2011 Jaguar XKR Review

2011 Jaguar XKR

Ask any auto journalist and they'll admit to having a vehicular crush. No matter what, we all have our favourites. Of course, we're all told to be as unbiased as possible, but as human beings it's impossible for us not to feel more for one car over another – or one car over all the rest.

While it's no secret that I'm having a bit of an affair with the MINI brand as a whole, there is one car in particular that gets me all hot and bothered every time I see it, and especially when I get a chance to get behind the wheel. And that car is the sumptuous and stunningJaguar XKR.

I know, I know; Jaguar's gained a bad rap when it comes to reliability and build quality (my esteemed colleague Matt spent a week with an XJ Supercharged outfitted with a rattling sunroof that nearly drove him over the edge, quite literally), but I think it's that personality flaw that drags me in.

Here's a vehicle that's renowned for being luxurious and high-class, and yet it still has foibles. Hell, my XKR tester had a creaky backseat that made me think the rear suspension was fabricated out of bamboo shoots – but I didn't let that deter me from having a phenomenal week behind the wheel.

2011 Jaguar XKR Dashboard

There's something sly about the Jaguar XKR, which also adds to its appeal. There's no questioning the fact that it's a supercar, but it's aggressive in a subtle, sensual way that's right up my alley. The lines on the XKR haven't changed much over the past few years, and that's also fine with me. From the elongated front nose to the stubby, powerful rear, the 2011 Jaguar XKR is like a piece of art come to life.

And even though the XKR is the XK's hopped up evil cousin, you have to be observant to spot the differences in the body design. Slits for air intakes in the hood and a pair of gills behind the front wheels are really all that give it away in the front. And, of course, the green and red “R” badge on the turned-up rear along with the quad tailpipes give it away.

Step inside the XKR and those subtleties continue. While some sport models are brash and in your face with decals and colours and sport buttons, the XKR remains classy and pristine inside with only an “R” on the steering wheel and on the passenger-side dash. Oh, and of course the fabulous “Dynamic” race-flag button by the shift dial and the “S” gear selection. Decked out in brushed chrome and black, the XKR's cabin is functional and roomy. The centre stack is surprisingly simple for such a high-end vehicle; finally, a company that realizes “more buttons” does not equal “better.”

Unfortunately, Jaguar's onboard entertainment and navigation system continues to disappoint. The overall design of the system is just old-world and the delay when a button is pushed (either on the screen or steering wheel) feels like an eternity and is perhaps the most annoying thing on the planet – no joke.

2011 Jaguar XKR Seats

While the Jaguar is a stellar car to pilot, I would not recommend being a rear-seat passenger. Thrown in like an afterthought, the bucket-like seats (note I did not say bucket seats) are not made for anyone, child or adult. This is, essentially a two-seater with a glorified and large purse/briefcase/jacket/picnic basket holder in the back.

Alright, enough about the car's looks (though I could go on for pages and pages; it's that gorgeous). Where the XKR really grabs hold of your attention and keeps it is in the drive. When I mentioned to friends and colleagues that I'd be piloting the big cat, on more than one occasion I heard it referred to as a baby Vantage – and I don't disagree.

Once again, the subtleness of the Jaguar XKR impresses me. Like discovering the Queen of England sports lace thongs under her pastel skirt suits after a large gust of wind blows, the XKR will leave you shocked and breathless when you really hit the throttle. It goes from proper and well-behaved to all out mental in a matter of seconds.

And that would be thanks to a forced-induction 5.0L V8 that pushes out a fantastic 510 hp and 461 lb-ft of torque. This powerplant will push the Jag from 0-100 km/h in just 4.6 seconds, and thanks to a more aggressive suspension, the ride is firmer, there's less body roll and the car sits lower to the ground.

Remember that “S” and “Dynamic” mode I mentioned before? Well, that's how you make that gust of wind that blows the Queen's skirt up. You see, the XKR is quite civilized on the road as a daily driver. You'd never suspect it to be as ravenous as it actually is – even though Jaguar dubs the XKR “Jaguar's racing heart.”

It can be docile, smooth and pleasant as you cruise around town. However, should you want to have a little more excitement behind the wheel, all you have to do is click that futuristic knob over once to the right, depress the race-flag “Dynamic” button and off you go, blowin' skirts up all over town.

2011 Jaguar XKR

And blow them up you will. The “S” setting makes the Jaguar XKR more responsive in the throttle and steering and it also exaggerates the barking exhaust, making the car that much more of a head-turner. The XKR's acceleration is so fast it's almost shocking at times. It could, potentially get the driver into some serious trouble if he/she isn't paying attention. And the 6-speed automatic Jaguar Sequential Shift gearbox is fast and efficient.

Handling in the XKR is fantastic as well. This might seem like a boat of a car, with a curb weight just under 4,000 lbs, making this Jag is a bit of a fat cat – but it feels like a lively kitten when the throttle is heavily depressed. I think the weight plays a part in helping this Jag feel so stable on the road despite the heaps of power and rear-wheel push. Not that the back won't flick out (trust me), but it's got some claws in the road, which help for more spirited jaunts.

Overall, for a car that won't set you back that much over the $100k mark (and really, if you can afford $100,000, what's a few grand more for extras?) that looks the way it does and drives the way it does, I see absolutely no problems with it. The XKR is an automotive work of art with some serious grunt, and if I had that much spare change in my purse I'd be making room in my driveway for one.