The XK was good - this, the XKR, is brilliant
30 August 2006

What's new? On the surface and, indeed, from just about any angle you choose to view the situation, Jaguar had an awful lot of ground to make up with the latest XKR. In simple terms the previous R was slower, thirstier, less comfortable and certainly not as accomplished dynamically as its keenest rivals – the Porsche 911, Mercedes SL55 and BMW M6 to name but three. And visually it appeared as if it was from the last decade. Which, of course, it was.So here's the good, no, here's the most sensational news this week. The new XKR is such a stonking good car, a machine so massively improved over its predecessor, previous owners are going to need to take a long lie down before ordering their new car.Compared with the previous XKR, forget it; throw everything you know and start again. Even compared with the new XK it is, in Jaguar's own words, 'just like the standard car but with the volume turned up by a third.'Thus, in addition to the basic 4.2-litre XK's unusually stiff chassis and largely aluminium underpinnings (and therefore unusually light kerbweight), you must stir in an Eaton supercharger (making 420bhp rather than 300bhp plus 413lb ft of torque), approximately 30 per cent stiffer suspension all round, bigger brakes, recalibrated steering and two extra exhausts - making four in total.And that's to say nothing of the XKR's dramatically improved appearance, which photos fail to capture. The big difference in this instance is the new nose; in place of the regular XK's anonymous, Hyundai coupe-like original the XKR features an amalgm of grilles and gills that make it look more like an Aston than some Astons. Which is fine, so long as you haven't just parted with £106,000 for a DB9.What's it like? On the road it's hard to describe how much better the XKR is compared with the original. It's now one of the great GT cars of the modern era, blending an ability to accelerate effortlessly and flow smoothly between apexes that no previous Jaguar driver could ever have dreamed of. And as a mile eater it has few rivals – at any price.The XKR's real trump card, however, is not its chassis (which is a peach) nor its engine (which delivers thundering performance: 0-60mph in 4.9sec) nor even its styling – which grows on you the minute you set eyes on it.Instead it's the fact that you get all this lot under one roof – and for the relatively bargain price of £67,495. A full Renault Clio 197 less than a BMW M6 costs, in other words. Which means that, at last, the XKR has become a complete package – a machine anyone interested in spending the thick end of £100k on an SL55 should take a good long look at, soon.Should I buy one? Downsides? The interior isn’t anything to get excited about – it's the same, largely, as the so-so standard XK's, including that car's hopelessly titchy rear seats. But viewed as a two seater, the XKR has few flaws and many, many strengths. The fact that it undercuts most of its rivals by tens of thousands of pounds makes the case for it that much harder to deny. Just when it was needed, Jaguar has produced its best car for decades, possibly ever.Steve Sutcliffe

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