Jaguar XKr road test review

Try Before You Buy – 1999 Jaguar XKR 2+2 Coupe
by Matt Nichols

370 horse power. It’s got a nice ring to it hasn’t it. 370 horse power in a car that weighs in at just over 1700kg to give a power to weight ratio in the order of 210-220 bhp/tonne. Important in as much that it sits above the magical 200bhp/ tonne mark and therefore enough in a road car to let you know it is going to be quick without having to do any more calculations. Couple that to a massive 387lbs/ft of torque, an official 0-60 time of 5.2 seconds and an all too easy to reach top speed of 155 mph and you have the Jaguar XKR 2+2 coupe that, if you choose, will propel you up and down the A-Roads of Great Britain all day long at extremely high velocity. Slightly ironic then, once sat behind the wheel that the thought of racing anyone else off a set of lights couldn’t be further from your mind.

The reason, well this is a Jaguar after all, and as with many other cars from the same marque you find yourself being seduced by its charms and adopt a far more laid back style than something with this performance should engender. The gentle warble from the very British and new at the time 4.0 litre AJ-V8, Jaguar’s fourth engine derivative and first V8, quite literally purrs along combining beautifully with the ‘J-Gate’ 5 speed ZF auto to select gears that match your every need. The left hand side of the ‘J-Gate’ selector introduces engine braking and restricts forward gears to the first two, three, or four ratios for quick and controlled progress. With the right hand side offering conventional ‘D’ drive, ‘R’ reverse and ‘P’ park options. There is also a sport ‘S’ button which holds onto gears longer whilst in drive, a combination that seemed to work best overall during my time with the big cat coupe in its dark blue hue.

Which brings me onto this cars looks. It is stunning, particularly when viewed from the side and the colour of the Great Escape Classic Car Hire model really nails it, enhanced by an original Jaguar body kit that adds some more subtly aggressive styling cues around the edges. I am ignoring the miniature chrome Jaguar added to the front of the bonnet which thankfully is out of sight once sat inside. Get in and you wonder why Jaguar tried to copy Jensen’s Interceptor in terms of massive proportions on the outside and yet restricted space within. One or two adults on board, there is plenty of space to stretch out and room in the boot for any amount of luggage with soft bags in the back. Do what I attempted in embarking on a three hour round trip to the seaside with my wife, son, who at 14 years old is taller than me and ‘tweenager’ daughter and things can get a little too close for comfort. Inside is also where the Ford influence reveals itself the most, with familiar looking; ignition key, switchgear and central console. Still what you can say in their defence is that they all work brilliantly; cruise control, climate and CD changer, no classic car traits to report here then.

So what does 370 bhp and 387lbs/ ft of torque feel like? Well I’ve driven the quite mad TVR Tuscan which packs 360bhp into a much lighter frame and in theory at least touches 300bhp/ tonne. TVR’s horsepower claims were always optimistic though and the normally aspirated Speed Six unit is shy of 100 lbs/ft of torque, an often forgotten performance statistic that closes such gaps extremely effectively. Back in the Jag and the XKR’s auto-box, particularly whilst in drive mode, masks the immediate impact of applying such a large amount of twist through the 245 profile 18 inch rear tyres by apparently having to drop two or three ratios before anything remotely resembling acceleration can be experienced. Even knocking the box down to 2 on the left hand gate means if you are already rolling one down change is still required. Personally I’m amazed anyone got it to 60mph in the claimed 5.2 seconds when, as far as I can tell, it takes until 60mph to really get going. What is happening aurally though is still dramatic enough, like the drum roll before a grand finale.

What a finale as well, because when everything does finally connect, the correct ratio is selected, the supercharger starts its spine tingling banshee war cry, drowning out the already impressive V8 roar and the XKR sits back on its E-Type like haunches and heads for the horizon at a truly breath taking rate of knots. This is exactly what this sort of power and torque should feel like, acceleration that never lets up despite the ever increasing physical forces acting against such rapidly advancing progress. It is so strong that the only conclusion I can draw is that the claimed 155mph max is due to an artificial restriction, because there’s no way it ends at that point naturally. This car really shifts and what’s great is that the brakes and handling are all well up to the job. Better still ease your right foot back from where it was firmly embedded in the pile of the plush carpet and the first question the car asks is whether this is going to be the cruising speed today. Now that is Jaguar. This isn’t about acceleration after all. It’s more about high speed travel, arriving somewhere faster than anyone else and in comfort. Although I think my family would argue, as long as there are no more than two of you on board at the time.


Verdict
1999 Jaguar XKR 2+2 Coupe
Driving
Slightly light steering is disconcerting at first, but then tightens up nicely on fast flowing roads. Jaguar’s supercharged V8 is a gem.
Engine
Supercharged 4.0 Litre Jaguar AJ-V8 DOHC with variable valve timing.
Performance
Power: 370bhp
Torque: 387lbs/ft
0-60: 5.2 Seconds
Max Speed: 155mph
Brakes
Superb and well up to the job
Handling
1700Kg aside, XKR is true to E-Type handling characteristics of excellent ride, regardless of road surface, combined with relatively low levels of pitch and roll
Desirability
Appreciating asset that reflects close ties to DB7. Values still tantalisingly low at present
Pro’s
Those looks and that engine
Con’s
Buying: Avoid anything without Jaguar or specialist service history
Renting: None except remember the fuel gauge is not dropping as quickly as you feared only because it is connected to an enormous 20 gallon tank.
Overall
4/5

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