2011 Jaguar XKR

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The Jaguar XK convertible is one of the most graceful droptops around, but you might be surprised by how engaging a driver's car it is — especially the XKR version, which packs a big punch thanks to its supercharged V-8 engine.

On the other hand, while the XKR's driving experience is everything you could want from a convertible sports car, some elements of its cabin leave a little to be desired, especially considering its $100,000-plus starting price.

The XK is available in two body styles — coupe and convertible — with a 385-horsepower V-8 (XK) or a 510-hp, supercharged V-8 (XKR).

Styling

The 2011 model year is the fifth for this generation of the XKR, and it has aged remarkably well. It received some mild styling tweaks centered on the front bumper last year, but even though it looks pretty much the same for 2011, the presence and beauty this car possesses haven't been diminished. It's a design for the ages.

Convertible Commentary

The XKR's fully powered soft-top roof lowers or raises in roughly 20 seconds. It stores beneath a body-colored hard cover when lowered, which gives the XKR a clean look that enhances the convertible's lines.

The cabin is breezy at highway speeds, with some occasional wind buffeting, but the windshield does a good job of protecting front occupants from excessive wind rush. You'll have no problem leaving the top down for a long highway drive.

For a convertible this big, the XKR has a pretty stiff body. It doesn't squeak or rattle over bumps and, for the most part, it lacks the body shudder that plagues the Mercedes-Benz E-Class Cabriolet, among others.

Supercharged Fun

The XKR is startlingly quick. Jaguar cites a zero-to-60-mph time of 4.6 seconds, and it feels that swift. What's particularly impressive about the car is how much power the supercharged 5.0-liter V-8 has in reserve when cruising on the highway. Jab the gas pedal partway at 70 mph and the transmission quickly kicks down. Before you know it, you're doing 85. In everyday driving, there's little need for full-throttle acceleration because part-throttle produces such a powerful response. The XKR demands great restraint — if you don't respect it you could quickly find yourself at odds with law enforcement.

The XKR features a traditional six-speed automatic transmission, and it functions well in this high-powered convertible, regardless of whether you're cruising or driving aggressively.

Its shifts are smooth and unobtrusive during leisurely motoring, but if you want to take control of the transmission you can do so with the steering-wheel paddle shifters. Pull either the downshift or upshift paddle and the transmission responds quickly; there's no waiting around for the gear change to happen, like there is with some clutchless-manual systems. Because it's so responsive, you'll probably be more inclined to use the paddles when traveling your favorite winding road.

The XKR gets an EPA-estimated 15/22 mpg city/highway and takes premium gas.

Ride & Handling

The XKR is pretty large for a car with sporting intentions — it's longer than some midsize SUVs — but you don't feel its size when sitting in the driver's seat. It masks its size well, driving like a car three-quarters its size.

Jaguar has done a great job tuning the steering. The car turns-in quickly, with the nimbleness of a smaller sports car. It takes a medium amount of effort to turn the steering wheel, which suits the car quite well. I wouldn't mind a little more steering feedback, but overall the setup does a good job connecting the driver with the car.

You become a little more aware of the XKR's size when cornering, but it remains relatively flat through turns. That said, you immediately realize that corners aren't where this car longs to be; it wants to blast across the country, sucking down gas and spitting out mile after mile of road.

Despite its formidable power, the XKR is still comfortable enough for everyday driving. It's not softly sprung, mind you, but it won't pummel you over every road imperfection. There are always mild body motions — like a hundred miniature earthquakes every mile — but the suspension does handle buckled pavement and potholes with no drama. You and your passengers won't feel the full force of the impacts.

The XKR includes a Dynamic Mode that's activated by a button on the center console. It firms the adaptive suspension and heightens the transmission's responsiveness, but the most noticeable changes are a more sensitive gas pedal and a louder exhaust note, thanks to valves that open in the tailpipes.

The Inside

There are some elements of the XKR convertible's cabin that befit its $102,125 starting price, including nice leather bucket seats, classy power-seat switches and Suedecloth-wrapped windshield pillars. However, there are also parts-bin power-window and mirror controls, run-of-the-mill silver-colored plastic on the dashboard and a slow navigation interface. In a car that costs this much, you expect everything in the cabin to be exceptional, and it's not.

Jaguar provides seating for four, but the XKR is really a two-person car. To get a comfortable driving position, I had to move the driver's seat back to a point where there was effectively no legroom for anyone riding behind me. The seat's travel was at its limit; if I tried to move it rearward any farther, the backrest would tilt forward automatically. I'm somewhat tall — 6-foot-1 — but not that tall. Especially tall folks might feel cramped.

Cargo

The convertible's trunk measures 11.1 cubic feet with the top up and the movable partition out of the way, but it drops to 7.1 cubic feet when you put the top down. Either way, it's a small space for your things, which makes you appreciate the storage possibilities the small backseat provides.

Safety

Standard safety features include antilock brakes, side-impact airbags for the front seats, an electronic stability system and active front head restraints. Convertibles come with pop-up roll bars.

XKR in the Market

Measured any number of ways, the XKR is a terrific convertible; it looks gorgeous and drives great. While it's hard to safely use all of the supercharged V-8's performance capability in everyday driving, that doesn't diminish the drivetrain's appeal.

For the XKR convertible's $102,125 base price you could get the keys to a Porsche 911 convertible or a Mercedes-Benz SL550 retractable-hardtop roadster. Those are two impressive luxury convertibles but the XKR holds up well against them, and remains a great choice in this segment.

Snapshot

Starting MSRP $83,000 – $104,625

EPA Fuel Economy:

City: 15 – 16

Highway: 22 – 24

Available Engines:

385-hp, 5.0-liter V-8 (premium)

510-hp, 5.0-liter V-8 (premium)


Available Transmissions:

6-speed automatic w/OD and auto-manual

New or Notable

• Coupe or convertible

• Twist-knob gear selector

• Supercharged XKR makes 510 hp

• Optional collision-warning system

What We Like

• V-8 power and sound

• Transmission smoothness

• Good balance of handling and ride comfort

• Timeless looks

• Limited wind buffeting (convertible)

What We Don't

• Worthless backseat

• Some low-grade cabin controls

• Touch-screen's sluggish response

• Convertible's right-side blind spot

• Brakes are somewhat grabby

[Buying topic of the week – Top 10 Cars We Hate the Most]

By Tom and Ray Magliozzi, Click and Clack the Tappet Brothers,Car Talk

With 0 images

891 words

These are the cars that cause us to mumble under our breath when they drive by. So smug. So reliable. Sure! Drive right past our shop! How's a mechanic supposed to make a monthly boat payment with so many of these things on the road?

Yes, the cars we hate most, as mechanics, are the cars that provide us with the fewest repair dollars. I mean, you see a '99 Jeep Grand Cherokee roll into the shop and you can practically smell the transmission rebuild. But the cars on this list? You'll be lucky to sell their owners a set of brake pads or a muffler.

If you're looking for a car to buy, however, this list might provide you with some good clues. Oh, sure ... don't worry about us!

P.S. This list reflects our own experience, of course. So when we cite the ready availability of parts, we're talking about the typical repair experience in metropolitan areas in the Northeast. We're not sure the same is true in North Grainbucket, Iowa.

P.P.S. Astute observers will notice 13 cars in this list, not 10. Please don't write in to complain.

Honda Civic

One of the most reliable cars available today. The Civic rarely seems to break, and when it does, its problems are easy to diagnose. Original Equipment Manufacturer, aka OEM, parts are both affordable and easy to get.

Honda Accord

See "Civic."

Toyota Camry

The Camry used to be the clear-cut winner when it came to reliability. Other cars are catching up, but it's still one of the most reliable performers around. Affordable and easy-to-get OEM parts, too.

Toyota Corolla

About all that's ever needed on the Corolla are regular maintenance and an occasional brake job. We're not making any money on this car, that's for sure. OEM parts are affordable, too.

Toyota Prius

Unfortunately for us, only dealers are currently servicing the expensive hybrid components in the Prius. That will change in time. But, for now, we're not making any money off the Prius.

The Prius is crammed full of technology, but Toyota has put plenty of effort into the layout, which is well thought out. Considering the number of components that are under the hood, the non-hybrid parts are pretty easy to access and service.

From our point of view, the Prius is terrible news for mechanics — not even the brakes wear out, thanks to the regenerative braking system. All we get to install are wiper blades. How are you supposed to buy a pair of Jet Skis on that money?

Ford Fusion and Ford Fusion Hybrid

In our humble opinion, these are two of the few American cars that really approach the reliability of the Japanese brands. (Official Car Talk Disclaimer: Ray is a Ford stockholder — as well as a disgruntled former GM stockholder.)

Toyota Sienna and Honda Odyssey

Minivans have generally been pretty good to us. They're big cars with a lot of parts that eventually fall off. But if you're looking for the best of the minivans — the ones on which we make the least amount of money — those would be the Toyota Sienna and Honda Odyssey. Are they as reliable and as affordable as the other cars in this list? Probably not. But in the minivan class, they're the best choices going.

Honda CR-V

See "Civic" and "Accord." The only repair issue we see with the CR-V is a "chattering" final drive in the all-wheel-drive version. Other than that, the CR-V is just as reliable as any other Honda. The transmission, engine and everything else are all great. Parts are affordable, and big repairs are infrequent. Drat!

Honda Element

Unfortunately for mechanics, the Element has the same reliable drivetrain as the CR-V, so the same comments apply. The other reason we hate this car? Element owners always seem to have big dogs, which translates to a "big stink for mechanics."

Subaru Impreza

For an all-wheel-drive car, the Impreza is very reliable. Usually, we count on making a lot of money on all-wheel-drive vehicles, thanks to all the additional drivetrain components. Sadly, that's not the case with this car. Thanks a lot, Subaru. We find parts to be reasonably priced and widely available.

Subaru Forester

Parts are readily available and reasonably priced. When it comes to all-wheel-drive vehicles, like the Impreza, the Forester is a sturdy, reliable choice.

Nissan Altima

The Altima runs forever, and it's great to drive. The four-cylinder edition is a reliable car that's easy to fix. These cars just don't seem to break. Other than routine oil changes, we only see Altima owners when they've racked up 150,000 miles or more.

Special Mention

Fiat, Alfa Romeo, Lancia, Peugeot and AMC:

These are cars we fondly remember as rolling boat payments. We'd see them coming into the shop — usually on the back end of a tow truck — and we'd know it would be a good month. Unfortunately, these manufacturers are now on our fecal roster because they've pulled out of the U.S. market. Fiat and Alfa may come back in the next few years, even if they have to sneak in disguised as Chryslers. We just hope they haven't improved too much.

We could live with all the other cars on this list if we could just have a dozen customers with these heaps. Guys, please come back! We miss you!

[Ask.cars.com Q&A (4)]

By Joe Bruzek, Cars.com

With 2 images by Ian Merritt, Cars.com:

11_Mercedes-Benz_EWagon .jpg

1 0_ Dodge_Caravan .jpg

624 words

Q. Are there any three-row station wagons in compact to midsize cars?

A. If you want a genuine station wagon, the answer is no. The only traditional station wagon with three rows of seats is the full-size 2011 Mercedes-Benz E-Class wagon, which uses a rear-facing third row (aka rumble seat) best suited for kids. Otherwise, wagons like the Subaru Outback, Volkswagen Jetta, Volvo V50 and Volvo V70/XC70 have room for five occupants in only two rows.

 
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