2006 Jaguar XKR Coupe: This cat roars with history

This slinky and smaller cat, the XKR, is the epitome of upscale motoring

By: Mike Blake
   Fifty-seven years ago, the Jaguar factory in Coventry, England, developed an extraordinary item the XK engine. Powering the legendary XK120 and C-type cars to victories in the 24-hour races at LeMans, the engine and the name "XK" became part of the public’s automotive consciousness for generations, making its biggest splash, perhaps, with the XKE in the 1960s.
   The engine remained in production, and its newest incarnation, the XKR coupe, pays great homage to the past while representing the big cat splendidly in the 21st century. From its mesh grille to its striking Jaguar Racing Green paint, to its 18-inch sport wheels and its leather throughout the cockpit, the 2006 Jaguar XKR coupe roars out legendary class, style, luxury and performance.
   With the grille, big cat emblem, dark green paint, rear spoiler and lithe stance, the XKR Coupe is an attention-getter. On looks alone, this is one classy and classic cat, but Jaguar is as much substance as style, and the XKR brings power to the fore with a supercharged 4.2-liter 32-valve V-8 engine that thunders out a throaty 400 hp.
   The plant is mated to a seamless six-speed automatic transmission. This powerful set-up got me from zero-to-60 mph in a hair under 6 seconds. Acceleration is exceptional at all speeds, reflecting a broad, torque curve.
   Rated at 17 mpg in the city and 24 mpg on the highway, I got about 19 mpg during my weeklong test throughout the Pennsylvania valleys, farm roads and thoroughfares.
   On the autocross, the car accelerated smoothly and briskly, and turned well, though it was a bit loose sliding around cones in hard, quick turns. Often during severe testing, we treat cars as if they were meant for the track.
   Perhaps the XKR coupe is not a track car, but it certainly does well in and out of traffic, across scenic countrysides, accelerating smoothly on highways and cruising confidently around town.
   As a means of comparison, I did find the car equal to most tasks that the average driver would put upon the vehicle, though it did not outperform a series of sporty cars I have taken on autocrosses this year. Even its sister, the XJ Super V-8, seemed to have better balance and tighter cornering on S-curves and hairpins.
   Standard equipment includes cross-drilled Brembo brakes for superior stopping ability, and its red calipers can be seen from the road, giving it a brash "NOW" statement. State-of-the-art power steering and re-tuned CATS damper settings add to the smooth Jaguar ride.
   This beauty comes with Bluetooth wireless technology, power folding side mirrors, headlamp power washers, heated front windscreen with automatic rain sensor, and heated and powered adjustable front seats with memory settings. The Jaguar navigational system is accurate and speedy, but its knob-tuning mechanism is not as quick and user-friendly for the driver as touch-screen technology is.
   Safety matters are attended to with front side airbags, anti-skid/traction control and ABS. On the road, the sport-tuned suspension and Dynamic Stability Control take the bumps out of the road and on the track; this cat roars at high speed while making the driver feel as if it is purring. At 90 mph, the XKR coupe feels to the driver is if it were traveling at 45.
   Inside, there is leather throughout, and the cushiony, heated, power seats growl out luxury. Leather Momo gearshift knob, soft-grain leather with contrast stitching, Alpine 320-watt six-CD audio system and performance steering wheel offer old-school Jaguar opulence, but I missed the rich Jaguar wood accents, as the company chose to go new-school with a carbon fiber veneer dash insert.
   The back seats are best left to children, as any tall adults in the front who move their seats back for comfort leave very little legroom in the compartment behind. The rear seats are comfortable, of course Jaguar wouldn’t have it any other way but getting in and out of them and stretching your knees a bit is very difficult for adults.
   Elsewhere, self-leveling xenon headlamps illuminate your drive, while reverse park control adds eyes to your parking situations. Back on the road, Jaguar’s Adaptive Cruise Control is designed to maintain a set following distance, adding a measure of safety and 21st century technology.
   The tires are run-flats that help produce a sweet ride, and to fill them with air (run-flat tires DO need air occasionally), a pin is sequestered in the glove box, attached to the wheel stem hidden by a notch-screw. The system then becomes ready for the compressor.
   Sticker priced at $90,695, my test vehicle certainly is aimed at affluent clientele. And after driving the superb 2005 Jaguar XJ Super V-8 luxury sedan earlier this year, priced at $93,000, I think the Super V-8 is an extraordinary deal on wheels.
   Still, this slinky and smaller cat, the XKR, is the epitome of upscale motoring: elegant, fast, fun and smooth, appealing to the upper echelons of society with all the history, style and substance that goes with the name Jaguar.
Visit www.carsatcarlisle.com for more on the automotive hobby. Mike Blake, former editor of KIT CAR magazine, joined Carlisle Events as senior automotive journalist in 2004. He’s been a "car guy" since the 1960s and has been writing professionally for about 30 years.