$272,000 buys you a lot of car, but nothing for that money comes close to the thrill of driving a Jaguar XKR Special Edition.
The Jaguar XKR special edition is about as subtle as a rampaging hippopotamus. It’s the ultimate definition of what it is to be cool. It’s fast, loud, luxurious, and demands everyone’s attention at all times.
Upon my arrival at Jaguar’s Brisbane dealer in Fortitude Valley, the only words of advice offered by the manager as he handed over the keys to the XKR were “be careful in the wet”. Wisdom earned by experience, no doubt.
No more than 50 metres out of the dealer and the Jaguar drew attention from a rather attractive passerby. “Nice ride!” Well thanks, I thought, feeling like I had earned that compliment wholeheartedly.
This wasn’t a one-off event either, as the string of compliments continued for the entire seven-day road test with the XKR. It actually becomes a bit of an issue as you feel like it’s you that’s getting the compliments. “Well thank you, I know, I am rather fantastic”, was a thought that I had to put out of my head every time someone gave the thumbs up or a wink.
It’s fair to say the Jaguar XKR is an extremely attractive car, regardless of how you look at it. From the outside the XKR’s bodyshape is uplifted with gloss black 20-inch Kalimnos alloy wheels that are stopped by giant red brake calipers. A gloss finish to the front air grilles and side power vents makes sure you know this is not just a regular XKR.
On top of that, a larger rear spoiler, front chin spoiler, plus body-coloured side sills and rear diffuser finish off the exterior. If you missed all of that, the 'XKR' body side graphic running along the lower sills will, at the very least, let the world know this car is special.
Around the peaceful streets of Brisbane, the Jaguar XKR is a disturbance in the force. Even if you were blind to its looks, you couldn’t miss the 5.0-litre supercharged V8’s soundtrack as it screams from one gear to the next.
With 375kW and 625Nm of torque mated to a six-speed automatic transmission, the XKR is by no means slow. Jaguar says it catapults from 0-100km/h in just 4.8 seconds, but regardless of how many times this was tried (and believe me, it was a fair few times), I could never get it to be this slow. It measures around the 4.6 second mark and felt like a four second car. If you have a few get out of jail free cards, you can always try to hit its top speed of 280km/h.
There are cars quicker than this for the money, but really, you’re missing the point if that’s the first thought that came to mind. Even so, get behind the wheel, flatten the accelerator and you’ll realise it’s maddeningly quick. By week's end there were fingernail scratch marks on the passenger side of the roof where the “holy-s#$t-bars” would usually be, as unsuspecting passengers would desperately try to find something to hold on to as I flattened the accelerator.
The Jaguar XKR may look big, but behind the wheel it behaves like a small sports coupe (albeit with extreme amounts of power). It’s agile and very well balanced for its size.
A quick trip up Mount Glorious in the XKR proved its sporting credentials beyond a shadow of a doubt. The suspension setup is hard and stiff but not to the point where you’d feel uncomfortable. It’s the sort of car you can take to a racetrack, have a few laps, then go do your weekly shopping in (although you may need to refuel before that). You’d also have no hesitations in doing long distance trips in this beast.
Engage Dynamic mode as well as the 'track' setting and you’ll quickly be testing your driving skills. The XKR has so much power that at times it tends to struggle to put it all down. In the wet it’s like having your own superman ride, except you don’t know if it will stop. Even in perfectly dry conditions with all the nanny controls turned off, accelerating out of corners becomes a tantalising experience as you find the perfect balance between full traction and a slide.
The steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters are perfect for those quick downshifts as you approach a corner, but even so, in full Dynamic mode and with the car in control of the transmission, gearshifts are perfectly timed.
This is not a Jaguar for everyone. It demands a great deal of driver involvement if you want to extract the most out of it. It’s the sort of car you go to sleep at night thinking about. You look forward to driving it as brings an entirely new level of enjoyment to an often mundane piece of road. It’s not overwhelmed with technological gizmos like some of its similarly priced German rivals. It’s a hardcore sports coupe for the buyer that wants a ride with character, soul and timeless beauty.
There is one problem, however, and the definition of it being a problem is totally subjective. When it comes to having a drinking issue, the Jaguar XKR is the Lindsay Loahan of cars (too soon for Amy Winehouse references). Officially it uses 12.3L/100km, but if you have even the faintest heartbeat, and you must if you buy this car, expect your right foot to raise that fuel figure to about the 16L/100km mark. So you’ll get used to seeing this show up very frequently.
To be perfectly frank, it’s not a point of concern for this car. If you care about fuel economy, have a look at a Jaguar XF diesel, which makes more sense than a Toyota Prius. The XKR is one of the last remaining proper performance cars that delivers sheer performance without the slightest care for Bob Brown’s green policies. Given how much luxury car tax you’re forced to pay to the federal government for a car in its price range, the Jaguar XKR deserves all the fuel it can drink.
While you’re admiring your fuel being put to good use, the Jaguar XKR’s interior does a fantastic job of delivering ultimate luxury. In many ways, it’s more comfortable and luxurious to sit inside than the traditional ‘supercar’ brands.
The special edition gains warm charcoal softgrain leather interior trim with cranberry-coloured stitching. Add piano black veneers on the dashboard, 16-way heated and cooled memory seats, jet suedecloth premium headlining and premium carpet to complete the package.
If you’re an audiophile, the Bowers & Wilkins 525-watt audio system will put you in aural heaven. When connected to my iPhone’s iPod (native USB support), the yellow-cone kevlar speakers (the sort of stuff you’d see in a music studio) pumped out some extremely serious sound. Sound quality is clear, crisp and without any distortion, even at deafening volume.
In case you’re trying to convince the missus, don’t use the back seats as an excuse for practicality as they are not really made for humans. Perhaps in an emergency you can fit two adults, but they’ll need to be Russian gymnasts.
So here is the thing with the Jaguar XKR Special Edition - it’s not for you if you’re a little shy. It’s not for you if you go to sleep with a picture of Julia Gillard next to your bed and it’s definitely not for you if you think speed cameras save lives. This super special Jaguar is a car destined for greatness, so please, if you have the means to own an automobile this special, put it to good use.
Jaguar Australia has already sold all its allocation of the white XKR special editions. On top of that, all Performance Editions (red with black wheels) and Heritage Editions (grey with black wheels) are also with happy owners. If you want one of these (and believe me, you do), there are just three of the Black Editions (black with black wheels and a red decal) remaining, so best get on to it.
In case you’re somehow not completely satisfied with ‘just’ an XKR special edition, there is always the Jaguar XKR-S (pictured above), which has more power and torque and is 0.4 of a second quicker to 100km/h.