15 Feb 2014

Jaguar XKR Coupé review

Matt Hubbard reviews the 2013 Jaguar XKR Coupe

The Jaguar XKR was delivered by the Man From Jaguar.  It came to my house.  I dropped him at the station one mile away.  I drove home.  I already knew that I liked it.  I kept it for ten days and drove just over 600 miles.  Here's my review of the Jaguar XKR.

What's it like to drive?

The XKR is powered by Jaguar's superlative, supercharged 5-litre V8 and produces 503 bhp and 461 lb-ft of torque.  Power is delivered to the road through the back wheels and via a 6-speed automatic gearbox.

With the traction control on the XKR is a majestically fast and powerful car.  You feel the rear wheels chirrup a little and skip slightly until the electronics take over and tame the power.  From then on in it's a rush, all the way until such point as you stop/crash/get pulled over by the police.  As with any modern, 500 horsepower grand tourer you are so cosseted and insulated from the feeling of speed that inappropriate speed is all too easy to achieve.

Without the traction control the XKR is a murderously fast and powerful car, and only suitable for the track - where you have space to kick the tail end out.  In the rain, without TC engaged, it's like a labrador puppy on a newly polished floor - almost uncontrollable.

But reign in your enthusiasm, put the gearbox in Sport to keep the revs high and the gearchanges late, keep TC engaged and the XKR is a finely balanced driving machine and an engaging car to drive.

The gearbox works quickly and just as well in sport mode or using the paddles, which react almost instantly. For a flappy paddle auto-box I liked it a lot.

Does it go round corners OK?

Absolutely.  The XKR is an absorbing car to drive.  I drove a 1971 E-Type a month ago and remarked on that car's oily-smooth steering.  The XKR retains almost exactly the same feel.  Smooth, with as good a feel as you could expect from a 1700kg car.  It's not as razor sharp as a Porsche but it's easier to place and retain a line than a Mercedes.

The XKR might be a GT but it can hustle too.  It's 1892mm wide so easily fits down country lanes without having to stop every time another vehicle approaches.  Potholes and bumps are nicely absorbed.  The chassis is unconcerned by 'enthusiastic' driving and only gets in a flap when tanking along at high speed and making quick direction changes.  Exit a fast corner at speed, floor the throttle, feel the front wheels momentarily lose grip, feel the rear end squat and the wheels slide sideways until the TC takes over then drive straight home for a change of underpants.

The suspension is a good balance between comfort and handling, erring slightly on the side of comfort. It's a trade-off thats works well.

What's the interior like?

Almost faultless.  My test car was clad in dark leather with a nice chunky steering wheel, aluminium strips where wood would otherwise be placed - it alls looks and feels great.  The drivers seat took ages for me to get just right but once I had I left it alone and was pretty happy.  The only let-downs are the plastic gearchange paddles and an area of cheap plastic at the end of the dash, which is hidden when the door is closed.  The paddles feel a bit cheap for an £80k car and are metal in the F-Type so Jaguar were obviously aware of this and felt the need to upgrade the material.

Will my kids fit in the back seat?

No.  They're tiny, smaller than in a 911.  Your kids would need 1 inch diameter legs and stumps for feet.  The back seat is only any good for shopping bags.

Can I put much stuff the boot?

Yes, loads.  The boot is huge.  Enough for suitcases, shopping, bodies, a pair of St Bernards, probably a trestle table and most certainly a Brompton bicycle. (Note that I refuse to mention golf clubs (Doh!))

What's the stereo and entertainment system like?

The info screen is really easy to use.  The stereo is great.  The sound quality is not quite as good as it could be.  It has a DAB radio which is reason enough to buy it.  It never once lost the DAB signal.  It connected to my iPhone easily.  I couldn't fault this side of the Jag aside from a tiny feeling that the sound clarity and bass levels could have been improved.

Will it impress the neighbours?

Yes, but stealthily.  It's not an outright WOW car.  Its attraction is subtle.  The design is not overtly flamboyant and it doesn't ooze money.  But it does ooze class.  The XKR creeps up on you, you appreciate it more each time you see it, drive it.  Its shape has no jarring edges, no flaws, no awkward angles.  It should stand the test of time and still look fantastic in 50 years, as the E-Type does today.

That colour's lovely.  What's it called?

Its called Kyanite Blue, it looks fantastic in any light, photographs well - and is now discontinued on the XKR.  Jaguar, you have to reintroduce it.  The XKR deserves a strong colour.  It doesn't look so good in silver or white.  The screenshot below is from the XKR configurator.  Where's the blue?  It looks good in blue.  The only colour on offer that I like is Carnelian Red Metallic.

What's its miles to gallon and all that kind of stuff?

Pretty awful, but then again what do you expect?  Official figures are 23mpg, 292 g/Km of CO2, tax band M.  I rarely saw more than 17mpg but then again I was testing it rather than just cruising in it.  On the motorway you might get 25mpg if you drive conservatively.  On a decent B-road you won't see more than 15mpg.  It's horses for courses.  If you want economy buy a VW Golf.

What's its competition?

Maserati GranTurismo, BMW M6, Aston Martin DB9, Mercedes Benz SL 63 AMG or CLS 63 AMG, Porsche 911 Carrera S.    The XKR is cheaper than any of these, and no less inferior.  In fact it's quite a bargain.

With the F-Type now in dealers surely the XK is going to die?

It certainly is going to be wound down.  The F-Type and XK share a factory which can produce 435 cars a week.  Jaguar plans to build 65 XKs and 370 F-Types each week.  An industry source in the UK tells me the F-Type has garnered massive interest but more orders are being taken for the XK.  The F-Type's target market is the US and I don't have any info on that market.  We'll find out in a year how well each is doing but don't expect to see the XK dying anytime soon.  It doesn't deserve to.  It's a thoroughly decent car with huge character and a lot going for it.

Would you buy one?

Yes.  Although I would be tempted by a 911 Carrera S for 3 grand more than the XKR if I could live without the XKR's gargantuan boot and gargantuan power.

What are the stats?

Power - 503bhp
Torque - 461 lb-ft
0-60mph - 4.6 seconds
Top speed - 155 mph (limited)
Economy - 23mpg
CO2 - 292 g/km
Price - £78,965