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2012 Jaguar XKR. (Jaguar)
2012 Jaguar XKR. (Jaguar)

2011 Jaguar XKR Coupe

Jag XKR: fast, ferocious and refined Add to ...

The 2011 Jaguar XKR is a beautiful ride and not just for the obvious reasons.

Oh, yes, we all love what Jaguar design director Ian Callum calls the car's "visual agility and beautiful lines." Who could argue?

And what a beautiful car to drive, too.

As Jaguar chief engineer Mike Cross puts it, we're talking about "an exceptional sports GT" with "huge reserves of power and torque."

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The 510-horsepower supercharged engine is, as Cross argues, "potent and rewarding," yet the chassis is tuned to make all that out-of-this-world oomph easy to manage. In a nutshell, Cross and his gang have managed to make a pretty dynamic coupe a commuter car, too.

None of this should surprise anyone. C'mon, we're looking at a sleek gem with a starting price of $107,000, plus tax. You should get something amazing for that kind of money.

Yet in the big picture that's quite a number, though it brings me another beautiful number: $14,000. That's what Jaguar Canada has in play as a combined factory sales sweetener if you're the right buyer who knows how to work a deal, according to carcostcanada.com. You might even squeeze out more.

You will not find a better value in a sport-luxury coupe. The carping types will nit and pick about the XKR's shallow trunk and fairly tight cabin. Get over it. Folks, this is a sporting coupe, not an SUV. This British brand owned by the Indian conglomerate, Tata, has produced a fine option for those who aren't keen on rival models from the Germans and the Japanese. That is what this car is all about.

And those options are? The Mercedes-Benz CL63 AMG comes to mind, though you might argue for the less expensive CL550 coupe. The latter, at $135,900, comes standard with all-wheel drive, but a less powerful 429-hp V-6; the former, at $162,000, is a rear-driver powered by a monstrous 536-hp twin-turbo motor.

Chevrolet's Corvette Z06 coupe (505 hp) is another alternative, though at $96,000 before discounts it's not particularly inexpensive. The Chevy brand certainly is not as powerful as the Jag brand, either.

Porsche? The 911 GT3 rear-drive coupe (435 hp) is a fantastic piece of engineering, though at $132,000 the joy here comes at a pretty big number. Throw the 430-hp Audi R8 4.2 Quattro ($144,000) into this mix, too.

I hate to call the XKR a bargain because that suggests Jaguar might be a bargain brand, which is unfair and untrue. Yet, digest those pricing numbers. The XKR does look like a sweet deal compared to those and others. Jaguar has stuffed a massive level of performance and luxury into a coupe with a design that few will tire of viewing, and a cabin that feels expensive and smart.

For the record, you should know that Jaguar has an even juicier version of the XKR coming later this year and it's called the 2012 XKR-S. First shown at the Geneva auto show, the "S" packs 550-horsepower under its long, elegant hood. Look for a price in the $150,000 range.

For much less, you can buy today's blindingly quick XKR coupe. Jaguar says the car will do 0-100 km/h in 4.8 seconds, but you might do better if you master the Active Differential Control.

Jag types don't want you to confuse this system with old-fashioned traction control. It's more than that - what Cross calls a clutch-like system that "transfers power to the rear wheel with the best traction." Grip is good in a car with this much muscle.

You'll also want to master the automatic transmission with its manual function. Shifts are managed via steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters. Dial the car into the "S" setting and you tighten up the car's chassis responses, not to mention putting more growl into the exhaust note.

Of course, the XKR corners like it's on rails - flat, tight, responsive and a simple joy when pushed. The remarkable thing is how easy and enjoyable it is to live with this coupe commuter traffic. On this point, Cross talks about the Adaptive Damping Control. It is there to make the suspension supple when the pavement is a mess.

The cabin is anything but a mess, by the way. The dashboard's stitched leather is gorgeous, as are the similarly-stitched seats. Buyers can choose to dress up the interior with aluminum, oak, or piano black trim. I'd go for racy aluminum. Cleverly, the XKR has what has become Jaguar's signature a round shift knob - the one that that rises out of the centre console and lands in the palm of your hand.

The seats are adequately padded, though you sit very low in what can only be described as a tight cockpit. Legroom up front is very good, but forget about the back. There's a seat there, but it's there to carry your briefcase and gym bag. Drivers should note that visibility going forward is fine, but there are blind spots over your shoulder.

The blind spot issue should not come as a surprise to anyone. The most beautiful things - and people - always have their flaws.

jcato@globeandmail.com

Tech specs

2011 Jaguar XKR Coupe

Type: Luxury performance coupe

Price: $107,000 ($1,350 freight)

Engine: 5.0-litre V-8, supercharged

Horsepower/torque: 510 hp/461 lb-ft

Transmission: Six-speed automatic

Drive: Rear-wheel

Fuel economy (litres/100 km): 14.1 city/9.1 highway; premium gas

Alternatives: Mercedes-Benz CL63 AMG and CL550 coupe, Chevrolet Corvette Z06 coupe, Porsche 911 GT3, Audi R8 4.2 Quattro

Follow on Twitter: @catocarguy

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