By on January 17, 2011

In 2007 Jaguar started the most intensive make-over in the brand’s history with the redesigned XK. While the look was drop-dead gorgeous, the interior was more evolution than revolution when you consider the direction the XF and new XJ have taken. Now that the world has managed to catch its breath after the shock of the XF and XJ’s ultra-chic modern styling, Jaguar decided to give the XK a thorough refresh in 2010.

The old Jaguar XK often received a bad rap as the old man’s sports car. From the surface, it was easy to dismiss the previous generations of the XK as simply a shorter XJ with a rather plain nose. To address this complaint, Jaguar has altered the size and shape of the proboscis, added some chrome grilles and a set of hood louvers to give the XK a more sinister look. The combination looks more visually interesting than the previous model, but still delivers a much more subtle first impression than the other two-doors in this price class. What sets the XK apart from the styling competition is the sleek side profile and perfectly executed rear. The style is not one that screams something wicked this way comes; that would be less than civilized, less than what consumers expect of Jaguar. Instead of aping the sometimes brash style of the Germans, the swooping lines, long hood, sashless windows and wide fender flares are executed with typical British restraint.

Inside the 2011 XKR the changes are largely limited to the removal of the J-gate shifter in favour of the hockey-puck style “JaguarDrive selector,” improved leather door trim and a revised steering wheel. The puck is unique and quirky looking, but actually ends up being no less frustrating than BMW and Merdedes’ latest “solution” to the “problem” of the classic gear selector. The steering wheel is another slight miss, while it feels great in your hands, the base XF gets the same tiller for half the price. Note to Jag: for 2012, swipe the wheel from the new XJ.

Current Jag owners I spoke with seem concerned that the latest Jag models are getting “too modern.” For those concerned about classic Jaguar styling; how “classic” your XK looks is largely depends on your interior color choice. There are no less than 11 interior leather color combinations up for grabs, and traditionalists would do well to note that the lighter the color the more “traditional” the interior tends to look. Seriously. Fear not Jaguar faithful, the XK can still be equipped with “acres of wood trim.” The option list includes three wood, one metal trim option and something called “piano black” which I would like to think is made from thousands of priceless tiny recycled pianos, but I’m probably wrong. Our press car was fitted with the black-on-black-on-black leather interior with metal trim and the same sluggish nav/infotainment system that garners complaints from reviewers and owners alike. I won’t beat a dead horse on this subject, but will say the new system in the flagship XJ sedan is certainly an improvement.

While we’re on the topic of complaints, not all is rosy inside the XKR. The first thing I found issue with is the rear seat arrangement, or should I say “stitched-leather luggage compartment.” No doubt countless hours were spent on the beautiful stitched leather and alcantara bits rear seat passengers would encounter, the problem is they just won’t fit back there. I’m a fairly averagely sized six-foot-tall person and with the front seat in a comfortable driving position you could have to be a legless-midget to fit back there. Room is so tight that the front seats are programed to prevent contact between seat-back and rear-seat, if you try to recline the fronts too far it starts scooting the bottom of the seat forward. My issue is not that the seats should be usable; I frankly don’t care if I have a 4-seater. The problem is that four seatbelts just restrict the XKR with a happy couple on board from using 3+ person HOV lanes. On the other hand, your briefcases and handbags will never feel as special in anything else.

Pop open the hood or romp on the go-pedal and you will immediately notice the biggest change to the XK: Jag’s new 5L V8. The 2009 XK’s two engine choices were a 300HP naturally-aspirated V8 or a supercharged 420HP V8, both displacing 4.2L. While the old Jag AJ-V8 is a nice engine, the supercharged version delivered an audible supercharger whine when pushed and with “only” 420HP on tap, the big cat always felt out of breath when running with the pack. Detractors may claim the new XK is still that old man’s car in a new-cat-suit with a big engine jammed in. To this I have to say: jam the new 5.0L engine into anything and it could be a winner. Even as lacklustre as the former X-Type was, if Jag had managed to stuff the 510HP V8 into the frame, it too would be a winner. When it comes to engines, it’s not all about power; it’s also about the noise. While the XKR doesn’t posses the XFR’s sublime bellow (I am guessing due to a different exhaust setup due to space constraints), it is never the less one of the most melodious V8 sounds I have ever heard. I’m not usually a fan of convertibles, but the engine note is reason enough for you to drop your top and choose the less-rigid XKR convertible.

Out on the road the new Jaguar Active Differential Control (unique to the R version of the XK) is immediately obvious. The XKR produces more than 125HP more than the base XK yet it applies the power with much greater finesse. While it is really not possible to call any rear-wheel-drive 500+ HP car drama free in the wet, the ADC takes most of the hair-raising drama out of the equation. The system is capable of not only locking the rear diff when it needs to, but it can also torque vector whenever the electronic nannies feel they should. Because the system can disengage itself at any time, it doesn’t feel unnatural the way some limited slip diffs can. The ADC’s activation is always seamless and fluid. Matching the ADC’s precision and feel is the re-tuned active suspension system which delivers a fairly compliant ride on the freeway and enough heft on the track to satisfy most GT buyers. Yep. GT buyers.

In truth the XK and XKR have always been “grand tourers” (Gran Turismos for those who prefer Italian) at heart, a type of car that aims more for gracious pace than maximum-attack. While BMW shoots for a GT-sized sports coupé with their M6, a V10 that screams all the way to its 8,250RPM red-line is not my idea of luxury. I mean F1 is fun and all, but for the city dweller seeking some coupé panache, something more subtle is called for… and that is what the XKR does best. With 461lb-ft of torque available from 2500-5500RPM Jaguar obviously had a choice to make: stuff some massive rubber out back and favour acceleration and handing over ride quality, or stick to Jaguar’s luxury-oriented roots. Jag chose the latter, and rightly so. The already low stock 4.6 second 0-60 time (TTAC verified) could be far lower if the rear end could find more grip. For the sake of comparison, the 2009 M6 runs to 60 in 4.4 seconds. Buyers will be pleased to know that somehow this kitty manages to be a fuel sipper delivering 15/22MPG neatly avoiding any gas guzzler tax. Ok, so fuel sipper is a relative term but Jaguar claims it is the first 500+HP V8 capable of skipping the gas guzzler tax in the USA. That has to count for something, right?

Speaking of the competition, let’s see how the XKR stacks up. BMW’s M6 is still the technology king despite having ended production last year, and the soon-to-be-released 2011 6-series is likely to raise the bar even higher. Still, the M6 is about gadgets and performance, the XKR marches to a slightly more posh drummer. The M6 may be faster, but is also carries a slightly higher price tag and is saddled with a $3,000 gas-guzzler tax due to the epically low 11/17MPG EPA numbers. While BMW’s 7-speed SMG is significantly smoother than the Mercedes Speedshift transmission, it’s still not as silky as the 6-speed ZF unit Jag selected. The M6 will probably always be the top choice for track days, but the XKR will make your vertebrae happier on your daily commute and your bank account fatter at every fill-up.

From the AMG corner we have the SL63 and CL63. The CL may have a real back-seat, but the looks of the CL have never been my cup of tea. At $150,000 for the CL63 and $139,050 for the SL63, it’s easy to just stop at pricing and call the XKR a bargain. The CL550 lacks the grunt of the Jag but does being 4MATIC AWD to bear, at $113,150 it still makes our tester XKR seem like a flat-out bargain at $101,000 as tested.

A wise man I once knew said it is impossible for a human to ever be truly objective. With that admission out of the way I have to say my week with the XKR left me smitten. Not because the XKR is the best car ever made, but because it fit me. While I can say as objectively as possible that the 2010 XKR is quite possibly one of the finest Jaguars ever made and with an available top speed limiter set to 174MPH, it might just be the fastest since the ill-fated Jaguar XJ220. While it may not have the athleticism of the BMW 6-Series, it actually does match the marketing hype on Jag’s website “elegance and beauty combined with power and grace.” Personally I would call it “automotive sex” but that’s probably why nobody hires me for marketing. If you have 100 large to spend on an aristocratic coupé, the XKR should be at or near the top of your list.

Jaguar provided the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gas for this review.

Feedback for our Facebook fans: Ronald Balit: it is a well sorted chassis, but with 510 and RWD it’s easy to get yourself in a situation where it feels like the car is trying to kill you. But that’s half the fun, right? Peter Dushenski: I would have it over a Carrera S any day. Over an M6? Close call, but yes I would take the XKR over the current M6, the 2012 M6… maybe not. Darren Williams: it purrs when you start it and growls like a lion when you prod it. Careful, those claws are sharp. David Hoyt: judging by the looks in downtown Los Gatos, the 0-Woman time is very short indeed. Amir Kazi: one or two clubs perhaps. The trunk is fairly shallow.

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39 Comments on “Review: 2011 Jaguar XKR...”

  • avatar

    1. Seen nicer steering wheels in rental cars;
    2. Rear loudspeaker: meet my arse.
    3. Goofy icon for the snow/ice mode (with the crossing wheel tracks)
    4. So much glare from all the bling and silver-painted(?) plastic

  • avatar

    37.4″ front headroom + 30.2″ rear headroom + 27.6″ rear legroom + $100k price = no sale.
    What a bad joke.  Every tin-can economy car is better than that.  This car is obviously not designed for the American market.

    • 0 avatar

      You’re not getting the point of the XK if you think interior roominess is a top priority. An Avalon does a much better job for that, but it won’t get you noticed nor will it entertain you, will it?

    • 0 avatar

      @tonyola: I’m not expecting it to be a minivan; I just think the driver ought to be able to fit into it.  Granted, I’m 6’6″, but there isn’t a Jag I can even sit in.

      And I’d hate to be the cow whose leather went into the back seats, never to be used.

    • 0 avatar

      Sports cars do not require a back seat, unless taking the dog out for a ride.

    • 0 avatar

      At some point they have to admit that it is a two seater.  It clearly is too tight to qualify as a 2 + 2, and trying to make it one just compromises room in the front seat.

  • avatar

    What is the problem here? I cannot remember the last time I needed a back seat for anything other than groceries, or the cat.

  • avatar

    22mpg freeway for a supercharged 500+ hp’er is pretty darned impressive. Judging by EPA numbers for this and the S4, superchargers now look to be almost as much your friend as those small blocks GM have been slapping together since before Elvis got fat :) Guess those “parasitic losses” kill superchargers, didn’t pan out quite that way.
    If this 6 speed ZF is similar to the one in the DB9, it is one heck of a tranny, covering the whole spectrum from stop and go to all out go in a virtually perfect manner. Come to think of it, with this thing at around $100,000, wither DB9?

  • avatar
    Educator(of teachers)Dan

    Man, somebody put a body kit on the front end of that XK already!  Dang, look at that bumper and those goofy fish gills!  (whispering in background) What do you mean that’s factory?


  • avatar

    Why do the headlights pay homage to an old Mits Eclipse? It makes the front look very pedestrian.

  • avatar

    I seriously mean no offense to whoever is taking pictures of cars for reviews around here, but can we please get a few more shots of what the car looks like when the observer is STANDING UP and maybe more than 3 feet away from the car??  I now know what an XKR looks like from every angle if I’m crawling around it on the ground, pressing my face up against the tail lights, etc., but I am not certain I’d recognize one on the street – OK, that last part is a bit of hyperbole, but I honestly don’t feel like I have a good picture of what the exterior of this car really looks like.  Photographers seem to think these bubble-like ground shots are cool-looking, and maybe they are, but I don’t find them that useful.  I liken them to the endless quick, fast-moving, camera-shaking shots that seem to comprise most Top Gear snippets.  Here we have 6 very similar low front quarter shots, but not a single regular profile shot or even anything that appears to have been taken with the camera held above the door handle.  Is this review for squirrells?

    And this is not limited to this particular review – this photography style permeates a lot of this site (and many others).

    End of rant!!

    • 0 avatar

      Not to one-up you or anything of the sort– I totally agree that this “Photo 101 slant” has to stop. It does, however, highlight that this $100k plus vehicle has poor fitment of it’s rear banner-trim. It’s fact that the diagonal helps the eye travel through an image, but everything hasn’t got to have the amateur photographer aesthetic.

      What I’d like to speak more about would be the fact that so many reviews seem to be of unattainable automobiles that will, together, make up less than one-tenth-of-a-percent of the vehicles sold in any given year. So, what do we get when we’re reviewed a mission-critical, mass-market machine like the 2011 Chrysler Town & Country or Durango?

      Stock photos.

    • 0 avatar

      Funny you’d mention it; I thought the shots were too close, also.

  • avatar

    I love the Jaguar XK but if I was going to buy one I’d wait for the facelift, because Jaguar are going to sort those lights on the next model.
    Cars like this and the Mazerati Grand Turisimo deserve to sell in much bigger numbers. Both cars are underated. What a shame people keep buying cars like the Porsche 911. Why not try something different?

  • avatar

    How much better are the 911’s rear seats?
    Love the rear picture in the middle.
    Jaguar is weird. I like what the mid-cycle did. I like how the mirrors aren’t on the door.
    BMW’s M6 is still the technology kind despite having ended production last year.

  • avatar

    Nice review of a nice car. The XKs I’ve heard have one of the best 8 cylinder sound tracks currently on offer.
    RE the jump seats:  while I doubt that the 3 person HOV reg would be a deal killer (in Califonia most HOVs are 2- person) I am somewhat amazed that none of the world’s luxury automakers have much insight as to how their customers (rich ones) actually use their cars. No one wants to pack four people into an XK or any other 2 +2.  But years ago Aston Martin and Mercedes (among others) used to offer a fold-down sideways facing 1 person rear seat as an option on some models. (Think opera coupe or extra-cab pick-up.) I can think of myriad business and social occassions when it would be awesome to be able to offer just one extra person a lift home. And if safety regulations are the stumbling block a race-type harness, seat re-inforcements and extra airbags should be able to deal with any such hurdles. I can’t be the only person that likes this idea.

  • avatar

    #1 Its nice but obviously too small. Even the CTS Coupe has more backseat space.
    #2 The steering wheel of the XJ has buttons that feel much too clicky – not as quiet as BMW’s or Benz’s.
    #3 the XF, XJ and XKr give you more for the money than the german’s do. I’m glad someone at Jaguar is into competitive pricing.

  • avatar

    Add a clutch pedal then give me a call.

  • avatar

    Ok, so fuel sipper is a relative term but Jaguar claims it is the first 500+HP V8 capable of skipping the gas guzzler tax in the USA.
    The Corvette Z06 makes 505 naturally aspirated horsepower from it’s 7-liter V8, doesn’t have take have a gas guzzler tax, and came out in 2006.

  • avatar

    Probably the last truly beautiful modern car out there. Think about that.
    It’s actually rather sad. While all other manufacturers are hurting our eyes with ridiculously over-styled, badly proportioned, bling-ish, cartoonish fashion-du-jour Tonka toy car designs, the XK-R will easily stand the test of time in the looks department and is destined to become a sought-after classic in 20, 30 years from now.
    The BMW Bangle’d 6-series, the CLS, the Audi R8? Not so much.
    There’s a reason why Ferrari 275’s and Jaguar E-Type’s are considered true automotive classics today. Style never goes out of fashion. Fashion does.

    • 0 avatar


      While I’m partial to the Jag sedans (own an XF Super – what a car!!) this is a gorgeous feline shape and absolutely the best grand tourer for up to twice the money.

      The coming facelift delivers a sharper looking front end and is extremely promising.

  • avatar

    But years ago Aston Martin and Mercedes (among others) used to offer a fold-down sideways facing 1 person rear seat as an option on some models.

    God help the sideways facing person incase the car got rear end or plow into anything heavy. Our neck do have a lot of movement  front & back, side ways is Nein, very little give.

  • avatar

    I own the non-R version of this car.  Rear seat arguments are silly…carrying passengers is my other car’s job.  The back seats fit a couple of duffle bags just fine for a weekend getaway.  I noticed the supercharger whine when test driving the ‘R’ and think my regular V8 exhaust note is fantastic, though it could certainly use more power.  The key to these cars is buying used — you can get a low-mileage 2007 convertible with a full Jaguar Select Edition factory extended warranty in the $40K range if you work the right deal, or $45K on the high end.  Even a nice XKR with low miles can be found in the $40Ks.  ( is a solid operation with the best prices and a constant flow of good inventory)

  • avatar

    the back seats are stuffed in to class the car as a four seater that costs less insurance

    • 0 avatar

      Maybe yes – technically – but anyone dropping $100k on a Jag probably isn’t concerned about saving 500 bucks a year on their car insurance.  I’d rather have a roomy 2-seater for that money.

  • avatar

    It may well have a nice ass, but the view from the front is hideous. The old XKR looked like an Aston. This one is a catfish.

  • avatar

    Is the steering weighted any heavier than the standard car? That’s the main issue I had after driving the ’07 XK8 – steering that’s far too light and numb for a car with even modest sporting pretensions. The steering in the previous XK8/R was even worse, light as a feather and so full of syrup I thought I was driving a Lexus RX. With those cars though the driving position was so bad you really don’t even care about the steering, you just want to get out.
    With the current car at least Jag is no longer peddling any platforms dating to the Carter administration.

  • avatar

    We should be grateful that this Jag looks as good as it does.  First, I don’t have too much against catfish, and perhaps the front end does have some of that influence.  Also, the European pedestrian safety laws have ruined most design by a fair amount, lifting the front tip of the car too high and thus forcing the higher beltline look with small windows and poor visibility, especially from the inside out, in the back seat.  Also, now the front and rear ends of the car are too vertical so that people don’t end up squashed underneath it.  Back seats in GT’s like this should not be expected to be much bigger than this, though I note that some of you commented on it.  How big do you really want this Jag to look?  But it certainly would be nice to have more room there if it had no other effects.
    Is Jaguar a bargain compared to most other gorgeous GT’s?  Well, on the face of it, it would appear so, but my opinion is that Jags are built more complicated and with poor materials so that technicians take time to figure out what’s wrong with your car and so that they have more opportunities for you to bring it into the shop.  That’s where they make up more money with you.   I certainly can’t see why there are persistent issues to this day with Jaguar reliability unless it’s intended and they know you will buy the car for its sexy looks and that you are probably not able to focus on practicality if you are one of these types of people.

  • avatar

    At least this is still identifiable as a Jag un like some of there latest watered down sedan offerings.

  • avatar
    Mr Nosy

    Dear Sir,
    I daresay that the steering wheel DOES remind one of a late model Nissan Altima. Whott is this front end business about? Did this TATA chap go and purchase a box of old Toyota Supra front end clips? Humphph,quite.Though that back end does say a right “Toodle-pip to all then, I’ve got to hurry off to the salon,Aldo was such a sporting chap to do up my highlights,on such short notice”. The rest of it seems all quite ripping,really.Well,then toodle pip.

  • avatar

    Some people here would really truly love to know more about how this car performs, and I think there just isn’t enough in here about that.

  • avatar

    The latest reliability number for the 2009 and 2010 XF are deplorable. Glad I did not buy this car even though I love its stying and interior design. 95 trips for the 2009 and 135 trips for service for the 2010. Getting worse, not better. Very sad. Jaguar will once again garner its red headed step child title if this keeps up.

  • avatar

    What did they do to the front of that car, yuck….and great idea for the back seat…..mark this one as a loss.

  • avatar

    I recently leased a 2013 XKR. I would agree with the comments regarding the use of the back seats for leg less children only.
    While few expect to carry passengers in the back seat, if it were eliminated you could significantly improve cargo space and front seat travel.
    It’s a flaw in an otherwise fairly well executed car. I say fairly well executed because the same team that designed the back seat architecture probably had a hand in the navigation interface which is several years behind the times.
    Jaguar has always attempted to blend performance luxury and style, and I feel they fairly well hit the mark.
    It has excellent , effortless acceleration at any speed. In sport setting with traction control off, it will instantly spin the rear tires and hit the rev limiter. The exhaust makes a fabulous growl but if you are enjoying it you are likely traveling at an illegal speed.
    The car does not feel nearly as athletic as a 911, but the suspension firms up nicely when the car is thrown into a turn. Power oversteer is always available, and the steering has decent feel. while it has paddle shifters the transmission is responsive enough that i don’t expect to use them much unless i’m at a track day. By the way the owners manual includes the recommended suspension/performance settings for a track/race event. All the while the car delivers excellent ride quality and 23 mpg on a recent trip . While the back seat is a joke, the drivers seat is a comfortable and entertaining perch indeed.

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