John DiPietro , Automotive Editor
Should you find yourself behind the wheel of the 2010 Jaguar XKR Convertible, we almost wouldn't blame you for adopting a little automotive snobbery. It's not that we condone that sort of thing; it's just that this desirable drop top is so much better than nearly everything it shares the road with. And if there's a car whose name better suits its personality, we're not aware of it -- with more than 500 horsepower and silken, effortless movement, the XKR is most deserving of its "Jaguar" moniker.
Though it looks pretty much the same as last year's model, the newest top cat is even quicker and more luxurious. The heart of the beast is a larger (5.0-liter versus 4.2-liter) supercharged V8 that smoothly spins out nearly 100 hp more than before. A slight styling refresh for this year fluffs up the Jag's fur via new front air intakes and LED taillights, while the cockpit adopts the trick rotary gear selector first seen in the XF.
Given its slinky styling and opulent cabin, one may consider the XKR to be a boulevard cruiser, albeit a rapid one. But as we discovered, they'd be mistaken. The XKR can easily play the role of a responsive sports car or relaxed grand tourer (a car that rapidly covers ground while pampering its occupants). It just depends on the driver's mood. Whether it's slicing through a curvy canyon road or loafing along at speed on the interstate, the XKR is comfortable -- literally and figuratively -- in either setting.
And considering its incredible performance, elegant styling and sumptuous interior, the 2010 Jaguar XKR just may be a genuine value. Yes, we're talking about a car with a $102,000 sticker. But at that price, nothing -- except perhaps the BMW M6 convertible -- can touch it for sheer performance, luxury and presence. One may also consider the Mercedes-Benz SL63, Maserati GranTurismo convertible and Aston Martin V8 Vantage Roadster, but those cars all cost in the neighborhood of $140,000. Whether you base your vehicle purchase decisions on a number-crunching spreadsheet or purely on emotion, the 2010 Jaguar XKR will be mighty tempting.
Sending 510 hp to this big cat's rear paws, the supercharged, direct-injected V8 is as refined as it is powerful. The XKR is as docile as a laid-back tabby under normal driving, content to smoothly purr around town. But when you find yourself behind laggards camped out in the passing lane, it lets out a healthy growl as it leaps past, as if to scorn those lesser species that dare ignore the rules of the asphalt jungle.
The six-speed automatic is smooth and on-point. This is especially true in Sport mode, where it quickly steps down for swift passing, and holds lower gears when being driven in spirited fashion on a curvy mountain road. We noted that in Sport, the no-lag upshifts can be quite firm. Staff opinion is split on that quality -- some thought it out of character while others felt it added a seriously sporty flavor.
At the track, the 2010 Jaguar XKR leapt to 60 mph in just 4.5 seconds and ripped through the quarter-mile in 12.6 seconds. That scintillating performance puts it in the league of such superstars as the Porsche 911 Carrera S Cabriolet and Mercedes-Benz SL63, and makes it quicker even than the BMW M6 Convertible and Bentley Continental GTC. The XKR earns EPA fuel economy estimates of 15 mpg city/22 mpg highway and 17 mpg for combined. That seems downright frugal compared to a BMW M6's estimates of 11/17 and 13. For the record, our XKR averaged a respectable 17.1 mpg.
With a stopping distance from 60 mph of just 111 feet, the XKR's deceleration potential is strong, too, with a firm, linear pedal action. No fade was noted after a number of consecutive full-effort stops. Thanks in great part to its adaptive suspension, the XKR possesses impressive poise when you ask it to dance on your favorite serpentine section of blacktop. The 2-ton Jag changes direction without hesitation or mushy body motions and moves with a solid confidence fully in keeping with its sporting GT intentions.
The steering could have more feedback, but with its quick action and reassuringly firm feel, it does nothing to detract from the car's confident demeanor. Push it hard and the stability control system might intervene as you hustle the 2010 Jaguar XKR through tighter turns. This will likely be a nonissue for most drivers; if it is, the system can be disabled.
The firm, well-shaped front seats offer multiple adjustments (including side bolsters, under-thigh support and lumbar support) and the power tilt-telescoping steering wheel likewise has a wide range of adjustment. Once you've set your preferences, the comfort is such that a three-hour stint behind the wheel is no trouble at all.
The insulated top offers impressive isolation from wind and road noise, such that you may as well be in a coupe when unreeling the miles on the interstate. With that top down and the wind blocker deployed, there is minimal buffeting with the side windows up. Powerful seat heaters allow al fresco motoring even on crisp mornings.
The backseat is best thought of as a plush, leather-lined storage area for golf bags or those hidden gems from the outlet mall shopping trip. Its serious lack of head- and legroom mean that the only passengers it can comfortably accommodate are very small kids.
Firing up the 2010 Jaguar XKR is a special or silly event, depending on your point of view. When you enter the car (done via the keyless entry/ignition feature), the red "start" button on the console starts pulsing like a heartbeat. Hit the button to fire the engine and the finely machined gear selector knob rises out of the console to greet your hand. The twist knob's action is precise, fluid and substantial in feel, a fitting symbol of the XKR's polished personality.
Some other controls aren't quite as pleasing, however. The mutlifunction touchscreen is fairly easy to figure out, but it's rather busy. When using the climate control system, changing modes is a two-step affair, as one must first go "home" and then select the mode. Direct access to the climate control, audio system, etc. would be nice. Also, the navigation system can't be programmed while the car is moving. So you can't let your passenger work the nav while you're driving -- you'll have to pull over somewhere and stop to do so. It's nice that front and rear parking sensors are standard, but in this price range we'd also expect a back-up camera.
Though the operation of the audio system can be fussy (you must first go to the "home" screen and there is no tuning knob), the steering-wheel controls help. The sound from the Bowers and Wilkins system is excellent, with power and clarity across the full spectrum. One rocker -- we mean staffer -- wished for a little more punch to the bass but overall, most ears were pleased. The iPod integration is intuitive, with its simple controls and easily accessed menus.
In our usability tests, the XKR didn't do so well. Our roll-away travel case easily fit into the trunk. Golf clubs, however, won't, meaning duffers will have to stow their sticks in the backseat. A baby seat can be installed in the mostly ornamental backseat, but only if it's facing forward and the front seat is all the way up. Doing the latter comes at the expense of that front passenger's legroom, limiting its use to folks less than 5-foot-7 in height.
Design/Fit and Finish
Though the 2010 Jaguar XKR has the same general shape as the previous (1997-2006) generation, the soft, rounded forms have been replaced by sharper ones as seen at the top of the fenders and rear quarters. The front end isn't as elegant as the older version's, but this is still a handsome car with classic proportions and a sleek profile.
The cabin is impeccably trimmed in fine, stitched leather and of course the requisite wood accents. Our car had the lustrous dark oak that some staffers felt was too dark. We've seen the metallic trim as well as the lighter wood trim and prefer those for the greater contrast they provide. Overall, the look and feel of the cabin make it plain that you're in a premium car, as the XKR gives little away to its more costly rivals in this area.
Who should consider this vehicle
The 2010 Jaguar XKR is a superb sports GT. This is a perfect choice for those who prefer open-air motoring and like to arrive at their destination quickly (if they so choose), comfortably and with a large measure of style.
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