Driving the XKR175 is as refreshing as reading a Jaguar review that has no feline references. Jaguars have never been known as hot rods; even the marque’s byword of the XK era—"Grace . . . Space . . . Pace"—shuffles performance to the end of the slogan. But with a new 5-liter V-8 engine spooling up 510 supercharged hp, the graceful if not commodious coupe delivers a wallop more like that of a vicious ’Vette or a monster Mercedes. The engine places this car on a performance par with any Aston Martin or other high-priced GT. The coupe, which celebrates the marque’s 75th anniversary (in 2010), costs about $104,000 and is limited to 175 examples for the United States market, as noted by the numbered inscription ("1 of 175," for instance) on the doorsill tread plates.
The Jag’s 6-speed automatic transmission offers steering-wheel-mounted shift paddles along with standard console shifting. While banging through the gears with the flick of a finger is exhilarating, driving the Jag in a mature but emphatic manner is equally satisfying. The coupe accelerates from zero to 60 mph in a respectable 4.6 seconds, accompanied by a soundtrack that is glorious, especially when punctuated by the supercharger that pushes the car to a top speed of 174 mph. (The standard XK stops at 155 mph.)
Handling is responsive and entertaining if not sports-car light. This is a car of substance, but in no way does it feel burdened by excess weight or a sluggish suspension. In fact, the handling dynamics will please drivers seeking precise feedback, as well as passengers looking for a smooth and supple ride—or more properly, a passenger. The rear accommodations are seats in name only and are best left to soft luggage and dirty dry cleaning.
In addition to the increased top speed, the limited-edition XKR features numerous aerodynamic embellishments—a new front air dam, side-sill extensions, a rear diffuser, a larger rear spoiler—that add notes of restrained aggression to the balanced and beautiful shape. Massive 20-inch Kasuga wheels also are unique to this model, as is the Ultimate Black paint. Inside, warm charcoal leather detailed with cranberry stitching makes this a little sportier than the usual Jag, and piano-black veneer ensures that the cockpit is anything but Old World in a wingback, burl-wood sort of way.
While exciting things are coming from Coventry, and the XK’s eventual replacement no doubt will make quite a stir, this coupe embodies the essence of Jaguar that appeals to us older cats—apologies—who grew up in the era of grace, space, and pace.