With 510 hp spewing from a supercharged 5.0-liter V8, the XK-R makes some of the most glorious sounds this side of a FIA GT2 racecar. But more than that, the XK-R is also gorgeous and refined; on the outside at least.
|1. A 5.0L supercharged V8 pumps out 510 hp and 461 lb-ft of torque. |
2. Six-speed automatic is the only available transmission.
3. Jaguar claims the rear-wheel drive convertible will hit 0-60 mph in 4.6 seconds.
4. Pricing begins at $104,395 with our test vehicle coming in at $108,350.
Nine years is a long time in the automotive world. Within that time span, some mainstream models will have undergone two complete model refreshes. But, when playing in the six-figure price range, vehicles can afford to stick around a little longer between redesigns. With low sales volumes, it doesn’t make sense to constantly reinvent these high priced vehicles, especially if nothing is really wrong in the first place.
The Jaguar XK fits this description. First introduced in 2006, the current XK didn’t look dramatically different from the previous generation XK, which dated back to 1997. In fact, an argument can be made that some styling cues and the vehicle’s general proportions, harken back to the 1975 XJS. Call it lazy designing or a timeless look, but the XK has a recognizable shape with serious presence.
R STANDS FOR RAVISHING
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The 2014 Jaguar XK-R has the usual exterior upgrades over the base convertible like quad tailpipes, unique hood vents, black upper and lower grilles, and of course the mandatory barrages of “R” badges. Our XK-R also features the optional “Black Pack” that blacks-out the rest of the shiny bits like the 20-inch wheels, grille surrounds, air intakes, fender vents and trunk lid trim. Also included in this package are a front splitter and larger rear spoiler. All of these styling tweaks combine to make the XK-R a sinister looking beast with the only splash of color coming from the taillights and optional bright red brake calipers.
As nice as these upgrades are, the only real option that must be checked off on the 2014 Jaguar XK-R is the performance active exhaust. For a mere $1,400, or a fraction of the total cost, Jaguar claims this upgrade “uncorks the aural fury of the 5.0 liter supercharged engine.” I’m not one to usually give in to marketing hyperbole, but there might not be a more accurate phrase to describe what happens when “dynamic” mode is engaged and the active exhaust opens up. The sound that explodes from the rear of the vehicle is incredible; especially with the top down.
HEAR ME ROAR
The quad tip exhaust barks, pops and burbles while driving down the road. Any speed at any rpm will produce glorious sounds that would make a 1969 Dodge Charger jealous. Only the Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG creates a more beastly V8 soundtrack in stock form today. But not to worry if obnoxious sound levels aren’t your bag, just keep the Jaguar out of dynamic mode and the car quiets right up.
All of this noise produces a lot of power. Under the hood of the XK-R resides a 5.0-liter supercharged V8 that pumps out 510 hp and 461 lb-ft of torque. Jaguar claims this heavy rear-wheel drive convertible will hit 60 mph in 4.6 seconds. Yes this is fast, but the car actually feels much faster than that thanks to the instant torque provided by the big, blown V8.
Holding the engine back though is the confusingly named “Jaguar Sequential Shift” transmission that is not a sequential transmission, but rather a regular six-speed automatic. It’s slow to react and not all that smooth. Engaging sport mode and “manually” shifting gears via the paddle shifters helps and at least ensures the Jag is in the correct gear most of the time. And this highlights another issue – the cheap plastic paddle shifters. Really Jaguar, this is the best that could be done in a $100,000 car?
MORE CRUISER THAN BRUISER
This Jag isn’t a sports car. Think of it more as a gentleman’s cruiser that can throw down when needed. With all the sporty modes disengaged, the car is a quiet, sedated convertible. Despite only having a fabric top instead of a metal one, the convertible roof eliminates most outside noise when raised. But pick up the pace and the XK-R roars back to life, ready to adhere to the road thanks to the large sticky tires – 255/35ZR20 up front and 285/30ZR20 in the rear. Back-road curves are attacked more than negotiated with this brutish Jaguar as it lacks the grace of a proper sports car when the going gets fast.
All XK-Rs come with an active rear differential that mimics a mechanical limited-slip differential and transfers power between the rear wheels when slippage is detected. With a hefty 4,079 lbs to haul around, it’s officially rated at 15 mpg city and 22 mpg highway; I spent most of our time in the mid to high teens thanks to a childish obsession with making the big V8 bark.
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As mentioned earlier, the XK-R is old and nowhere is that more evident than with the interior. The steering wheel looks like a leftover part from the Ford ownership days and the infotainment system has ancient graphics that may have been created on an IBM Aptiva. Although the materials used are high quality and the contrast red stitching looks great, the rest of the switches desperately need to be updated.
Headroom is a bit lacking, but this car needs to be driven with the top down anyway so that should only be a temporary problem. The luxury front seats are 16 way adjustable, can be heated or cooled, and accommodate many different body types. The sound system remains crisp and clear even with the top down and is simple enough to operate. The trunk shrinks from 11.1 cubic feet to 7.1 when the top is down, but does remain semi-usable thanks to a generous trunk opening. But the rear seats, with a whopping 27.6-inches of legroom, are as useless as fuel filter on a Tesla Model S.
The XK-R looks so elegant and cool that it should be called Sir XK-R and be wearing a stylish, $5,000 suit. But Sir XK-R has a dark side and unleashes the angry voice of a drunken back-room brawler when the throttle is put to the floor. That is what makes this Jaguar such a cool car; its balance of refinement and misbehavior. It is a certain appeal that two of the XK-R’s biggest competitors, the Mercedes-Benz SL 550 and BMW 650i convertible, can’t match. The XK-R truly is unique in a segment where standing out from the crowd is a good thing.