Fettled interior, new engine and harder-edged drive make for a great GT
19 February 2009

What is it?

This is the newly facelifted Jaguar XKR. Amid the hullabaloo over the new Jaguar XFR it’s easy to forget the XK range is being significantly enhanced at the same time.

The Jaguar XKR is still a fine and fresh-looking sports car but it’s now wearing new headlights and some particularly handsome tail-lamps. Other changes include a new front bumper, framed by some natty outboard grilles.

The XKR’s interior has never quite had the same impact as the metalwork, but this has been remedied by some clever upgrades. Most obviously it gets the XF’s cylindrical (and theatrical) gear selector, but there are numerous detail changes too, especially to the materials used, all of which add up to the cabin feeling and looking far more luxurious.

Jaguar’s engineering department has also been busy upping the XK’s technology count. The 4.2-litre V8s have been axed in favour of two all-new direct injection 5.0-litre motors – one a 379bhp naturally aspirated unit, the other a 503bhp supercharged beast that powers the XKR (not to mention the XFR saloon). Both are more potent and more parsimonious with fuel.

The aluminium-bodied XK has also been given the same chassis mods as the XFR saloon. So it has the new continuously variable damping system which (theoretically) responds to driving style and road conditions. The R also gets the new electronic rear diff.

What’s it like?

So far we’ve only had a go in the XKR coupé, and it’s clear that the new supercharged V8 has transformed what was an extremely good GT into an excellent one. And an extremely fast one. A lack of poke certainly wasn’t a glaring deficiency of the old XKR, but the new engine means that it shoots from 0-60mph in just 4.6sec, compared with 4.9sec. The killer blow is that the XKR now fires from 50-70mph in 1.9sec, up against the 2.5sec it took the old one.

If this doesn’t look so impressive on paper, on the road it’s the difference between picking off one overtaking victim and a whole swarm of them. More impressive still is the sheer relentlessness of the acceleration. Maximum torque of 461lb ft is on tap from 2500rpm to 5500rpm, making it hugely tractable. Like the same-engined XF saloon, the XKR is benign when you want it to be and demonically quick when you plant your right foot. Just remember that such antics are going to dent your wallet; even with the new, more economical engine, we struggled to better 20mpg even when holding back.


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The outgoing XKR always struck a decent balance between ride and handling, and in doing so always managed to cleave a good line between a boulevardier such as the Merc SL and the more hard-edged Porsche 911. Little has changed.

If anything, it’s got closer to the Porsche in the way it can attack corners. You can push it incredibly hard without any intervention from the new electronics. The new Dynamic mode ups the ante even further, although with it comes sharper throttle response and more aggressive gearchanges that you’ll probably not need most of the time.

The downside is that outright comfort has taken a backwards step. Its ride is supremely composed but you detect a little more thump in the cabin over potholes and expansion joints. It’s probably a price worth paying for the extra agility, however.

Should I buy one?

Moving away from softer rivals doesn’t prevent the Jaguar XKR being a brilliant GT – and most customers are going to relish the interior changes just as much.

Chas Hallett

Join the debate


20 February 2009

What's happened to the grill of the old car? That chrome line through the grill looked good and harked back not only to the last XK, but also the E type. The front end has gone all "Eurobox"

20 February 2009

[quote theonlydt]What's happened to the grill of the old car? That chrome line through the grill looked good and harked back not only to the last XK, but also the E type.[/quote]

That spitfire-wing line was only ever on the old XK, never the XKR model. I don't think it makes the tiniest difference anyway - better without it, and Jaguar are moving further away from retro design cues. This is meant to be a new car, not a modern day E-Type. Jaguar have brought their views of a car into the 21st century, maybe people can bring their views of Jaguar into this century too. I'm sure the dealers can order up this little bit of chrome for you to stick on the front if you really want it.

I'm not a big fan of the gilles, but the rest of the car looked really good in the first place and glad to hear the interior has been upgraded further - never really seemed an issue for me having driven lots of them, but some of the press didn't seem to like it.

I think this new model has to be considered a great and remarkably cheap way of getting hold of a new 500 bhp sports car. Jaguar properly treading on Astons toes with this one - good to see a little competition. Maybe it will make Aston reconsider it's ridiculous pricing structure.

20 February 2009

In the pictures, two of the cars have different rear end designs - which one have they chosen?!?

20 February 2009

[quote julianphillips]In the pictures, two of the cars have different rear end designs - which one have they chosen?!? [/quote]

One is an XF. Must have been red Jag confusion on the picture desk.

I'm sure this is a great car but since the recession really got underway, all we're had from JLR - apart from the underwhelming stop-start Freelander - is bigger engined, more powerful, more expensive cars. I'm struggling to see what their strategy is and exactly how they get out of the sales hole that they are in. Surely what is needed is a cheaper, six cylinder XK and a four cylinder XF.

20 February 2009

[quote julianphillips]In the pictures, two of the cars have different rear end designs - which one have they chosen?!? [/quote]

I think Autocar have included a random shot of the rear of an XF in there for some reason.

22 February 2009

Best of luck to Jaguar with this model. I am glad the interior been updated (any pictures please ?) as that needed some help to update it vs the Merc SL, BMW 6 series and Maserati.

I'm sure the extra power (in both models) will be appreciated. I hope the handling has been improved too.

24 February 2009

Quite right - best of luck to Jaguar. Minor quibble with the front slats (current one looks better), but the interior and rear are improved. Having heard the engine note from the XFR on the TV last night it's going to be one hell of a car.

Best of luck to owners of the current crop as well. I'd love to do a P/E on my 2 year old XKR convertible later in the year but residuals have taken such a beating that the exchange cost is likely to be eye-watering. .

7 January 2013

The videos on this site are amazing. I think you should load them onto youtube and buy youtube views. I am sure it would get a lot of attention for you guys.

24 January 2013

The Jag has always been my favorite car for it's looks and it's power. I am renting a Jag for a trip to visit website design columbia sc next week. I am planning on telling web design columbia sc that it belongs to me, just as a joke.

26 May 2014
Fantastic! High tech and so comfortable car to drive. This is one of the best cars in the world!

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