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Jaguar XKR Coupe Review

Key Specifications

  • Review Price: £72400.00

Not too long ago I got behind the wheel of a Jaguar XF, which proved to be a very accomplished car in terms of design, build, drivability and, most importantly, technology. The XF was a real triumph for Jaguar, allowing the company to shake off the dry and staid image that many had associated with it. Put simply, the XF is as good a luxury saloon as you’re likely to find, and Jaguar should be very proud of that fact. Now I’ve got an XKR sitting in the car park, which currently sits at the top of Jaguar’s range and promises to provide all the thrills of a sports car coupled with the luxury and comfort of an executive saloon.

The XKR definitely looks the part. It’s all sleek, smooth lines that hark back to the iconic E-Type and make the car look like it’s moving, even when it’s not. Many who saw the XKR parked up remarked that it looked like an Aston Martin – now I’m not sure if Jaguar would see that as a compliment, but I can’t help but feel that it’s an indication of success as far as design goes.

Things are no less impressive inside the XKR, and I have to say that Jaguar is up there with the best when it comes to cabin design. The XF had a beautiful cabin, but the XKR takes things up a notch with a liberal sprinkling of aluminium and glossy black panelling. You also get the same moody blue cabin lighting as seen in the XF, as well as the solid metal dial for gear selection – it really is a lovely place to sit.

And then there’s the performance, which is, to put it mildly, astounding! Under that long, sleek bonnet is a supercharged 5.0L V8 engine that pumps out 500bhp and 460lb/ft of torque, and believe me when I say that it makes this car unbelievably rapid. Now I regularly drive fast cars, but the surge of power that the XKR delivers when you put your foot down is simply epic. The sound it makes will make the hairs on the back of your neck stand to attention, and in case you’re worried, there’s no hint of supercharger whine either.

The chassis isn’t too shabby either, and the XKR is surprisingly agile for such a large and relatively heavy car. To be fair, this is very much a grand tourer (GT) rather than an out and out sports car, but if you fancy throwing it around your favourite roads on a Sunday morning, you won’t be disappointed. Even considering the automatic gearbox, I defy any petrolhead not to step out of an XKR with a smile on their face.

Of course I could spend the next few pages talking about the brutal power and dynamic ability of the XKR, but here at TR it’s the technology that counts, so let’s see what Jaguar has packed into its powerhouse coupe…

When I reviewed the Jaguar XF I was blown away by the 440W Bowers and Wilkins hi-fi system, and I honestly didn’t think that anything would top it. However, this XKR comes equipped with the top of the range 525W Bowers and Wilkins setup and it sounds staggeringly good. I’m not going to categorically state that it’s better than the system in the XF, because I’d need to do some back to back listening to come to a definitive conclusion, but there’s no doubt that if you’re a bit of an audiophile, you’ll love spending time in the XKR.

Of course any in-car sound system is compromised by the car itself – acoustics will be far from ideal, there’s engine noise, road noise and since you’re not sitting in the centre, creating a convincing stereo envelope is never easy. That said, Bowers and Wilkins has worked wonders with the systems that grace the latest Jaguars, creating a convincing soundstage, especially when the Dolby Pro Logic II processing is active.

Pretty much any style of music sounds superb in this car, whether it’s the choral power of Beethoven’s 9th, the acoustic delicacy of Jose Gonzalez or the expert riffs of Clapton. And boy can this system go loud, ear bleedingly loud in fact, but no matter how high you push the volume, there’s no hint of distortion – despite the fact the you’ll feel as if the bass is shaking the whole car, it’s somehow never overpowering.

There’s no shortage of source options on offer. Obviously you’ve got standard analogue radio, but you also get DAB thrown in – well, not exactly thrown in, DAB is a £342.55 option. There’s also a dash mounted, six disc CD changer for your uncompressed music listening, while hiding in the centre console you’ll find an iPod connection and a USB port.

As with the XF, iPod control is pretty good, and if you create a decent array of playlists, you can avoid too much navigation anyway. Of course if you want to avoid the “joys” of using iTunes every time you want to add music to your library, a high capacity USB key is probably the best option. The system will recognise basic folder structure, so you can, in essence create playlists on a USB stick just by creating multiple folders.

Codec support is limited to WMA and MP3, which isn’t really an issue – personally I’ve encoded my entire library at 320mbps MP3 since it’s the best quality option that will play on absolutely every device. Of course you can also playback AAC via an iPod, since it’s the iPod that’s doing the decoding.

While many car manufacturers are still struggling to produce factory fitted navigation systems that can rival the after market options, Jaguar has one of the best around. It’s clear that the in-car technology team at Jaguar has listened to what sat-nav users have been asking for, because, live traffic data aside, this system has just about everything that you’d want.

The heart of the navigation system, and everything infotainment focussed in fact, is the 7in colour screen mounted in the centre console. This is a touch-screen display, so entering destination details is as simple as it should be – there’s no joystick wiggling or dial twisting as seen in many other factory fit sat-nav systems.

The other regular failing of factory fitted navigation systems is a lack of full seven-digit postcode support, but Jaguar hasn’t fallen at this hurdle either. This means that you should be able to get within a few metres of where you want to be, armed with nothing more than the postcode.

You can configure the system to present you with three alternate routes to your destination. This generally consists of the fastest route, the shortest route and a third option that’s simply different from the other two.

There’s a decent Points of Interest database, which includes everything from hotels, to petrol stations, to tourist attractions, to Jaguar dealers. However, you’re not going to be able to update the POI list, as you can with some aftermarket systems. Hopefully we’ll start to see factory fitted sat-navs that the user can update via USB or memory card soon.

There’s basic TMC traffic data on hand, which will give you some idea of which areas to avoid on your route. But this lags behind the Live service that TomTom now offers, where traffic black spots and even speed camera locations are being constantly updated over the air. Considering the prevalence of mobile data services these days, I’d hope that car manufacturers are looking to integrate this kind of service, perhaps along with email and basic web browsing, into their future models.

Voice instructions are both clear and timely, so you shouldn’t miss that turning even when travelling at the sort of speeds that the XKR is capable of. You also get an in-dash display that gives you fair warning of what’s coming up, and unlike other systems I’ve used, it only displays navigation data when there’s an action coming up and will revert back to the clock when there isn’t.

The XKR shares the same communication system as the XF that I looked at, which is no bad thing, but that does mean that it suffers from the same couple of niggles. You connect your phone up using Bluetooth, and I didn’t have any issues pairing my iPhone 3G or any other phone that I had handy for that matter. It shouldn’t take you more than a couple of minutes to get your phone paired, after which it will automatically dock with the car each time you climb aboard.

Dialling numbers using the touch-screen is simple enough, but the amount of numbers I carry around in my head is pretty meagre these days, thanks to carrying all my contacts around in my mobile for years. So, the best option is to create your own in-car phonebook complete with voice tags.

Although some systems will copy over your entire contacts list from your phone and automatically allow voice dialling for each of them, that kind of system isn’t without its problems. First up, you often have to learn how to pronounce names the way the system thinks they should be pronounced, otherwise your voice dialling won’t work. Second, I simply don’t need voice dialling for the vast majority of my contacts list anyway.

I prefer being able to record my own voice tags for the contacts that I’m actually likely to want to call while I’m driving. And when you want to call someone when driving, you simply press the handy steering wheel mounted button, although the same annoying two-stage method as seen in the XF remains. You have to say “dial name” then wait for a response asking you for a name, then say “Hugo” or whomever you want to dial. I’d rather just be able to say “Dial Hugo” and be done with it.

Call quality is excellent, as you’d expect given the quality of audio equipment inside this car. There’s no hint of the distant, echoing sound quality that’s apparent in some in-car Bluetooth systems. In fact most people that I called from the XKR didn’t even realise I was behind the wheel.

The key to a great GT car is that it should be able to eat up the miles at blistering pace, but also leave the driver feeling fresh as a daisy once they’ve arrived at their second home in the South of France. There’s no doubt that the XKR fulfils that brief, and you’d be hard pushed to find a car that could do it better.

Comfortable seats are an important factor, and Jaguar has done a great job here. Instead of using the kind of bucket seats that you’d find in a sports car, the XKR comes with more traditional looking leather wrapped chairs. However, these are what’s known as adaptive seats, since when the time comes for some fun, you can literally pump up the side bolsters to give you a bit more support through the bends.

There’s a dizzying array of controls mounted in the door that can adjust the seats in almost every possible way – forwards, backwards, up, down, recline angle, lumbar support and of course, those inflatable bolsters. The driver’s seat has three memory settings too, in case you’re not the only regular driver.

Not so impressive are the rear seats, which, in reality, aren’t seats at all. Even if you were planning on using them solely for children, they wouldn’t be particularly comfortable, unless you’ve got kids who like sitting in buckets. By comparison, the rear seats in my 911 are infinitely more comfortable, but then the Porsche doesn’t have a boot in the usual sense of the word. The XKR on the other hand has a very large boot, which will no doubt find itself filled with golf clubs most weekends, highlighting again, just how versatile the XKR is.

The XKR will be ideal for these cold winter mornings too, with both the front seats offering degrees of heating – if you’ve never had heated seats in a car, believe me it’s far nicer than having the fan blowing hot air at you. As if that wasn’t enough, the steering wheel is heated too, after all, you don’t want your delicate little fingers getting cold while you’re driving.

You’ll be well looked after in the summer too, with dual zone climate control ensuring that you and your front passenger are kept at optimal temperature, even if your opinions differ on such matters.

The XKR comes with automatic lights and wipers, along with auto-dimming mirrors too, so you won’t get dazzled by someone coming up behind you with their high beam on. The wing mirrors also fold in automatically when the car is locked, reducing the chance of them being knocked off when you’re parked at the side of the road.

The aluminium gear selector dial is no less of a novelty on the XKR than it was on the XF, and it looks beautiful. Of course if you want to take more control yourself, you can use the paddles to shift gears manually, while switching the chassis into Dynamic Mode will sharpen everything up a little. And if you just want to take things easy, you can flip the cruise control on and ensure that you’ll get to the end of the motorway without drifting over the speed limit.

It’s not surprising that a car that can cover ground as rapidly as the XKR has a fair amount of safety equipment built into it. The front passengers get both front and side airbags, as well as seatbelt pretensioners coupled with a whiplash reduction system. There’s also ISOFIX mounting points for the rear seats, but I can’t imagine a child seat that would fit properly.

It’s not just people inside the car that the XKR is trying to protect either. It also has a pedestrian contact sensing system that will automatically deploy the bonnet (which opens forwards) and reduce the chance of a pedestrian hitting the engine and causing even more injury.

The XKR comes with keyless entry and start, so you don’t need to take the key out of your pocket – as long as the key is with you, you just pull the door handle and the car will automatically unlock, then you simply press the engine start button to get going. There’s a black button on the door handles that locks the car when you park it up. You can still use the keyfob to lock and unlock the car, but I can’t imagine why you’d want to.

Obviously there’s also an alarm built-in that will sense intrusion as well as tilting, in case some ingenious thieves try to lift the car onto a truck to steal it. There’s an engine immobiliser and a battery backup for the alarm. There’s no tracking device fitted as standard though, which I’d expect in a car of this value, but you can easily have one installed if you’re worried.

This is a very long car, so the front and rear parking sensors are a welcome standard feature. As well as audible warnings you get a graphical indication of how close you are to any obstacles on the central display. The reversing camera that was present on the XF was missing on the XKR though, and strangely isn’t available as an option either.

The Jaguar XKR is a truly superb GT car that combines class leading comfort and refinement with the kind of performance that’s usually reserved for out and out sports cars. The supercharged V8 may not be the most economical option, but it’s an absolute peach – I defy anyone not to grin from ear to ear when they put their foot down in an XKR!

This is probably the best looking car that Jaguar has built since the E-Type, and the interior is every bit as sleek and stylish. I really believe that Jaguar is up there with the best when it comes to cabin design, and having spent a while driving the XKR, I can’t help but feel slightly underwhelmed when I slide into the driver’s seat of my own car.

The XKR doesn’t disappoint when it comes to technology either, with one of the best factory fitted navigation systems I’ve used. But it’s that 525W Bowers and Wilkins hi-fi that’s the highlight – it might sound like hyperbole, but I have simply never heard music in a car sound this good. It really is that simple.

Obviously this isn’t a cheap car, and there are a lot of options when you’re spending over £70,000. Even so, Jaguar has created a car that’s so accomplished in so many areas, that it makes a very strong case for itself, no matter how exotic the competition.

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