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ROAD & TRAVEL New Car Review: 2007 Jaguar XKR

2007 Jaguar "R" turns a pampered housecat into a Kitten

by Steve Siler

It’s hard to think of Jaguars objectively. After all, a Jaguar isn’t just another car. A Jaguar is as much about stimulating the senses as getting you around town. Indeed, transportation becomes quite secondary when beautiful curves, luscious leather and sonorous engines are so, well, inebriating. And no truer has this been since the vaunted, Sixties-vintage XKE than it is in the case of the all-new 2007 Jaguar XKR.

ROAD & TRAVEL New Car Review: 2007 Jaguar XKR Exterior

Now before we start talking about what makes the XKR an XKR, let’s just spend a minute savoring the sheer sex appeal of the entire XK line. There’s absolutely no denying that all Jaguar models are beautiful. And the muscular and exotic XK coupe is beautiful beyond words. Lead designer Ian Callum, whose design credits include none other than two other unspeakably sexy cars: the Aston Martin DB9 and Vanquish, has brought his expertise to Jaguar and applied what he considers to be fundamental coupe proportions to the XK. Indeed, it’s no accident that the XK looks so similar to the Astons, as he believes there is only a certain way a proper coupe should look: long hood, high haunches, sloping tail, sleek but muscular surfaces. The convertible has a "correctness" to it that could only have come if the convertible was designed first, which indeed is what happened. According to Callum, the stance and proportions of a convertible are harder to get right than coupes, as chopping the roof off a coupe design—even before ever building a model or prototype—is harder to do well than adding a roof to a perfectly honed convertible.

Clearly, he knows what he’s talking about, as his Astons are flawless, and his XKs are too. But while the Astons exude their appeal primarily through their body contours, with a minimum of superfluous ornamentation, Callum felt it necessary to add a bit of body "jewelry" to the Jag in order to make it distinct and luxurious in appearance, befitting of the Jaguar image but stopping short of appearing gauche. And we’re not talking about belly rings and rhinestones. In this case, Jewelry means a side vent with a chrome Jaguar badge, intricately designed head- and taillights and plenty more chrome elsewhere on the car, from the window trim to the grille to the rear tailgate. Nice job, Cal.

But as with the previous XK line, the R version takes a performance bent (more on that in a bit). So when creating the new R, sexy wire mesh was added to the grille, while side vents became metallic. Standard 19- or optional 20-inch wheels engorge the wheelwells, rectangular vents were added to the hood and quad tailpipes were installed out back to suggest that this particular kitty has sharper claws. Oh so subtle changes, but oh so effective.

ROAD & TRAVEL New Car Review: 2007 Jaguar XKR Exterior

In addition to beauty, something that Jaguars also evoke is speed (go figure). However, the previous XK, as talented and pretty as it was, seemed to be more housecat-being-chased-by-a-Doberman quick, not cheetah-chasing-a-gazelle fast. And in spite of its technologically advanced, aluminum-everywhere body structure—which is both stronger and lighter than the previous model (by a lot), the new XK still feels merely "brisk" and not "fast."

The XKR is equipped with a supercharged version of the 4.2-liter V-8 that’s found all over the Jaguar lineup. This, however, is the most potent version we’ve seen yet, with 420 horsepower and 413 lb-ft of torque being sent to extra-fat 19- or 20-inch rear wheels wrapped with tires aggressive enough not to be transformed into black pools of molten rubber every time you poke the go-pedal. Compared with the previous XKR, the 2007 model features enhanced breathing characteristics that freed up an additional 30 horsepower, whilst quelling the whine that often accompanies superchargers. Thus, the V-8’s deep, bass exhaust note comes through loud and clear as your body is smashed into the seatbacks on your way to 60 mph in just 4.9 seconds for the coupe (5.0 for the ragtop). The six-speed automatic with standard paddle-shift manual controls on the steering wheel made easy and quick work of any shifting we felt like doing ourselves, though we mostly left the gearbox to itself, so effective it was. After several top-down hours test driving this sexy cat in northern Spain’s gorgeous wine country, it became clear that this is how a modern Jaguar should drive. We started looking for gazelles.

Enhancements have been made in other areas as well. Brakes have been upgraded to help the XKR’s deceleration match its acceleration. Considering the R’s razor-thin “tyres,” and marginally stiffer suspension setup, one might expect a stiff spleen-punishing ride is in store. But it’s really quite well composed…a super car that you can drive every day, even on cobblestone streets and bumpy highways. Indeed, the stiff aluminum body keeps vibration out and ensures that everything in the interior will stay together.

ROAD & TRAVEL New Car Review: 2007 Jaguar XKR Interior

The XKR’s interior is basically the same as that in the XK, with just a bit more of an edge. The R’s dashboard and doors are trimmed with standard, sporty, patterned aluminum trim which can be swapped for lustrous wood, should one desire a more traditional look. The dash itself is handsome and symmetrical, with a center-mounted screen-based interface system through which many of the controls are adjusted. This is indeed one of the car’s best features, so intuitive and well organized that it absolutely embarrasses Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Audi’s complicated systems that do less and do it worse.

The unique sport seats are a bit more aggressively bolstered to hold the driver in place better during more "spirited" motoring. The seats are covered in decent leather, but we recommend springing for the premium leather option, which takes its hides from cows that must have moisturized since birth. As with all XKs, the XKR does have rear "seats," but don’t try to seat anyone bigger than a schnauzer there. No, this car is for two and don’t you forget it.

One surprising aspect of the XKR is its versatility, thanks in particular to its large trunk. Combined with the rear seat, which is best used as another storage area, a full day of splurging at the mall is possible without leaving your shopping companion to fend for herself. Furthermore, the coupe is actually a hatchback, making loading things in and out a breeze without ruining is slippery lines.

So how much for this everyday supercar? Prices have been set at $86,500 for the coupe and $92,500 for the convertible, placing it below its more powerful competitors such as the BMW M6 (which is more of a hard-core, sports car) and the Mercedes-Benz SL55 AMG (which has way less versatility). Still, this is only about $10K more than the regular XK, but you’re getting about 30% more perform-ance out of it…good solid math that only a cat could teach us.