When we reviewed the 2008 XKR we took issue with its handling, interior and gearbox. The 2010 Jaguar XKR Convertible adds little more than a new, 510 HP engine, but that's our kind of a band-aid.
Despite its horrendous brake overheating issues, Jaguar is a brand that we desperately want to love. It's got the history, it's got the personality and it's getting better and better products. Sadly, those products still lack the completeness of those from better funded rivals like BMW and Mercedes. Maybe it's our fault for going into each new Jaguar hoping to find a car that's genuinely competitive, but whatever the reason, we walk away from each successive product underwhelmed. That's exactly the word we used to describe the 2008 Jaguar XKR after finding that it didn't handle with even an ounce of precision, had an automatic gearbox that refused to do what it was told and an interior that was partially amazing hand-stitched leather and partially parts sourced from a 1990s Ford Fiesta. It was fast though, the 420 HP supercharged 4.2-liter V8 was enough to spin the rear wheels up virtually everywhere.
So what's new for 2010? A sharper looking front bumper, LED taillights, different lower valance on the rear, body-color side vents, nicer leather door trim, a new steering wheel with a leather bottom spoke, the rotary drive selector from the XF operating a six-speed ZF automatic gearbox, an active limited-slip differential and continuously variable electronic shocks. So not a huge change except for the last and most important thing, the 510 HP, 461 Lb-Ft, 5.0-liter supercharged V8.
Did Jaguar just put a bigger engine in a car that didn't need more power to make up for all its other flaws? Yes. Yes it did.
Exterior Design: ☆☆☆
It's not like the 2010 XKR isn't a handsome car, it is, but the changes amount to very little and don't alter the boring headlights, the awkward front bumper (thank you pedestrian crash test regulations) with its distinct horizontal hood shut line or the impractical proportions. The XKR is a huge car outside, yet tiny on the inside.
The low roof-line means the top of my head sticks out over the top of the windscreen, making me look like a circus clown and forcing me to hunch down to see forwards. Dropping the top cures the horrendous rear 3/4 blindspots, but its inevitably going to rain sometime and when it does, if you don't want to get wet, that means you're not going to be able to change lanes confident in the knowledge that a car is 100% not next to you.
Interior Design: ☆☆
Despite the lack of vision while up, the XKR Convertible has convinced us that fabric convertible roofs are far superior to folding hard tops. It takes up only a tiny space in the trunk and is dead quiet while shut. It's even lined in nice material, creating the illusion that it's a real roof over your head.
Other than the rotary gear selector, which we're learning to like if only for its novelty (it brings no functional benefit over a standard selector, but does clean up the center console), the interior appears virtually unaltered over the old car. I guess there is the single leather-wrapped steering wheel spoke, but that leaves two nasty painted plastic spokes which just happen to be the ones you'll actually be touching.
Forgive me for going on a little bit of a rant here. Silver-painted plastic is possibly the worst material a luxury car maker could be using in a material right now, it's evocative of cheap, shitty phones and happy snap digicams from 1998. Consumer electronics have moved on to glass, metal and piano black, why can't cars? You'll find that horrible material not only on the steering wheel, but also on the door-mounted seat controls and on the controls for the sat/nav stereo and HVAC. Those are all parts you'll be looking at and touching regularly.
Elsewhere in the interior, things are much, much, much better with classy piano black taking a cue from iPhones and looking super nice. The contrast stitched leather used on the dash and seats is dreamy. It's also used on the rear seats, which appear to be there for no reason other than to hold shopping bags. There's probably better shopping bag storage solutions than pretend seats complete with seatbelts, but Jaguar must be hoping to really cash in on that doll collectors market.
Giving the XKR four stars is hard for me. It has probably the ultimate fast luxury car engine, but makes using it frustrating with an awkward gearbox. Developing its maximum torque of 461 Lb-Ft at just 2,500 RPM, you can safely apply every cliched auto journalist hyperbolic metaphor to its performance. It accelerates to 60 in a stump pulling 4.0 seconds. It rockets towards the horizon like a Saturn V. It does all that while delivering smoothness, refinement and a uniquely crisp exhaust note all Jaguar's own. We haven't driven this motor alongside the stronger LSA in the CTS-V, but we think we'd take the Jaguar's simply for its smoothness. The transition from cruising to light speed takes only a wiggle of your big toe, while plaid is delivered any time you plant your foot. It's a Druish miracle that I'm not writing this from a jail cell after playing with the car all over Brooklyn.
BMW take note, this Jaguar V8 makes all your torque-free M-car engines look limp wristed in comparison.
Thanks to that active differential, the XKR's ability to put its power down without wheelspin is now drastically improved, but unfortunately for your tire budget, Jaguar upped the power so much that it overcomes that newfound traction. That's part of the reason it can be so frustrating to try and tap into the performance, but the other is the gearbox.
Try to take off from a stoplight quickly in manual mode and you'll hook up pretty well in first, but when you grab second with the cheap plastic paddle, there's a good two-second delay between selection and engagement, spoiling what little fun you can have at low speeds. Much less powerful cars will easily beat you when the road slims down to one lane on the other side of an intersection. That shouldn't happen in a 510 HP 2+2. Things are much more predictable in automatic mode. The previous car's tendency to shift down two gears at unpredictable points in the throttle travel has been cured, probably by the plethora of torque making downshifts unnecessary, but when it does shift it's intrusively clunky. In Sport or Manual, it's difficult to come to a smooth halt with the shift into first coming with a pronounced jerk.
Combining a powerful engine with an auto transmission isn't necessarily a recipe for performance disaster, as proved by another small, troubled car manufacturer with the 2009 Maserati Quattroporte Sport GT S.
The brakes are powerful, easily modulated and, surprisingly, I couldn't convince them to fade.
The constantly variable dampers can be firmed up by selecting Competitive Mode, but they're always on the firm side of comfortable when you're cruising and on the soft side of taught when you're hauling ass. Luckily, they're bolted to a very strong aluminum frame so there's no scuttle shake even while tackling the East Coast's most challenging off-road course, the BQE.
Toys and Tech: ☆☆
Other than the rotary gear knob, there's nothing new to play with in the Jaguar's interior. We should probably count the 525-watt Bowers & Wilkins stereo as a toy, but you'll have to use it through Jag's horribly obtuse touch-screen interface and won't be able to hear it with the top down and the engine working and your head sticking out over the top of the windscreen anyways.
The $102,000 XKR is cheaper than a $107,900 BMW M6 or a $135,000 Mercedes SL63, but cheaper cars do a better job of both performance and luxury, most notably the $88,800 Porsche 911 Convertible.
Does the new engine transform the XKR into an entirely different car? Surprisingly yes it does. But, it's an entirely different car with the same old problems. Very fast, pretty nice looking, fundamentally flawed. Thanks to the amazing new engine we're no longer underwhelmed with Jag's flagship, we're just frustrated that its still not able to live up to its now greater potential.
Suitability Parameters: Who Should Buy This?
● Very Serious Businessmen
● Girlfriends of Sheiklets
● Jews who won't buy German
● Men who want handjobs
Suitability Parameters: Who Shouldn't Buy This?
● Penny Pinchers
● Speed Merchants
● Men with bald spots
● BMW M6 Convertible: torque-free engine, better handling, real back seats
● Mercedes SL63 AMG: just as fast, more fun to drive, bad image
● Porsche 911 Convertible: slower, yet way more fun
● Audi R8 Convertible: gorgeous, fast, fun, capable
Model Year: 2010
Model: XKR Convertible
Trim: base w/20" wheels
Price, Base/As-Tested: $102,000 / $108,000
Engine: Supercharged, 32-valve, 5,000cc V8
Horsepower & Torque: 510 HP @ 6,00 RPM, 461 Lb-Ft @ 2,500 RPM
Transmission: 6-speed slushbox
Curb Weight: 4,079 Lbs
0-to-60: 4.0 secs (estimated)
Top Speed: 155 MPH (limited)
Crash Testing, Front/Rear/Side: not tested
Fuel Economy, EPA: 15 MPG City / 22 MPG Hwy