They say life is full of surprises. Some good, some bad; surprises add an element of suspense and thrill like no other. Last year, we spent a week with the Jaguar XKR Coupé. It got looks; it sounded great, and two of my colleagues dubbed it their favourite sports car over $50,000 in 2012. I continued to argue with them though; the XKR didn’t really stand out to me in any way. Despite being a sports car lover at heart, I preferred the XJ and XF over the two-door grand tourer. In late February, we had to sit down and pick what two cars Double Clutch would be entering in the Run 1000 Rally for the Canadian Cancer Society. Robert Maduri picked this 2013 Jaguar XKR Convertible whereas I opted for a 2014 Audi R8 instead.
Throughout our run of over 3,500 km and some truly breathtaking sights, I began to warm up to this stunning black cat. I spent the majority of the rally in the Audi, all the while gawking at the Jaguar driving either behind, beside, or in front of me. Its swooping lines are just so incredible to look at. It not only looks like a baby Aston Martin; I’m starting to think it surpasses some of them. The sound of the XKR is what sealed the deal for all four of our team members over the week. The exhaust note is so rich, loud, and menacing. There were over a hundred cars on the rally; some with over 1000 horsepower. Most of the other vehicles had aftermarket exhausts, but every single time that Jaguar flew through a tunnel, silence followed as everybody around it was in awe.
It’s not all show and no go either. The 5.0L supercharged V8 puts out 510 horsepower, and you can feel every single one. Even though the big cat is heavy, it actually pulled on the R8 (a V8 with the S-tronic transmission) from a standing start. In Dynamic mode with the shifter set to the “S” position, the Jaguar XKR gets skittish at almost any speed. If you aren’t careful, it’s very easy to kick that rear end right out. As athletic as the car can be, it’s a beautiful grand tourer. The first few days of the rally, every single one of my teammates preferred the Jaguar. I was the only one who adamantly argued that the R8 was the car to be in.
I was swayed over a 250km jaunt from Kingston, New York into the mountains to our resort in Lake Placid. My convertible dance partner and I danced up some wonderful mountain roads, and it was incredible. My R8 may have been a better handler, but the Jaguar is so much better rounded. It sounds better, it’s amazingly comfortable, and it’s so much more livable on a daily basis. The convertible top takes roughly six years to retract, and the power windows have a mind of their own (British engineering, go figure!), but none of it matters. Driving up the treacherous White Face Mountain in Lake Placid with the Jaguar XKR made everything around me irrelevant.
The interior of the XKR is exactly what I expect from modern-day Jaguar. The multimedia interface is slow enough to be powered by an original Pentium processor, and the touch screen is equally unresponsive. Browsing through playlists on my iPod is a bit of a chore, but surprisingly, the navigation system is relatively easy to use. The Bowers & Wilkins stereo sounds absolutely incredible, until I make a reference to the (far superior) Bang & Olufsen system in the Audi. The seats are absolutely wonderful though; with adjustments available in every which way it’s easy to find a superb driving position.
It may not have been love at first sight for me; I see it more as a setup. My colleagues insisted I would fall in love with the car, and I did. I still prefer the R8 for a true driving experience, but it’s not as easy to deal with on a daily basis. The rough ride, the lack of space to put anything, and the flashy looks of the Audi began to get old after a while. Then again, driving the Jaguar means you have to stop at every gas station you pass. Even though it averaged a relatively thrifty 11.6L/100km, the small tank meant it had to be filled up frequently. Setups typically aren’t the first choice in finding a partner, but they’re often successful. In my eyes, the XKR Convertible is the next best thing to my attainable dream car; the slower Aston Martin Vantage. I will say one last thing though; our XKR Convertible is now gone, and the R8 is still parked downstairs as I write this. I now feel like a part of me is missing.
2013 Jaguar XKR Convertible Gallery