Looking at my bank statement, I knew that if I crashed this Jaguar, totaling the car would represent a greater financial loss than my death. This made me sad, but it helped me figure out what’s the point of this 510 horsepower drop top Jag.
I thought it was going to be the power. I was so sure that this car was going to be nothing but a five-liter supercharged V8 with a steering wheel attached to it. Actually, it’s not the power that first grabs you when you slip down into the XKR convertible.
What you have to acclimate to is just how much the car cocoons you. With the top up, you’re in a dark little cave of an interior, but that’s not really a bad thing. You see, the Jag is trimmed with so much leather that the fumes turn your brain off. Take one deep breath in an XKR and you start thinking that you’re some rich playboy or a big bonus exec.
For the more practically-minded out there, I should note that the visibility is so awful with the top up that your best hope for safely changing lanes in New Jersey traffic is the power of prayer. By contrast, you get beautiful 360-degree vision with the top up, only encouraging you to keep the canvas roof folded as often as possible.
The car itself feels great. It’s always comfortable and controlled and easy to drive even when I got lost in the narrow, broken-pavement streets that maze around Wall Street. The car handles highway-style commuting driving like a champ, too. The V8 has so much power that you just breathe on the pedal and you’re already up with the rest of traffic. Kick the transmission down a few gears and instead of a whoosh you get this kind of snarl and you find yourself firmly pushed back into your seat. The urge to slow down on the highway, then drop down to third and mash the pedal is irresistible. The noise is irresistible.
When it came to twisty roads, the Jaguar kept a smile absolutely plastered across my face at all times. That’s not to say it was perfect. First off, there was no handling. The kind of speeds the Jaguar needs to reach its limits of adhesion are so high that a sap like me used to pedaling around an ’89 Volvo was never going to get the car to really feel alive. Secondly, the steering wasn’t anything better than fine on the curving back roads of north Jersey. A ’91 Civic gives you more feedback through the wheel.
The comparison isn’t really fair – the intimacy of a featherweight hatchback is worlds apart from this leather-lined luxury tourer. The Civic, for one, does not make you feel like a Greek god, hurling down lightning bolts from a flying chariot. The XKR absolutely does.
That’s the real point of the XKR. The speed, the comfort, the noise, they’re all just components of a package designed to give you the feeling of victory, of entitlement, of worth. The problem with a car that makes you feel special, and this Jag makes you feel very special, is that people don’t really want to be that different. The parking lots of America’s country clubs remained lined with German and Japanese cars all painted in a dazzlingly wide variety of silver. It’s just a shame that the XKR’s blaring, beautiful engine note falls on deaf ears.