Preview: 2010 Jaguar XKR

The 2010 Jaguar XKR would be considered, by most accounts, a mild revision of the outgoing model. Its state-of-the-art aluminum monocoque chassis carries over unchanged. The design, save for a few minor updates, is the same as the outgoing model’s. But few would count that against the silken Jag, whose curvaceous lines are almost universally admired in the industry. No, what separates the new XKR from its predecessor is the heart transplant it has undergone: in the place of the 420-horsepower AJ34S supercharged V8, the beating heart of the new XKR, is the next-generation 5-liter version, its supercharger supplemented by direct injection to twist out an astonishing 510 horsepower. That figure alone puts the Jag well ahead of Aston’s V8 Vantage, ahead of the V12-powered DB9 as a matter of fact, and on par with the flagship DBS supercar that has appeared in the last two James Bond films.

jaguar_2010To give you an approximate idea of how powerful an engine lies beneath the bonnet of the 2010 XKR, consider the following. The previous fastest road car in Jaguar history was the XJ220, a svelte supercar with a high-strung, twin-turbo V6 that produced 549-hp and propelled it to a terminal velocity of 217.1 miles per hour at the Nardo high-speed test track in Italy back in 1992. That record, astonishing as it stood, was broken this year at the Bonneville Salt Flats by a barely modified XFR sedan with the same engine that powers the XKR, only with its engine management unit derestricted and its supercharger increased slightly in boost, hitting a top speed of 225.7 miles per hour. In a sedan. Jaguar pegs the XKR’s 0-60 mph run in 4.6 seconds, which we reckon may actually be a conservative estimate. Top speed is artificially limited to 155 mph, but change the firmware – which is not something we would advocate, we’re just speculating – and there’s no telling what the lighter, more slippery super-coupe might achieve.

The epic amount of power generated by the spooled eight is channeled through the latest version of Jaguar’s six-speed automatic transmission, complete with paddle shifters behind the steering wheel to afford its driver an extra degree of control without having to, heaven forbid, actuate a clutch. The steering wheel itself is a new three-spoke design, the offset centerpiece of a subtly revised cabin. The previous XKR’s interior space was one of the more suitable environments from which to discover the world’s roads, and Jaguar has wisely chosen not to mess with it too much. To supplement the paddle shifters, Jaguar has fitted its proprietary JaguarDrive Selector, a stubby metal cylinder which emerges from the center console to control the transmission settings. Above it is a concave start/stop button for ignition, and a new color touch-screen dominates the dashboard to control the vehicle’s extensive multimedia system which integrates the considerable sound system, climate control and satellite navigation. In true Jaguar style, a variety of leather and trim options are available to the discerning buyer.

Helping the XKR deliver all that power to the tarmac is a new Adaptive Dynamics system that replaces the old cleverly-named Computer Active Technology Suspension – CATS for short. Adaptive Dynamics integrates the full roster of driving aids, including adaptive damping, dynamic stability control and, for the first time on a Jaguar, an electronic differential. Exterior updates, meanwhile, are limited to new wheels, an updated front bumper, a new spoiler around back, LED taillights, redesigned side mirrors with integrated LED indicators, and colour-coded air vents.

Both coupe and cabrio body styles are available, as is a naturally-aspirated version, now called the XK Portfolio, offering 385 horsepower in place of the previous base XK’s 300. That’s a mighty powerful Jaguar to be sure; more powerful in naturally-aspirated form, in fact, than the original supercharged XKR that debuted in 1997. And that’s no mean feat. I bet that the team of Jaguar engineers who were left with no choice but to hand over the DB7 project to Aston Martin would be suitably impressed, especially since it now generates more power than the DB7 did in the first place. In fact, some of them are probably still there and had a hand in developing the latest XK. But what must impress them even more is how far the XKR, representing the pinnacle of Jaguar’s GT program, is stacking up against its big brother.

Let there be no mistake made about it. Jaguar is all grown up now, and nothing – including Aston Martin – is going to stand between the XKR and the open road.

Read more at the Calgary Herald.