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2010 Jaguar XKR Convertible: More power for this bipolar cat

Posted by Clifford Atiyeh  June 19, 2009 10:52 AM

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Fans of fast cars, muscle cars, exotic cars, and inexpensive-but-exciting cars, don't get too worried that "the new CAFE laws are killing all the fun cars," as one reader wrote yesterday on this blog. When there's government, there are loopholes and exceptions, and where there are loopholes and exceptions — alongside the battle cry of millions of enthusiasts — there will be cars like the 2010 Jaguar XKR Convertible.

Mysterious forces brought this supercharged, 510 horsepower aluminum hot-rod to our parking lot this week, the latest update to Jaguar's brilliant XK range. As if 420 horsepower wasn't enough on last year's XKR, Jaguar bored the 4.2 liter V-8 to a full 5.0 liters, which more than makes up for the muted exhaust tone in the "standard" 2009 XK Coupe we had in March.

Around town, the XKR acts just as gentlemanly as the XK, but full throttle brings forth a brutal, deafening roar with a sprinkling of backfire pops when flicking the downshift paddle. It's everything that was missing from the normally-aspirated V-8, and is probably the best example of bipolarity there is in the automotive world. The XKR tricks passersby into believing it's a polite and quiet luxury car, and then it just rips a nasty one, with all the subtlety of a NASCAR stocker.

The 6-speed automatic is nearly perfect, silky smooth at cruising speeds and smart enough, when sport is engaged, to hold gears all the way to redline. Even downshifting (needlessly) into first doesn't jolt your head that much. Compared to the XK, the steering rack is quicker, the brakes bite faster, and the ride is stiffer but never jarring.

Minor exterior upgrades include LED tail lamps and side markers, new wheel styles (including optional $5,000 20-inch rims on our car), and revised hood air intakes and fascia cutouts. Inside, all 2010 XKs get the rising rotary gear selector that debuted in the XF sedan, and the R adds optional cooled seats. A performance mode that stiffens the active dampers and a winter mode that leaves the transmission in second gear and dials back throttle response (it's rubbish on a fat-tired, rear-drive car) are standard. For track usage, the XKR also boasts an electronic limited-slip differential that prevents one-wheel burnouts during hard cornering.

Aluminum and some sort of glossy black material replace the wood, and the windshield frame is wrapped in a velvety fiber. Aside from the "R" designation on the headrests, steering wheel, and the word "supercharged" on the speedometer, the interior and its stitched leather dash are identical to the XK, which is more than acceptable.

With the front seat pushed back, our six-foot-one tester's knees would certainly be crushed.

Jaguar has kept the running joke of having inhospitable backseats. They are, however, trimmed in the same ultra-soft leather as in front, and on either side are speakers from the Bowers & Wilkins sound system.

Jaguar, like Bentley and Aston Martin, chose to keep the traditional cloth top rather than switch to the retractable hardtop fad, and while the convertible can't match the coupe's graceful curves, it's still very sexy. Opening or closing takes about 20 seconds, and trunk space is limited to a carry-on suitcase when the roof's down. It's raining as I write this (apologies for the lack of proper photos), and had it been sunny all week I probably never would have driven with the roof raised. That said, everything seals tightly and road noise is well-isolated.

At $107,000, the XKR Convertible is downright affordable next to a Bentley Continental GTC or the Aston Martin V8 Vantage Roadster. And with a 17-mile-per-gallon combined EPA rating, there's no gas guzzler tax. Let open-air freedom ring.

This blog is not written or edited by or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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6 comments so far...
  1. Yes, I had the opportunity to ride in this beauty as well as the hardtop XK and it was pure delight. I think the hardtop can't be beat for its looks though. The XKR really looks kind of plain with the top up and even with top down, it gets close but doesn't quite match it for looks.

    So as a mechanical engineer, I can clearly state that the mechanism for dropping the top is a thing of beauty. You've seen them work before - hatches open, frames pivot, seams unlatch, more pivoting, unlatching, rotating, motors whining.....yes, 20 seconds worth of this. Impressive - you bet, but I have to believe all of this adds up to at least $10K, perhaps $15K. And how about the development cost for all of this. I have to believe they're charging you for that as well.

    So here's a thought - forget the fancy mechanism and all the associated parts. In fact, pull the entire roof right off and sell a topless version for $75-$80K. OK, a little extreme, but you get the message.

    Posted by Z3 June 23, 09 01:10 PM
  1. and just drive the soft top z3 in the rain phil?

    Posted by lewl June 27, 09 09:51 AM
  1. It's a fair weather car - I don't need the roof. In fact, I put it up and down so many times over years of driving that I broke some of the springs in the roof mechanism. I just leave it down nown now with the cover in place and I would do the same if I had that XKR.

    Posted by Z3 June 29, 09 08:05 AM
  1. one wants an entirely topless car with no roof option at all.

    Posted by FJ June 29, 09 03:33 PM
  1. Nonsense, perhaps...but so is a $25K roof.

    Posted by Z3 July 1, 09 04:56 PM
  1. A lot of folks don't know what a real 'Drop Top' is. I don't want a metal top that folds. Thats the purpose of a convertible. If you want folded metal, roll up a beer can!

    Posted by Stosh July 13, 09 08:44 PM

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Clifford Atiyeh is an automotive writer and car enthusiast . He has spent his entire life driving cars he doesn't own.
In the garage: 1995 21-speed Iron Horse, 2002 Jeep Wrangler X (by association)
Bill Griffith is a veteran Boston Globe reporter, having reviewed cars for more than 10 years and serving as assistant sports editor for 25 years. He was also the paper's sports media columnist.
In the garage: 2006 Subaru Baja
AAA's Car Doctor, John Paul John Paul is public affairs manager for AAA Southern New England, a certified mechanic, and a Globe columnist. He hosts a weekly radio show on WROL.
In the garage: Hyundai Sante Fe, Chrysler PT Cruiser convertible
Craig Fitzgerald has been writing about cars, motorcycles, and the automotive industry since 1999. He is the former editor of Hemmings Sports & Exotic Car.
In the garage: 1968 Buick Riviera, 1996 Buick Roadmaster, 1974 Honda CB450
Keith Griffin is president of the New England Motor Press Association and edits the used car section on He also writes for the Hartford Business Journal and various weekly newspapers in Connecticut.
In the garage: Mazda 5, Dodge Neon
George Kennedy is a senior writer for WheelsTV in Acton, which produces video reviews for Yahoo, MSN, and other auto websites.
In the garage: Lifted 1999 Jeep Cherokee
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