Fall is just around the corner – time to bid farewell to a hot, humid summer and gear up for cold, winter days with bulky coats, heavy boots, and thick gloves.
I dread it, but summer isn’t over yet. There’s still time to enjoy the sunshine and soak up a few rays behind the wheel of a convertible.
And this summer, I did something drastic to improve the ride. After two decades with long, flowing hair, I chopped off nearly all my locks. Feeling somewhat naked, I dropped the top of my Jaguar XKR. Instantly, I felt liberated and free. As I hit the throttle, the cold, crisp air rushing against my scalp was exhilarating.
And for the first time in a convertible, my all-around vision was excellent – not obscured by the wind whipping hair in my eyes. Afterwards, my hair didn’t resemble a rat’s nest that I dreaded combing out. Now, there was no grooming required. This ride did wonders for my new do.
But that’s besides the point. The real story is the power. All Jaguar XKRs, which is an upgraded version of the XK, are powered by a direct-injection, supercharged, 5.0-litre V-8 with 510 horsepower and 461 lb-ft of torque. Simply put, the raw power is intoxicating.
This rear-wheel-drive convertible is fast, hitting 0-100 in only 4.9 seconds. That’s 0.7 seconds less than the naturally-aspirated XK convertible with 385 hp and 380 lb-ft of torque.
The ride is composed and smooth – in the blink of an eye, you can hit 150 km/h without even noticing. So, beware, the XKR is a magnet for police. I recommend setting the cruise control whenever possible. It’s your best friend in a powerful ride like this one. But for some reason, occasionally the cruise control would disengage if you hit a bump in the road.
There’s only one transmission available – a six-speed automatic with a manual function so you can change gears via paddle shifters on the steering wheel. No manual transmission is offered.
Nail the throttle and the engine groans – the deep sound of the exhaust note is music to my ears. Weighing only about 1,800 kg, the handling is agile; the steering precise. Accelerate into a bend, and it’s well-balanced and firmly planted on the road.
The XKR commands respect from other drivers and onlookers alike. They’ll smile, wave and give you the thumbs up. Other drivers won’t cut you off, but they will shadow you, admiring the exquisite design while trying to determine the make/model of this beauty – often mistaken for an Aston Martin.
The exterior is a masterpiece accentuated with extra stunning features such as 20-inch Kalimnos alloy wheels w/Dunlop SportMaxx ($5,000) and red brake calipers with an R logo ($500).
If you’re worried about fuel economy, this isn’t the vehicle for you. It averages 11.9 litres/100 km in combined city/highway driving – but good luck getting that number. I spent most of my time in the 14-plus litres/100 km territory.
Inside, the craftsmanship and attention to detail is excellent. Luxurious soft-grain leather with contrast stitching set against dark oak and aluminum accents is lovely. The front seats fit like a glove; they’re heated and cooled with 16-way power adjustments and memory so you can find and keep your favourite seating position when sparring with your spouse over who takes the wheel next.
The seat adjustments are conveniently located on the side of the doors so it’s easier to access than if they were hidden on the side of the seats. But the two rear seats are useless – only kids could use them. There’s hardly any leg room and when the roof is closed there’s little head space, too.
A keyless entry system lets you walk up to the door, grab the handle and the doors unlock automatically. There’s no shift lever or key to insert into the ignition, either. To start, just press a red start button and a round knob rises from the console while the engine roars to life. Turn the dial to select the gear.
A seven-inch touch screen lets you control the climate, navigation system, Bluetooth and audio. But the touch screen is fickle and requires multiple steps. I prefer simple audio buttons to change the station – it’s faster and easier. The sound system is excellent, top up or down. It’s a Bowers & Wilkins audio system with 525-watts of output, Dolby Prologic II surround sound with Kevlar midrange speakers and aluminum tweeters.
Dropping the top is a cinch. The triple-lined fabric roof can be lowered in less than 20 seconds. You can even do it while driving up to speeds of 32 km/h. Just hit the button, and the roof automatically folds itself away, disappearing into the body behind the rear seats under a smooth cover. Like most convertibles, there’s little space when the roof is down – only about 201 litres. But you can use the two rear seats to store your golf clubs and other goodies.
India’s Tata Motors, which bought Jaguar from Ford in 2008, seems to be on the right track, raising Jag’s profile with breathtaking and powerful creations such as the XKR.
2011 Jaguar XKR
Type: Two-door, 2+2 luxury convertible
Base Price: $114,000; as tested, $121,150
Engine: 5.0-litre, DOHC, V-8
Horsepower/torque: 510 hp/461 lb-ft
Transmission: Six-speed automatic
Fuel economy (litres/100 km): 14.0 city/9.1 highway; premium gas
Alternatives: Mercedes-Benz SLK63 AMG, Audi S5 convertible, BMW 6-Series cab, Maserati GranTurismo cab, Porsche 911 Carrera cab