Jaguar XKR road tests

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Autoweb March 2000

Jaguar reveals XK180 derived XKR with R Features

Jaguar Australia reveals today an all-new model, the XKR with R Features, making systems and components originally showcased on the XK180 concept roadster a production reality. Like the XK180, the XKR with R Features was developed by Jaguar Special Vehicle Operations, the company’s specialist in-house design and engineering department.

The XKR with R Features is available in both coupe and convertible models and comprises stunning BBS modular alloy wheels, high performance Brembo brakes and a comprehensive handling pack for the XKR coupe only. The new model will be available in Australia in July 2000 in limited numbers and pricing will be announced at that time.

Speaking at the 2000 Melbourne International Motor Show today, Mr Danny Rezek, Managing Director of Jaguar Australia, said:

"Complementing the exhilarating, refined performance of Jaguar’s supercharged XKR sports models; the XKR with R Features enables car enthusiasts to indulge their driving passions to the full. This car is for the sports car driver who relishes a thrilling driving experience and a bolder visual statement. It combines an individual but discreet, sporting character with dynamic handling, without compromising Jaguar’s renowned ride comfort, luxury and refinement.

"The R performance features were first unveiled at the 1999 Frankfurt Motor Show and we are delighted to be one of the first countries outside the UK to market the XKR with R Features. We have taken the step of bringing all of the available options together to create a distinct high performance model," said Mr Rezek.

BBS Alloy Wheels

The Paris and Detroit wheels are named after the motor show venues at which the XK180 concept roadster was first displayed in 1998. Combining style and performance, they are exactly the same size as the wheels fitted on the XK180 - and the largest ever fitted to a production Jaguar, measuring 9 inches wide x 20 inches in diameter (front) and 10 x 20 inches (rear).

Both the Paris and Detroit wheels have five spokes and carry the Jaguar “growler” emblem in the centre. The overall appearance of each style, however, is quite unique. Detroit’s five wheel nuts are clearly visible around the growler emblem in the centre, whereas the larger centre hub of the Paris wheel conceals the nuts and displays a bigger, more prominent growler emblem. In addition, Detroit’s spokes have a smooth, chamfered finish, while the Paris wheel features highly defined, contoured lines.

Both wheels on the XKR with R Features have modular, two-piece construction similar to that used in racing, with die-cast, spun rims for greater strength. Their high-quality appearance is enhanced by the use of titanium fixing screws - one of the screws cleverly concealing the valve - and thanks to wide spacing between the spokes, each style is easy to clean. All wheels are fitted with super-low profile, high-performance Pirelli PZero tyres.

Brembo Brakes

The XKR with R Features offers supreme confidence in high-speed braking, thanks to an uprated braking system supplied by Brembo, one of the world’s leading manufacturer of high-performance brakes.

Available exclusively for use with the 20 inch wheels on the XKR with R Features, the Brembo braking system features four-piston aluminium calipers, front and rear. The two piece, 355 x 32 mm front discs and one-piece 330 x 28 mm rear discs are ventilated and cross-drilled for maximum performance.

As well as providing superior braking confidence and response, the discs and Jaguar-branded calipers are an impressive design feature, being clearly visible through the widely spaced spokes of the XKR with R Features alloy wheels.

Handling Pack

Designed specifically for the XKR with R Features coupe only, the handling pack comprises enhancements to Jaguar’s advanced Computer Active Technology Suspension (CATS). These enhancements include revised electronic control unit settings and revised damper settings for taut, dynamic handling as well as uprated springs and anti-roll bars for increased roll stiffness. The pack also includes a retuned variable ratio, speed-sensitive steering system, giving a very direct feel and pinpoint accuracy.

With the handling pack installed on the XKR with R Features coupe, the ride height is lowered by 15mm, further improving the car’s stability and poise.  The result is an involving, thrilling driving experience which will reward even the most dedicated enthusiast an provide an evocative reminder of Jaguar’s heritage of high performance.

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Edmunds Insideline (USA)

Vehicle tested: 2000 Jaguar XKR supercharged 2 door coupe

Why a supercharged engine?
The better to eat you with, my dear

By Brent Romans, senior automotive editor

At least Jaguar has some decent performance products right now. Since the death of the E-Type, Jaguar's vehicle lineup has had about as much sporting intention as a day-old Sourdough Jack with cheese. Things turned around in 1997 with the debut of the XJR high-performance sedan. For 2000, Jaguar showed off the exciting F-Type concept car, and finalized the XKR for American soil.

The premise of the XKR is very similar to that of the XJR. Take a stock XK8 Coupe or Convertible, supercharge the engine, tighten up the suspension, bolt on huge wheels and tires, tack on some tasteful trim, and let 'er rip.

The best part of this package is the DOHC, 32-valve 4.0-liter V8 engine. It is similar to the XK8's engine, but the XKR's features a huge Eaton M112 supercharger, twin air-to-liquid intercoolers, and minor structural changes. The XKR doesn't have variable camshaft timing like the XK8, but the results speak for themselves. The XKR bangs out a huge 370 horsepower at 6,150 rpm and 387 foot-pounds of torque at 3,600 rpm.

For comparison, the XK8's normally aspirated V8 generates a "wheezy" 290 horsepower at 6,100 rpm and 290 foot-pounds of torque at 4,250 rpm. Jaguar says at just 1,600 rpm, the XKR's supercharged engine generates more torque than the XK8's engine at its peak.

To cope with the extra power, Jaguar has fitted all XKRs with a Mercedes-Benz W5A580 automatic transmission. Linking the electronically controlled five-speed automatic to the rear wheels is a new two-piece steel driveshaft.

You like the sound of all this? Despite the luxury coupe beginnings, the Jag posts better stats than most sports cars. It produces 25 more horsepower than a Chevrolet Corvette and 129 foot-pounds more torque than a Porsche 911.

Need verification of these numbers? Try this (we did): At a stop, plant your left foot on the brake pedal. Tip in the throttle with your right to bring up the revs. Release the brakes as you mash down the throttle.

The rear tires momentary lose grip (no limited-slip rear differential, though), and then the Jaguar uncoils forward. The acceleration isn't violent, so to grasp what the XKR is capable of, you need to watch the speedo needle wind unerringly upwards. Expect a zero-to-60 time of 5.2 seconds.

If you don't use the brakes to bring up the revs, the XKR can feel a little flat from a stop. But once the tachometer clears 2,100 rpm, there is little that can touch this car. Of course, going fast on public roads quickly becomes rather silly and hazardous to your driver's license's health.

After all this fun, the engine's sound is a complete letdown. At cruise, the V8 is quiet enough. But whipping it hard nets little aural satisfaction. The V8 rumble you've come to expect from Mustangs and Corvettes (or even the standard XK8) is drowned out by the supercharger's belt-driven whine.

From the inside, it's all standard XK8, which means it shares the same strengths and weaknesses. The cabin is tight (or cozy, depending on your view), and the effect is amplified by the narrow views through the windshield and other windows. Entry and exit to the XKR are problematic, and the left-mounted emergency-brake handle is particularly offensive.

So is the small driver's foot well. The dead pedal is located so far forward that it is virtually useless. During our evaluation period with the XKR, one of our editors noted that the foot well confined his feet so much that he resorted to left-foot braking.

Despite the tight cockpit, there still seems to be adequate headroom and legroom for front passengers. The front seats themselves are comfortable, too, though they aren't designed to hold occupants tight during hard cornering. Like in the XK8, the rear seats are for small children only.

The luxury materials are impressive. In seemingly standard operating procedure for Jaguar, Connolly leather is used on the seats, center console, door panels and steering wheel. The leather is matched up with extensive use of burl walnut wood. Another nice touch is the interior chrome door handles that also have integrated power door locks.

Much of the plastic is disappointing, however. It reeks of Ford, and often looks like it was lifted from a Crown Victoria. The center console contains a block of black buttons that all look and feel alike. Making matters worse is the fact that the controls for the heated seats, rear defroster, traction control and fog lights are all lumped together with the climate and stereo controls.

At least nearly everything on the XKR is standard equipment. This includes items like rain-sensing wipers, traction control, automatic headlights, and a 320-watt premium audio system with a six-disc CD changer (otherwise optional on the XK8). Like the 2000 XK8, the XKR has depowered front airbags, seat-belt pretensioners, and an upgraded ABS system. Side and head airbags are not available, however.

The only option is Jaguar's new-for-2000 GPS navigation system. Jaguar should have worked on this feature a little longer. Like in the S-Type, the navigation system can only be operated when the transmission is placed in park. Obviously, this is a good safety feature. However, Jaguar didn't take into account that a passenger might want to operate the nav system while the vehicle is in transit.

Fiddling with the navigation system's buttons and menus isn't all that easy, either. The control joystick makes entering information tedious, and the 3x5-inch screen is small compared to other cars' navigation systems.

Too bad you can't drive the XKR while sitting on the roof or something. No question, the XKR is one of the most voluptuous vehicles sold today. Can we get away with saying the XKR combines the class of Sinatra with the sex appeal of Tyson Beckford and Catherine Zeta Jones? Sure we can.

Over the XK8, the XKR can be differentiated by twin hood louvers, 18-inch "Double Five" wheels, a subdued rear spoiler lip, a mesh grille, and special badging. The louvers, located midway between the nose and windshield, draw heat away from the engine and reduce aerodynamic lift at the front of the car.

Thanks to the 18-inch Pirelli P Zero tires (245/45ZR-18s in front, 255/45ZR-18s in back) and a stiffer suspension, the XKR offers prodigious grip. It also has Jaguar's Computer Active Technology Suspension (CATS) system. Standard on the XKR, CATS automatically adjusts suspension-damping stiffness according to driving style and road conditions.

On canyon roads, the XKR offers what you would expect from a luxury coupe that has been modified for performance. The steering is not as communicative or involving as a 911's, nor does the car beg you to explore the limits on every corner. The brake pedal doesn't inspire confidence, either, as it has a rather mushy feel to it. But thanks to the big tires and engine, the XKR can still put a stupid grin on your face.

On city streets, the Jag again walks the line between luxury and performance. The suspension doesn't beat you up like a true sports car, but it's no road marshmallow, either. The XKR is still allergic to speed bumps and potholes. Tire roar is very noticeable at elevated highway speeds, as is wind noise from the A-pillars.

At close to US$80,000, the XKR's closest competitors are the 911, the Mercedes-Benz SL500, and the upcoming Mercedes-Benz CLK55. We haven't driven the CLK55 yet, but we have no problem recommending the Jaguar.

The XKR's balancing act is its key trait. The monstrous engine power, sexy body and tight interior suggest performance, but the light steering feel, muted exhaust and standard automatic transmission convey luxury. Though it doesn't excel at either, it is quite good at both. Put up with the fussy interior, and you'll get a car with a level of class that the other cars can't match.

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MotorWeek Road Test (USA)

2000 Jaguar XKR

While Jaguar is best known these days for building elegant luxury cars, the company actually made its reputation on bare bones performance cars. And throughout the years, Jaguar has always turned to its performance roots when they want to remind us that they build more than just posh people movers. Well, the latest revival of their performance past is the XKR. But there is nothing scrawny about this new cat. Because this new XKR is loaded with features that fulfill the desires of every Jaguar admirer, with the emphasis clearly on power. More power in fact than previous street-legal Jaguar coupes.

Adapted from the impressive XJR sedan, the XKR's supercharged and intercooled AJ-V8 engine roars with 370 horsepower and a crushing 387 pound-feet of torque. And thanks to a high pressure Eaton M112 blower, all that torque is available at only 3,600 rpm. Which translates into a 0-to-60 time of only 5.4 seconds and a 1/4 mile blast of 13.6 seconds at 107 miles-per-hour. Bloody quick, old chap!

But this 4-wheel cruise missile is still a Jaguar, so even this ferocious acceleration is delivered with luxury car refinement. Much of that due to the superb, ultra-smooth, 5-speed automatic transmission, and all despite a muscular weight of 3,785 pounds. This cat is big, sleek and powerful!

And it looks the part, thanks to a series of subtle styling changes that allow both the XKR coupe and convertible to stand apart from the normally aspirated XK8s. Such as the R-exclusive badging, with its red background, the front grille opening is filled with vintage-look wire mesh, while the hood wears functional louvers that provide cooler intake air while venting heat from the busy engine bay.

Out back, the sleek, rounded XK tail wears a subtle rear deck spoiler Jaguar swears helps balance the car at high speeds, while the whole package rides on 18-inch alloy wheels, wearing super-low profile ZR-rated Pirelli P-Zero tires.

With its 101.9-inch wheelbase and 187.4-inch length, the XKR is a lot longer than pure sports cars like the Porsche 911. But Jaguar owners won't be afraid to challenge 911s in a handling match, thanks to those P-Zeros, an expertly tuned double-wishbone suspension, and computer controlled Bilstien shocks.

On our test track, our surprisingly nimble XKR delivered superb balance, massive amounts of grip, and with little of the body roll typical of luxurious Jaguars. But the variable-ratio rack and pinion steering is a little soft and light for sports car tastes, lessening the warning when the back end finally lets go. Though you have to push the XKR well beyond prudent, or legal, speeds to really get it that loose.

But once up to those speeds, the anti-lock equipped, ventilated 4-wheel disc brakes haul the hefty XKR down from 60 in an average of only 118 feet. Like the steering, brake pedal feel is very soft. Yet, despite a healthy amount of nose dive, the big cat remains very stable.

In real life urban traffic, the XKR's luxury side emerges into the sunshine. The straight-line ride is smooth and quiet, although a little firmer over sharp impacts than the XK8. Likewise, bumps and potholes in corners upset our coupe's suspension slightly, producing an odd lateral shake that is even more evident in the convertible.

On the open highway, however, the XKR is one of the best high-speed grand tourers that we've ever driven. The XKR is almost oblivious to how fast miles pass, with an effortless endurance that few other cars can match.

Few other cars can match its level of interior luxury and refinement either. As with all Jaguars, the XKR cockpit is absolutely dripping with fine grain wood and ultra-soft leather. The wide dash is dominated by large analog gauges, and the only option, a GPS navigation system, with DVD map data storage. Jaguar's navigation system gives clear directions and is easier to use than most competitors.

The powered adjustable front buckets lack the lateral support needed for aggressive driving, but are very comfortable for long trips. The standard automatic climate controls are easy to operate, as are those of the standard 320-watt Alpine stereo, with 6-disc CD changer.

The XKR coupe's rear seat room is 2+2 tight. Better it be used as a luggage shelf, which is what you'll find in this space on the convertible. After all, the trunk is small at 11.1 cubic-feet on the coupe, and only 9.5 cubic-feet on the soft top.

But then, you're not paying for space here. Rather, you're paying for exclusivity in the motoring class. And, you will pay. For the XKR, the price of admission begins at US$76,800. Choose the XKR convertible, and it's an even loftier US$81,800. The GPS navigation system, the only option, adds another US$2,400. Yes, it's a lot of money, but it's right in line with the more common Mercedes-Benz SL500.

While the XKR is neither bare bones or overstuffed, this brawny and voluptuous cat may be the quintessential Jaguar, capable of satisfying all desires of fans of every Jaguar era. A thoroughly modern feline that is most true to the Jaguar heritage of uncompromising luxury and performance.

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AutobuyGuide.com (USA)

2000 Jaguar XK series review

All this, and brains too

The Jaguar XKR is one of those rare grand touring cars with seemingly endless talents. It makes you a happy driver, it coddles you in comfort while egging you on to insane speeds, and it makes other drivers British racing green with envy.

Based on the lovely XK8, the XKR keeps a secret under its hood - a magnificent 370-horsepower V8, supercharged with a growl entirely appropriate to this brand. While the 290-horsepower XK8 is powerful and expensive enough at US$66,200, the US$81,800 XKR convertible makes a compelling argument for the best way to spend those future lottery winnings.

Walkaround

The foundation for the XKR is well known to enthusiasts by now. Its predecessor XK8 entered the sports car scene in 1997 with a riveting shape and a smooth, responsive 290-horsepower V8. The XKR doesn't vary widely from that formula, except in one striking way - it supplants the standard engine with a supercharged V8.

Jaguar plotted the XKR as a stealthy speeder, which explains the relatively minor cosmetic changes that distinguish it from the XK8. Those distinguishing details: The XKR grille is wire mesh and the crests of its fenders bear louvers. (The twin louvers are located in an aerodynamic low-pressure zone, creating an extractor effect that helps draw air through the radiator pack at an increased rate.) A brief spoiler crests atop the trunk's aft edge, XKR lettering adorns the trunk lid and doorsills, and the traditional Jaguar badges have red backgrounds.

Nothing detracts from the gorgeous shape, however. As time passes, we seem to grow even more fond of the XK silhouette, with its leonine lines and subtle body curvature. It's rolling art - a supermodel translated into sheet metal. There's a distinctly feminine air about the XKR, especially inside, where voluptuous curves dominate the outward view, unlike the Teutonic creases evident from behind the wheel of a Mercedes SL.

While the XKR grabs the headlines, the XK8 has been upgraded for 2000: The anti-lock braking system has been revised to the Electronic Stability Braking System and the front disc brake rotors have been enlarged. Also adding to safety are front seat belt pretensioners that are now electrically actuated. The standard audio system is upgraded to six speakers and a new 320-watt Alpine Premium Sound system is available as an option. New standard equipment includes new alloy wheels, traction control, rain-sensing windshield wipers, a trunk cargo net, de-powered front air bags, and, for the coupe, child seat tether anchors.

Interior Features

You'll never want for sybaritic accoutrements inside the XKR. Rich leather, dense and plush wool carpeting, and a swath of wood the size of a twin headboard transform the plainly shaped dash into an exquisite piece of retro architecture.

Of course, you can lodge minor complaints for the amount of space available, although the XKR's cabin is fairly roomy for six-foot driver. The convertible top presses down a bit closer than is ideal, and the seats aren't supportive enough to slouch into. The seats may in fact be this Jag's worst feature - narrow seatbacks with little side-to-side support that's essential in fast driving. The rear seats, called "+2s," shouldn't be counted on for carrying more than that many grocery bags or briefcases. Even children will be unhappy wedged in the back. But children's comfort is hardly the point, then, is it? Better to leave them at home.

Driving impressions

The XKR's newly invigorated engine is Jaguar's AJ V-8, a 4.0-liter engine that in naturally aspirated form makes 290 horsepower. With the addition of the supercharger, it surges to 370 horsepower. It's very similar to the supercharged powerplant in the XJR sedan, but to fit under the XKR's sloping hood, some minor modifications to the intercoolers and cooling system were made.

Jaguar says it chose supercharging over turbocharging for its immediate throttle response and superior torque at low revs. When prodded, the XKR responds with breathtaking acceleration. Yet it can crawl through miles of snarled traffic without raising a claw - or the temperature gauge. The supercharged V8 develops 387 foot-pounds of torque, fully available from just 3600 rpm, which provides the XKR with effortless response to throttle movement. At just 1600 rpm, the supercharged engine is already producing more torque than the XK8's naturally aspirated V8 generates at its peak.

Purists should no longer be shocked to learn that Jaguar uses a five-speed automatic transmission built by Mercedes-Benz. (Perhaps the car world would be a better place if we all just used GM or Benz automatics and Nissan and Honda manuals.)

What we all want from Jaguars are stunning looks and breathtaking speed. Fortunately, the XKR delivers those in abundance. It accelerates from 0 to 60 mph in about 5.2 seconds (a tick more for the slightly heavier convertible) and charges to an electronically limited top speed of 155 mph. It bears noting that Jaguar clocks the XKR as being faster than the Porsche 911 or Mercedes-Benz SL500.

XKR's suspension and tires put all of its power to the ground in a delightful manner. Its suspension consists of control arms and shocks in front and a hallmark quasi-independent rear suspension that uses the driveshafts along with control arms and coils as suspension components. In addition, the XKR features a Computer Active Technology Suspension (or CATS) that harnesses computer-processing power to change shock settings.

The blend of a comfortably firm ride and responsive handling is appealing. While road impacts can be felt slightly, the sum of its responses makes it a cozy vehicle for long highway jaunts and for assaulting your favorite sharp corners. Its variable-ratio power steering is exceptionally sharp without wander and abrupt kickback. Massive 18-inch Pirelli P Zero tires (245/45ZR18 in front, 255/45ZR18 in back) provide an amazing amount of grip that inspires driver confidence.

Dynamic differences between the coupe and convertible are minor. The coupe has a rocklike solidity that previous experiences in 1980s-vintage Jaguars made seemingly impossible.

The convertible shudders a bit over the largest road crevasses, but not improperly. The convertible's cloth-lined top seals well against wind noise. It's an attractive soft top, among the few convertible tops that fits that description.

Lineup

There are two versions of the XKR, coupe and convertible. The coupe is priced from $76,800, including a range of standard features you might never be able to live without. It's got acres of gorgeous wood trim, a CD changer, leather everything, power nearly everything, and a shape so handsome several passers-by in Southern California begged me to pause for just a little longer stare. The sole option is a DVD-based navigation system, with enough information to blanket the U.S. on a single disc.

Though considered separate models, Jaguar's XK8 is well worthy of consideration for anyone who doesn't feel the need for the XKR's power. XK8 Coupe retails for $66,200; XK8 Convertible lists for $71,200.

Final word

The XK8, for the lucky few who can afford it, makes a convincing case to be considered along the stalwart Porsche 911s and Mercedes-Benz SL. When it's supercharged, it's no longer a question. The only question is whether it's the best of the trio.

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thebiglot.com (USA)

2000 Jaguar XKR review

Jaguar inject heady power into new XKR coupe, convertible

Bob Plunkett

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. -- Meandering along Sunset Boulevard through Beverly Hills, swank California home to movie stars and media moguls, a sensuous new Jaguar XKR with the top dropped on a curvaceous body draws the eye even on a street clotted with exotic and expensive automobiles. It's so beautiful you can't help but notice. External visual clues distinguish the XKR from less potent XK8 coupe and convertible cousins -- a wire-mesh grille up front, functional louvers on the hood and a low spoiler rising from the curt decklid in back. Yet it's the latent power concealed beneath an exaggerated front hood which sets this racy variation apart in the XK series.

The XKR, it seems, carries a supercharger and twin intercoolers fitted to the dual-cam 4.0-liter V8 engine used in other XK and XJ Jaguars. This extra equipment, which forces more cool air into each cylinder to enrich the mix of fuel and oxygen required for combustion, generates more power with each cycle of ignition. Output leaps from 290 hp for the naturally aspirated V8 of XK8 to 370 hp with supercharging for XKR, and there's up to 387 lb-ft of torque available to spin those wheels. To handle all of this muscle, the enhanced AJ-V8 engine mates to a special heavy-duty five-speed automatic transmission out of Germany through Mercedes-Benz, and there are sporty shock settings in the suspension system, plus speed-rated tires mounted on enormous alloy wheels.

It's so fast (only 5.3 seconds from zero to 60 mph in time trials of the convertible) that the XKR easily becomes the fastest Jaguar in production, and such quick times suggest that this cat can outpace a Porsche. No one watching the car pass along Sunset Boulevard realizes its potential, however, because the XKR makes such a dazzling visual statement that time-trial speeds and engine numbers become mere secondary considerations. Recognition comes only from discreet exterior badging, with a red background applied to the hood growler and front-fender labels. The XKR letters in stylized type also decorate the trunk panel and door sills.

Styling for the sleek machine resurrects visual cues from Jaguar's 1960s two-seat icon, XK-E, due to the extended hood and an aerodynamically-efficient round prow. Hood of the XKR varies from the XK8 with the addition of those functional twin panels of louvers etched midway back between the front grille and windshield. This location is where a low-pressure zone occurs when the car moves forward due to aerodynamics of the hood design. Air, drawn through the front radiator and out the louvers, flows at a quicker clip thanks to the low pressure, resulting not only in improved engine cooling but also a decrease in aerodynamic lift in front at ultra speeds. Counterbalancing this aerodynamic action up front, the functional rear spoiler at the trailing edge of the trunk exerts a downward thrust of air current on the tail of the vehicle for further high-speed stability.

As a premium personal luxury car geared for high performance, the XKR design scheme tucks between the long prow and short tail a passenger compartment with only two doors and seats for four. Space inside is modest in the rear but up front on broad buckets clad in rich Connolly leather there's virtually every conceivable feature for luxurious comfort. Slabs of polished hardwood in burl walnut veneer trim dash and console, and a 320-watt premium audio system links to a six-disc CD changer. Front seats stand on either side of a central console which houses the transmission shift lever, rigged with Jaguar's J-pattern gate for automatic and manual shifts. Rack the lever back through reverse to drive mode for automatic control of the five forward gears, but hook a lateral left shift at the bottom of the gate for an up-shift to fourth gear. From this position at the bottom of the J-pattern, the lever moves forward manually to drop down one gear at a time to second gear, with the first gear reached automatically as needed. It's smooth in shifting, simple to use, and entirely forgiving -- shift down from fourth to second while carrying too much engine speed and the device delays the shift until the rpm rate decreases enough to warrant the change. Computer circuits in the transmission manage torque-converter lockup in all but first gear. The intelligent system can out-think a driver's accelerator action, minimizing shifts during aggressive moves and backing off on engine output during the actual shifting maneuvers.

Designs for the predecessor XK8 and subsequent XKR performance cars originated at Jaguar's headquarters in Coventry, England, where production occurs. Despite a British point of origin, the XKR carries components representing a multi-national coterie of suppliers. The V8 engine comes together at a factory in Wales owned by Ford Motor Company, which acquired Jaguar in 1989. Handiwork from enterprises in Germany show up with the five-speed automatic transmission, as well as the convertible's forged aluminum frame from Karmann coachworks, superior shocks by Bilstein, and the ZF rack and pinion steering system. From the United States, ITT Automotive produced the anti-lock brake system, while a lighting system stems from France, the air conditioner comes from Japan and Italy's Pirelli molded the P Zero tires.

An independent double wishbone suspension has an isolated aluminum front cross beam, with unequal-length control arms rigged for anti-dive effect under braking. In the rear, the independent wishbone system uses the driveshaft as upper links and develops an anti-lift effect when braking and anti-squat when accelerating. Jaguar's Computer Active Technology Suspension (the anagram spells CATS) delivers automatic two-stage shock damping with calibrations to maximize handling and control. Structural concepts for this suspension come directly from Jaguar's experience in constructing agile racing machines. Like racers, the XKR can cut a quick corner and hold a firm edge through tricky movements, yet still dampen harsh bumps and silence any pavement chatter. Speed-sensitive variable-assist power rack and pinion steering and four-wheel disc brakes with the computerized anti-lock controls enhance these maneuvers. Also, Jaguar's stability control system, which applies brake and throttle automatically to correct potentially dangerous yaw behavior, is in place.

The only option is a computer-based navigation system tied to GPS satellite tracking. Exotic pricing starts at US$77,395 for the XKR coupe and extends to US$84,795 for a convertible with navigation system.

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Caranddriver.com (USA)

Jaguar XKR road test
Supercharged eroticism

By John Perlery Huffman
January 2000

  • Highs: Awesome power, sweet handling, and true luxury in a supermodel body.
  • Lows: Big on the outside, little on the inside. Ugly brakes.
  • The Verdict: Six-figure glamour and power at a five-figure price.

Forget, for a moment, the 370-horsepower, 4.0-liter supercharged V-8 under its hood. Put aside thoughts of its Computer Active Technology Suspension or how quiet it is at cruise or whether the warranty stretches beyond the term of the second mortgage it'll take to buy it. Instead, just look at Jaguar's XKR. It's sex on wheels! A lot sexier than the naturally aspirated XK8 upon which it's based and not sexy in a vulgar, lecherous, strip-club-near-the-airport sort of way, either. But Elizabeth Hurley-wearing- Versace-at-the-Oscars sexy: provocative, confident, not at all trashy, with an upper-class British accent.

Still, all that sex appeal is just luscious icing on a fast, well-mannered, well-built cake. The XKR is the most desirable Jag two-door sold here in at least 25 years. And US$79,465 for the coupe (or US$84,715 for the convertible), although hardly cheap, represents some real value in comparison with other high-end performance cars such as the eerily similar Aston Martin DB7.

We tested the right-hand-drive, British-market XKR in July 1998, while Jaguar was completing the 100,000-mile emissions certification for the car now on sale here. Except for the mirror-image driving position, the Euro- and U.S.-spec cars are virtually mechanical twins (although the U.S. car weighs, according to the specifications, 19 more pounds). The XKR formula is a no-brainer. The supercharged drivetrain first seen in the '98 XJR sedan has simply been dropped into the sultry XK8 coupe and convertible shells. There's some tweaking to get the plumbing of the supercharger's twin air-to-liquid intercoolers under the hood, but the basic supercharged AJ V-8 is untouched. So are the Mercedes-built five-speed automatic and the 3.06:1-ratio final-drive gearset. About the only apparent difference between power production bits in the XJR and the XKR is the two-door's two-piece driveshaft. The exhaust system downstream of the ceramic catalyst is subdued XK8.

Despite the spectacular looks, it's the engine's magnificence that defines the XKR's character. As in every other factory-supercharged automotive powerplant sold here, the device doing the work is a belt-driven Eaton Roots-style blower. In the 370-hp, 4.0-liter DOHC AJ V-8's case, it's the same 112-cubic-inch Eaton that Ford uses on its other supercharged V-8, the 360-hp, 5.4-liter SOHC V-8 found in the SVT F-150 Lightning pickup. On the Lightning's long-stroke, two-valve engine (which redlines at a mere 5250 rpm), the M112 supercharger spins at 2.1-times engine speed and peaks at eight pounds of boost. Atop the relatively short-stroke four-valve AJ V-8 (which spins to 6200 rpm before a fuel cutout turns off the fun), the blower turns at 1.9-times engine speed and huffs out 11.6 pounds. The relatively low supercharger drive ratio, says Jaguar, "enhances the refinement and reliability of the supercharger installation." That, and the fact that the blower nestles under its intercoolers, also means it runs more quietly compared with the same unit's operation in the Lightning.

Whatever their differences, Ford's two M112 supercharged V-8s both yield majestic wells of low-end torque. At 1600 rpm, says Jaguar, the supercharged AJ V-8 is making more than the unblown version's peak 290 pound-feet of torque on its way to its own peak 387 pound-feet at 3600 rpm. Toe into the accelerator, and there's no telltale sensation that this engine is supercharged other than the massive thrust. It's not some old big-block muscle-car engine (it revs too eagerly and silently), it just pulls like one.

To keep up with the engine, every U.S.-bound XKR gets Jaguar's Computer Active Technology Suspension (CATS), which uses two-stage damping to improve adhesion while maintaining a cushy ride. Furthering the advantage is a move up from the XK8's 17-inch wheels to 18s encased in 245/45ZR-18 front and 255/ 45ZR-18 rear Pirelli P Zero tires. It's somewhat surprising that Jag didn't take the opportunity to upgrade the brakes from its XK8 specification. Not that the ABS-controlled platter-size discs aren't up to the job (in fact, they work quite well), only that, in a world of beautifully detailed Porsche rotors and calipers, the XKR's brakes seem drearily ordinary behind those huge wheels.

Jaguar XKR - Cheshire blower

Jaguar admits that the XKR's mesh front grille is for looks but swears there are practical reasons for both its hood louvers and small rear spoiler. The louvers don't vent much heat, but they do reduce front-end lift and help airflow through a tightly packed engine bay, while the dinky little spoiler "maintains the balance necessary for high-speed stability." Whatever. The changes are minimal, but the visual impact is electrifying.

Considering the big difference that little changes make to the XKR's exterior, we wonder why Jag didn't make some similar revisions indoors. Surely there are whole forests volunteering to become XK8 dash panels, and there's probably a special gate into Cow Heaven for those whose hides end up covering XK8 seats, but the XKR deserves some more aggressive decoration. How about wrapping the entire circumference of the steering wheel in grippy leather? Or slipping in a different finish for the veneers? Or more supportive seats? Anything to add visual wallop beyond the XK8's undeniable grandeur would be appreciated. An excellent GPS navigation system, which stores maps for the whole United States on a single DVD in the trunk, is available for $2520 to replace the three center gauges in 2000 XK8s and XKRs.

As elegant as the interior is, there's not a lot of room inside the XKR. The large center tunnel and wide sills leave the driver and shotgun passenger encased in narrow gullies, and the infinitesimal rear seat seems to be a perverse postmodern comment on the nature of seats--conceived without reference to any bourgeois notion of sitting. This space inefficiency makes the Porsche 911 seem almost cavernous and reminds us that the XK platform is descended from the ludicrously intimate XJS. However, two golf bags will fit in the trunk.

But who wants to play golf when this fast car is around to drive? The XKR coupe is seriously swift, bounding to 60 mph in 5.2 seconds and through the quarter-mile in 13.8 seconds at 105 mph. That's not as quick as the car we tested in England (it hit 60 in just 4.9 seconds), but it's as quick as the 0-to-60 performance Jaguar claims. It's also 0.4 second quicker to 60 than either the 213-pound-heavier XJR sedan, with which it shares its drivetrain, or the 622-pound-lighter 911 with Tiptronic S, which costs about the same. What's amazing is how even-tempered the acceleration is. The engine feels as if it were pulling exactly as hard at every rpm, and the transmission, whether in sport or normal mode, progresses through the gears in composed serenity. Even as the car approaches its electronically limited 156-mph top speed, it remains imperturbable.

With the CATS system doing the damping and the traction control on, the XKR's handling is as predictable as any episode of Walker, Texas Ranger. Short of trying to beat a commuter train across the tracks, it's tough to get into too much trouble. Turn the traction control off, and the slight initial understeer can be balanced with gentle throttle-induced oversteer. Using Jaguar's J-gate shifter to good effect, it's easy to keep the engine in whatever gear the driver's heart desires. However, that shifter has no mechanical connection to the transmission (it's actually just flipping a switch), and its feel is disconcertingly light. A car that can otherwise be driven with such precision deserves a more positively detented shifter.

It used to be that there was such a thing as an identifiable British (or Czech or whatever) character to a car. But from the bottom of its Italian tires through the whirring of its American supercharger and the silken shifts of its German transmission, the Ford-financed XKR indicates just how character today is more an act of corporate will than where a car happens to be assembled. The greatest achievement of this fast, beautifully built, transnational sex machine is how completely it's a Jaguar.

Jaguar XKR counterpoint

TONY SWAN
Michael Dale says the mission of this car, as of all Jaguars, is to make you feel elegant. I'm strongly inclined to pay attention to Dale's pronouncements on this topic, because not only is he the head of Jaguar Cars in North America, he's also just about the last upper-management figure who goes back to the heyday of Sir William Lyons, the company's founder. Still, I dunno. When you tramp on the gas and herd this thing to 120 mph in less than 20 seconds, you don't do it with one pinky delicately raised in the air. Does Conan stop being Conan just because you dress him up in black tie? Does feeling elegant include holding your breath?

STEVE SPENCE
I hate to rain on this remarkable car's parade, but I have a problem. Although I'm just a tad over six feet tell, I don't, as the English say, fit properly inside this sports car. It's the same problem I had with the Mitsubishi 3000GT: My scalp touches the headliner. Not a painful experience, but distracting, irritating. I have to recline the seatback, but then I'm driving in the lying-down position, not something you want to do at the wheel of this rocket. That's why you won't find a sunroof option--they can't spare the space up there. Jaguar should locate a sleek, high-tech seat cushion that sits at least an inch lower. I mean, seriously, aren't all rich people tall and slim like me?

DON SCHROEDER
I wish dapper, buttoned-up Jaguar had loosened its collar a little more with the XKR. I'm not suggesting flame decals, a hoop rear wing, or tacked-on side skirts, but I wouldn't have minded a more aggressive exhaust note, a louder supercharger whine, or even a redecorated interior for my additional 11 grand. Still, I revel in what this Jaguar does offer, from its exhilarating power and grip to its gorgeous styling, right down to those little hood vents that visibly radiate heat at stoplights. Such delightful elements are what distinguish the XKR from more mainstream transportation, and they're why special cars such as this one will end up at collector auctions 30 years from now.

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New Car Net (UK)

Road tests - Jaguar XKR Coupe

By Graham Whyte Feb 1999

I overheard a conversation in a charity shop the other day in which a pleated and blazered area manager was intimidating some volunteer Mother Theresa type with the imposing ritual of something called 'till training'. She made the device sound like a sort of desperate and self-willed locomotive rather than a calculator with a drawer. God knows what she would have made of the awesome Jaguar XKR, which delivers enough brake horsepower and low-down torque to tow the Flying Scotsman.

In fact its probably easier to drive the Beast of Browns Lane than it is to command a cash register, or at least to master the controls. More user-friendly than a toaster, the XKR requires only a moderately intelligent steering-wheel attendwrong. The two main components are engine intervention and brake intervention. The engine intervention bit has itself three possible ways of keeping you out of the scenery - throttle, ignition retard and cylinder cut-off. If a wheel starts to spin the ABS sensors send a quick e-mail to the computer which then calculates the amount of torque reduction needed to regain adhesion. This it does by switching off the drive-by-wire throttle, but since that takes a moment or two, it meanwhile retards the ignition and impedes the fuel supply thereby reducing torque to the target value. When the throttle reaches the required position the ignition and fuel supply are reinstated and normal service is resumed. I tried fooling the system on loose gravel but it would have none of it. But if you are a control freak it is possible to switch off ASC and play with the 387 lbs/ft of torque. But don't try this at home children.

The braking bit is more familiar as traction control in which the two rear brakes are applied independently - effectively creating a limited slip differential, albeit by an entirely different process. It prevents wheel slip under heavy acceleration when the road is wet or icy, particularly if dissimilar surfaces generate split friction. Normal diffs deliver all the power to the spinning wheel which means you get nowhere fast. TC works by applying braking effort to the spinning wheel which is like diverting torque to the wheel with grip. As with ASC, TC can be switched off when circumstances dictate - for example, if the car is being driven with snow chains fitted or is stuck in deep snow or sand.

The electrically-adjustable, wood and leather steering wheel that 'parks' when you remove the ignition key provides a handle on some serious gizmology. The whole idea is that it gets stiffer the faster you go (I'll do the jokes) under the watchful eye of an ECU linked to the speedometer. As well as making the steering increasingly 'heavy' it also increases the tactile feedback so that at higher speeds you feel as if you know where you're going. It pretends to switch off at full-ahead both, so that directional stability is maintained in cross winds. Something which Jaguar call 'returnability, by which I think they mean castor action, is improved by a reduction in steering column friction. Despite all the virtual qualities, the steering still strikes me as being unduly light and it is quite easy to turn in a tad to tight at moderate cornering speeds. Like everything, you get used to it but I could never quite overcome the feeling of remote control unless I loaded the suspension with some serious kinetics.

Mind you none of this would work properly if the thing ran about on remoulds, which is why the XKR boasts more designer rubber than Ms Whiplash. In fact, Pirelli engineers spent two years as fully paid up members of the XK8 development team perfecting the design of the P Zero System tyres to complement the CATS technology. The fronts are directional 245/45 ZR 18 tyres on 8 inch rims, and the rear are 255/45 Asimmetrico equivalents on 9 inch rims. Not surprisingly, there are ventilated discs all round with enough stopping power to empty eye sockets, although, judging by a brand-new S-registered XKR spotted in Reigate, the new high-friction front pads will appeal to owners who like nothing more than to spend Sunday mornings cleaning alloy wheels.

With enough computing power to run a pocket battleship, the XJR steering and suspension is clearly up to handling more than your average grunt. The normally aspirated 4.0-litre AJ-V8 engine fitted to the XK8 manages to summon up 290 bhp, but not content with such a modest figure the design gurus at Jaguar's engineering centre at Witley blew a large chunk of their budget on blowing in the wind, literally. The result was a 370 bhp supercharged engine which first saw the light of day in the XJR saloon, announced to a hitherto breathless audience back in 1994.

One of the problems facing 'blown' or supercharged engines is that the lower compression ratios normally associated with such technology generate poor fuel consumption so what you gain of the swings you loose every time you accelerate away from a roundabout. Jaguar engineers decided to try and rid the engine of squish, which some of you may know as a small cephalopod with fins, and others as the turbulence effect of a rising piston. In a squish-free zone higher compression ratios may be used with forced aspiration and the result is a very acceptable EU Combined figure of 23.1 mpg.

Jaguar decided to go for super- rather than turbo-charging as the former gives instant response at low engine speeds for much greater flexibility. Even modern turbo-powered engines exhibit slight lag as the vanes gain speed, but boost from the belt-driven Eaton supercharger on the Jaguar is all but seamless and comes into play at not much more than parking speeds. Listen carefully and you can just pick out the muted whine as it thrusts you through 60 mph in just 5.2 seconds en-route to a regulated 155 mph. But power without torque (a theoretical possibility) is about as much use as a rubber screwdriver. Air gets hot when you compress it and in the process loses some of its density which makes the engine less thermally efficient. To get round this the supercharged air is passed through twin liquid-cooled intercoolers (one for each cylinder bank in the 90 degree V8 configuration) en-route to the intake manifold. As the air cools it acquires a higher density which in turn boosts torque at low engine speeds. The result is remarkable pulling power when you are crawling about in the urban jungle; the torque of the town you might say.

Refinement is a word that pops up time and time again in Jaguar press releases - in one five-line paragraph alone it appeared four times - and that was just about the exhaust and prop shaft. And refinement is in many ways is Jaguar's trade mark. Not so much a boyz-own tool as an old-boyz own tool, or perhaps an extension of one. I have been checking up on XK drivers lately and apart from one who was obviously a footballer's girlfriend, or the partner of a chewing gum magnate, all were around 50 something and driving their XKs like a limo rather than an English Ferrari. And despite all Jaguar's rhetoric about intuitive driving, thrilling energy and sensational performance the interior is very clubbish - all tree wood and bleached cow skin. Even the 'Sport' trim is a darker version of the same thing. I actually found the stainless steel and alloy of the lowly Puma more engaging.

You have no choice but to accept an automatic box, Admittedly you encounter Jaguar's familiar J-box which offers a sort of semi-manual operation but not half as slickly as a Tiptronic box which must surely be the next 'refinement'. The J-box works like this: Gears two to four are on the left of the gate. When you've done with four flick the lever to the right (towards you) to engage fifth - in which plane you will also find neutral, reverse and park, in that order. The five-speed, wide-ratio smart 'box offers largely seamless changes whether you stir the stick or leave it to its own devices, and is yet another of the drive train components under the influence of some highly efficient chips.

The only time you can feel the cogs swapping is under extreme acceleration when the power of three or four normal engines overcomes the so-called Shift Energy Management system which is supposed to squeeze the torque output during changes. Old hands are known to do it with their right foot. If you are feeling in a devilish mood there is a little button marked 'S' for Satan which allows you to hang on to the revs for a more sporting pattern of gearchanges. Whichever mode you choose the woosh 'n' go engine just powers you away from standstill at rate of acceleration which would have impressed Einstein.

So you've spent the thick end of 59,000 on Mr Ford's flagship motor (plus several grand more on whatever extras gentlemen relish) and you want your neighbours to know you have aspired to the blown version. How can they tell the difference between yours and the normally aspirated XK8ant, the rest it does itself. Stability control, traction control, yaw control and active suspension combine to provide a handling and roadholding package that overcomes any absence of driver skill. Notwithstanding its prodigious performance, it would require excessive and deliberate brute force to occasion what racing drivers lightly term an 'off'. It has more stiction than a determined leech and is more forgiving than your mother.

This is the third XK-series car I have driven, the other two being XK8s, and the difference is quite marked. I recall that the XK8 was something of a 'floater' - a softish ride, with the handling and roadholding compromise biased towards pampering Californian beach babes who comprise a sizeable chunk of the XK8 market. In pleasant contrast, the XKR is blessed with uprated suspension which delivers a much firmer ride and the whole thing seems ready to race.

The crucial component of the handling equation is Jaguar's Computer Active Technology Suspension (CATS) which employs things called adaptive dampers that are computer controlled to react to the dynamic changes that occur as soon as the wheels start to roll. Vertical and lateral accelerometers provide inputs to the ECU which then determines the most favourable damper setting - soft or firm. Default is firm which changes imperceptibly to soft as soon as the car passes 5 mph in a straight line on a smooth road. Encounter a bump and in the blink of an atom, the setting changes to firm to dampen any body movement. Likewise under cornering and braking forces the system automatically chooses the firm setting thereby reducing roll and increasing stability. All the bits chunter away all day long, swapping notes with each other and, apart from the superior ride, you'd never know they were there.

The XJR saloon also has CATS but the XKR system is beefed up to reflect the more sporting nature of the car. The result is a firm, flat ride which is particlularly noticeable at high speeds. The mild but detectable stiffness at slower speeds reflects a reassuring promise that when the going gets tough, so will the suspension. But getting tough is not really what it's all about. There is no fighting the wheel, or hanging on for grim death. If you want to learn to drive an XKR quickly simply depress the throttle. The rest is a masterclass in technology harnessed to the pleasure of mankind.

If you want to know how else the XKR keeps you out of trouble you only have to ASC. Automatic Stability Control functions in a variety of ways depending on what's gone wrong?

How do you detect an XK8 from an XKR?  Not that easily, certainly not at first glance. You could direct attention to the wheels which are slightly different. Or to the red Jaguar badges, in place of blue. Or to the subliminal spoiler on the boot. But you would need to reverse into the drive to show off the most obvious attributes - bonnet louvres to admit huge lungfuls of air and a stainless steel mesh grille a la XJR saloon.

But there is much more to the ,350 premium above the XK8 price than meets the eye. Apart from the obvious - the Eaton supercharger - the XKR also boasts, as standard, the CATS system, sports leather pack, CD autochanger, cruise control, headlamp power-wash and a few more goodies all of which are 'extras' on the XK8. In all the XKR premium includes about 4,000 worth of additional equipment, If you prefer the option of open-air motoring expect to pay around 7,000 more for the convertible.

Having driven both I actually prefer the hard-top. I think it is more involving. Every nuance of the car's phenomenal power and performance is exaggerated by the feeling of proximity, of being in command of something that has been designed by engineers and not the marketing department. The soft top is great on a warm, sunny day but the rush of wind in your hair somehow detracts from the commitment demanded by such a car.

The very first Jaguar XK-series sports car was launched exactly 50 years ago - the XK120. Developing 160 bhp from a 3.5-litre in-line six, it would reach 120 mph at a time when most cars struggled to achieve half that speed. Technology has closed the gap somewhat and now there are plenty of quite ordinary cars that will certainly give the XK8 a decent run for its money and a number that can snap at the heels of the XKR. Yet very, very few can claim the sort of unremitting power and glory heritage that accompanies half a century of XK motoring. And since the ultimate and continuing dividend of the XK legend is Excitement!, I hope you will understand why I call it the XKlamation marque.
 

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