Tested: 2012 Jaguar XKR

The delicate governor

I think I may be getting old. A recent birthday has firmly plunged me into middle age and I’ve decided that I dislike camping, queues, hip hop, clubbing and down-down competitions. With a growing affection for classical music, scenic walks and reading, help couldn’t arrive soon enough.

The cheerful chaps at Jaguar promptly delivered an XKR and assured me that it would make me feel young again. This luxury coupé could easily be described as the elegant and luxurious territory of an old man but that “arrgh” in its name means it supercharges its way north of 500 horsepower.

In order to lift itself from the sleek metal and plush carpets in your country club parking lot, the 5-litre XKR has four exhaust pipes, an almost vertical boot lip, a ridiculously low front apron, gashes and slashes in its body, not to mention blacked-out details and gigantic black rims (part of an optional package).

If the general public is anything to go by, your golf homies will be supremely interested in the car, produce the odd cellphone camera and propose a friendly dice or two. Whereas you are under no obligation to accept such challenges, rest assured that the XKR will make mincemeat out of most opponents.

In fact, this morning it blitzed our GPS results, equalling its XFR sedan sibling (and claimed figure) at 4.8 seconds to 100km/h while topping the list to 400m at 12.1 seconds. Lightweight construction, multiple drive modes and 510hp can do that for you and explain why the Jag guys told me to be careful. Twice.

And they were right; very right. Just like its XF counterpart, the two-door Jag’s power delivery has an instantaneous savagery to it that can easily catch you out. Even when you’re nearing triple digit speeds and think the rear end is planted it will happily and quickly snap at you.

To further liven things up you could switch to dynamic mode, dilute the stability control or, in order to scare yourself and any passenger absolutely senseless, switch it off completely. Treat the XKR well and its crisp handling reciprocates your inputs. Poke it with a stick and it will poke back… HARD.

Which brings me to the XK’s daily behaviour. Low-speed ride quality errs on the side of uncomfortable but that’s the fault of the gangster wheels and suspension on our test car. A delicate steering made up for this, as did the well-padded sports seats. Mind you, just the front ones as the rear ones are a bit of a joke.

Lofty Mortimer from the club won’t fit in there but will want to take a jolly good look at the XKR’s interior. It’s a little snug and minimalist but that surely appeals to the landed gentry. Instrumentation is basic and beautiful, so is most of the centre console, and your teenage nephew will delight in that touchy screen.

As with all modern Jaguars, entry and ignition is keyless with a pulsating start button. Press this and (after a short salvo of artillery fire from the rear) the gear selector knob rises up. This adds to the occasion of driving an XK and also offers you Sport mode and/or Manual mode via shift paddles on the steering wheel.

The trip computer displays fun stuff like your range and consumption which, on any given day, will hover around 325km and 18L/100km from the 71L tank. Achieving Jaguar’s overall average of 12.3L/100km is only possible if you somehow manage to only drive downhill but the urban cycle claim of 18.9 is spot-on.

Other spot-on equipment is the magnificent suede ceiling, delicious B&W sound system, adaptive cruise control (option), heated and vented front seats, nav and voice guidance, adjustable and heated multi-function steering wheel, Xenon headlights (optional, active), CD/mp3/USB and Bluetooth connectivity.

A rather unique (read: quirky) aspect of the XK is its boot – there isn’t much space and half the back-end opens, essentially making it a R1,313,400 hatchback or fastback. That’s quite a lot of gosh for your dosh, including a five-year/100,000km maintenance plan, plus there aren’t too many options left to choose.

You could select the cosmetic “Black Pack”, cosmetic and 280km/h “Speed Black Pack” or cosmetic, 280km/h, stiffer and lower suspension “Dynamic Black Pack” as pictured here. Personally, I’d skip them all as I prefer the standard car and, as we already established in the first paragraph, I’m getting old.


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