Road trip! The familiar cry may bring smiles to the faces of car enthusiasts everywhere, but when you have the privilege of climbing into a brand-new, right-off-the-dock Jaguar XKR, you must be careful that the gleam in your eye doesn't blind those around you.
The new XK series is not only the closest Jaguar has ever come to re-creating the magic of the old XKE—the car that nearly every Baby Boom-generation male lusted after—but it contains the best Jaguars built in decades.
For all the beauty of the regular 2007 XK, the XKR version elevates the car into a stratospheric level of white-knuckled, raw-power, supercharged thrills that usually you only find in cars such as the BMW M Series, the AMGs from Mercedes, the Z-series Corvettes and the super-exotics like Ferrari, Lamborghini and Aston Martin. The XKR accelerates from 0 to 60 in under five seconds and hits 90 miles an hour at 2,400 rpm in sixth gear, which poses a problem as you don't even know that you're moving along at driver's-license-suspension rates.
The particulars should excite any driver. The drivetrain starts with a supercharged 420-horsepower, 4.2-liter V8. The six-speed transmission operates with paddle shifters on the steering wheel, allowing quick shifting and plenty of control over the engine. The car sports 19-inch alloy wheels, and all sorts of suspension and handling devices that provide that inexplicable feeling of being glued to the road surface during hard cornering. In another high-tech evolution, the automatic's downshift with the paddles creates the same little engine growl you get from a regular old clutch.
While the Jag is touted as a two-plus-two, there's virtually no back seat space, except maybe for an infant in a car seat, and even then, you'd better push the front seats up a bit. But the other amenities are nearly perfect. The bucket seats have additional lateral supports, and in a long drive up the New Jersey Turnpike brought no sense of fatigue. The onboard computer, which controls navigation, the radio and the basic interior climate, is reasonably intuitive, and by the end of four days, I'd stopped fumbling around for the right button.
The keyless starter is easy to adapt to, and you get used to carrying the key fob around and then either keeping it in your pocket or just dropping it onto the console when you get in the car.
At no point do you lose track of the reality that the XKR is a performance car. Anyone who drove the XK series over the last 20 years remembers that it became more of a touring sports car, something that rode smoothly, but never screamed out to be driven hard into the next corner, to challenge that Ferrari next to you. But the XKR is a real driver's automobile. With its mesh grill and a slightly lower profile than the regular XK, the car draws the requisite oohs and aahs when you pull up to stoplights, and it brings out the boy in every driver you pull (or roar) past on the highway. At $86,500 for the coupe and $92,500 for the convertible, the car offers an unbeatable sports car experience for the price.