance thanks to the extra taut sport suspension that's not too stiff for everyday driving.

Trips out of town can be accomplished with careful planning when it comes to travel bags. The trunk with the top down is small, but somewhat useful. Unlike some other drop tops, the XK offers a back seat. This is really not meant for humans. Trust me, I tried it. Zero legroom, and the bolt-upright seat back in the rear are only designed for a contortionist or suitably soft baggage. Given that, extra gear can stow inside the car if required. Sadly, there isn't an adequate provision for hanging garments, so going casual is a good idea.

Perhaps leaving the tweed jacket at home with the driving gloves and original XKE is just fine, especially as this car has no place to hang the jacket. The vent system is plenty capable at keeping the fingers and toes properly toasty even with the top down.

Leaving the past behind them is tough for some, but time rolls on for better or worse. I can't help but thinking that this Jaguar is leaps and bounds better than those from the past. While the parent company has a shown a fondness for looking to the past for inspiration, the XKR is definitely poised to pounce forward, maybe even way forward.

SUMMARY JUDGMENT

Looks fast, and goes as quick as it looks.

Find more at www.jaguarusa.com

SPECIFICATIONS

Price: Base $91,835, as tested $96,800

Engine type: 4.2-liter, supercharged, intercooled, V8, aluminum alloy cylinder block and heads, DOHC, 4 valves per cylinder

EPA mileage estimates City/ Highway: 17/25

Horsepower: 420 @ 6,000 rpm Torque: 413 lb.-ft @ 4,000 rpm

Drive configuration: Front engine / rear-wheel drive

Transmission type: 6-speed, ZF automatic gearbox with Jaguar Sequential Shift

Suspension: Front: R-tuned with enhanced Computer Active Technology Suspension (eCATS). Fully independent twin wishbones. Coil springs with telescopic dampers. Anti-dive geometry providing longitudinal stability under heavy breaking. Anti-roll bar. Rear: R-tuned with enhanced Computer Active Technology Suspension (eCATS). Fully independent with lower wishbones and driveshaft acting as upper links. Coil springs with telescopic dampers. Anti-roll bar. Dynamic Stability Control with Trac DSC Traction Control System.

Wheels and tires: Front: Standard: 19 x 8.5-in. or 19 x 9.5-in. cast alloy, optional 20 x 9-in. cast alloy, Senta-style; 20 x 8.5-in. or 20 x 9.5-in. cast alloy, Cremona-style Rear: 19 x 8.5-in. or 19 x 9.5-in. cast alloy, optional 20 x 9-in. cast alloy, Senta-style; 20 x 8.5-in. or 20 x 9.5-in. cast alloy, Cremona-style

Brakes: Front: Ventilated disc, 14.0 in. x 1.3 in. (355 mm x 32 mm), cast iron, single piston, sliding calipers Rear: Ventilated disc, 12.8 in. x 0.79 in. (326 mm x 20 mm), cast iron, single piston, sliding calipers

Teves Mk25 electronically controlled 4-channel Anti-lock Brake System with yaw control, passive brake booster, independent front/rear split hydraulic circuits incorporating fluid loss warning sensor and electronic parking brake

Overall length: 188.6 in. (4794 mm) Overall width: 81.5 in. (2070 mm) Overall height: 52.0 in. (1321 mm) Curb weight: 3,900 (approx.)

0-60 mph: 5.0 Top Speed, mph: 155 (limited)

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