2007 Jaguar XKR
2007 Jaguar XKR. Click image to enlarge

Review and photos by Peter Bleakney

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Less than a year after launching its all-new 2007 XK sport coupe and convertible, Jaguar will be unleashing an upgraded version of this cat that brandishes considerably sharper claws. The 2007 XKR coupe and convertible will hit the Canadian market in early 2007, and although no pricing has been announced, you can probably count on spending a small Korean car’s-worth over the $103,000 and $113,000 of the base model XKs for the privilege of owning the top dog, er, feline Jag.

Jaguar let us loose for three days in central France with a dozen XKR coupes and convertibles, but sadly, due to a press embargo, I can’t tell you what they’re like to drive. It’s a bit like spending a wild weekend with Salma Hayek, and then having to bite your tongue for a month and a half. (Not that I would, dearest)

First and foremost on the XKR’s check list is the upgraded engine. The 4.2-litre DOHC AJ-V8 in the R is Eaton-supercharged, developing 420 hp at 6250 rpm and 413 lb-ft of torque at 4000 rpm. That’s up 120 hp and 110 lb-ft over its naturally aspirated sibling.

Along with continuously variable valve timing, the 90-degree V8 features computer controlled Variable Inlet Camshaft Timing and a twin inlet air intake system.

2007 Jaguar XKR
2007 Jaguar XKR. Click image to enlarge

It is mated to a specially calibrated ZF six-speed auto with normal and sport modes. In sport mode, the transmission can be shifted via steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters. Gearshifts in Jag’s Sequential Shift transmission are achieved in less than 600 milliseconds, which by automatic standards is lightning quick, and faster and smoother than many automated manual systems including VW/Audi’s DSG.

Jaguar claims the XKR coupe scampers to 100 km/h in 4.9 seconds, with the convertible reaching that benchmark 0.1 seconds later. This is welcome news for those who feel the base XK’s scoot-factor is just merely adequate.

As the XKR coupe weighs only 70 kg more than the base coupe, the power-to-weight ratio is 34% higher. And weight is a big issue with Jaguar. Or more specifically, lack thereof.

2007 Jaguar XKR
2007 Jaguar XKR. Click image to enlarge

Any good predatory cat should be light on its feet, and Jaguar is particularly proud of this all aluminum sports tourer with its incredibly stiff monocoque body structure. The XK’s body engineer, Mark White, gave me a walk-around of the coupe, describing in great detail the cross members, rigid aluminum extrusions, A-pillar reinforcements and other structural details that give this car its integrity.

The XK was designed initially to be a convertible, and as a result there is not an ounce of additional strengthening in the drop-top. At 1715 kg, the XKR convertible undercuts the Mercedes SL500 by 195 kg and the BMW M6 convertible by 225 kg.

The fully automatic top retracts in just under 20 seconds.

Since the XK has all ready been described in print, I can confirm here that both the XKR coupe and convertible are stiff as frozen mukluks.

2007 Jaguar XKR
2007 Jaguar XKR. Click image to enlarge

Stylistically, this new 2007 XK, which was penned by Jaguar’s Ian Callum, has a more imposing presence than the outgoing model. With shorter overhangs and a more aggressive stance, it exudes a lovely understated yet brutish grace.

This new XK has been criticized in some circles for lacking a certain “wow” factor, but if the attention these press cars garnered in France is any indication, this XKR variant should silence those on which the base XK’s subtleties are lost.

The front fascia is blunter on the R, fitted with the now de riguer aluminum mesh grill inserts that signal higher performance on sporting British cars. Subtly marked “Supercharged” inlet vents grace the hood, and out back are pair of twin chromed exhaust outlets. The side “power vents” are aluminum finished.

2007 Jaguar XKR
2007 Jaguar XKR. Click image to enlarge

All our testers wore the optional 20-inch wheels (19-inchers will be standard) which nicely showed off the cool black brake calipers with the “R” logo.

Over dinner at Le Chateau Chambley in Reims, designer Ian Callum gave us some insights into how he created this XK of which he is obviously quite proud.

A retracting hard-top was seriously considered for the car, but Callum nixed it, not only due to the weight issue, but also because it would have made the back of the car “a foot wider”, and Callum insists the essence of a Jag is the tapered rear end and muscular haunches that emphasize the view of the rear wheels from behind – presumably for the benefit of those who have just been passed.

2007 Jaguar XKR
2007 Jaguar XKR. Click image to enlarge

One revealing quote from Mr. Callum: “I’ve learned everything I know about automotive beauty from the (Jaguar) XJ6.” Considering Callum also penned the Aston Martin Vanquish, this guy knows from beauty.

The cockpit of the XKR is a study in elegance and comfort. Eschewing tradition, the standard XKR’s interior trim is a weave patterned aluminum, although wood is a no-cost option. I must have a bit of Earl Grey in my veins, because my favourite combo is the tan leather with burled walnut. And if you’re asking, a convertible in red, please.

2007 Jaguar XKR
2007 Jaguar XKR
2007 Jaguar XKR. Click image to enlarge

The 16-way powered seats are supportive and extremely comfortable over the long haul, with the adjustment controls cleverly placed on the door panels just below the mirrors. The adjustable side bolsters are a nice touch, but unfortunately ventilation is not offered.

Customers can opt for the Luxury Sports interior, which features soft grain leather on the seats, door trim, dash and console.

Jaguar’s interface with the control centre is such a forehead-slapper, you wonder why the premium German marques continue with their infuriatingly complex systems. It’s called “touch screen” fellas. Duh.
The graphics are clear and logical, and navigating through all the areas is as easy as poking your digit on the desired word or symbol. Additionally, there are analogue controls for the major HVAC and audio functions.

No car can be truly sporting without creating the right sounds, and Jaguar went to great pains in the XKR to provide the proper aural stimulation. Since the supercharger masks the intake sound which contributed to the base car’s song (and there is no supercharger whine, by the way), Jag engineered an exhaust “can” with electronically operated valves that open and close at various times to give the XKR a nice bark on startup, an aggressive full throttle howl and quiet cruising. The transmission automatically blips the throttle on downshifts, which sounds especially sexy when echoing off the walls of these ancient French villages.

2007 Jaguar XKR
2007 Jaguar XKR. Click image to enlarge

New, larger 355-mm ventilated discs in the front (up from 326 mm) provide extra stopping power. The system also includes four-channel ABS, Electronic Brake Force Distribution and Hydraulic Brake Assist. The parking brake is of the electronic variety with the button place just behind the shifter.

Handling has been beefed up via a front and rear spring rate increase of 38% and 24% respectively, and the two-stage Computer Active Technology Suspension (CATS, get it?) has been recalibrated. The switchable Dynamic Stability Control and Traction Control System have also been fudged with, allowing for more aggressive behaviour before the nannies step in.

2007 Jaguar XKR
2007 Jaguar XKR. Click image to enlarge

Jaguar certainly picked the best possible location to showcase this new luxury sport tourer. The routes carried us mainly over smooth sweeping roads of rural central France, broken up by a few motorway jaunts.

Yes, I must hold my tongue on driving impressions, but I will say this: After negotiating a particularly stirring stretch of road with the bit between my teeth, we coursed down into a shady vale and through a perfect French village that looked as if hadn’t been touched in 500 years. I paddled down through the gears and the V8’s baritone voice echoed off the stone walls. At this point, my co-driver, who shall remain nameless, declared that had I been female, he’d be in love.

Not to say I wasn’t flattered, but I’m pretty sure the XKR can take most the credit for this amorous outburst.


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