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By Peter Robinson, 28 Apr 2009 First Drive


Coupe now with sharper claws.

Given the current global credit crunch this is hardly the best time for Jaguar to be launching its new $250K XKR, the marque's fastest accelerating current production car: 4.8sec to 100km/h. That's 0.3sec quicker than the old XKR and into 911 territory. Besides, given the hype over the new XFR, it's easy to forget the XK range has been significantly enhanced, though the new GTs won't reach Oz until November. Obviously the XKR gets the same mechanical upgrades as the sedan, together with new headlights, LED tail-lights and a front bumper that all conspire to make it even more handsome. Inside, Jaguar has cleverly incorporated the XF's cylindrical gear selector and made a number of design and material upgrades.

The aluminium-bodied XK - it weighs 138kg less than the equivalent steel XF sedan - also integrates the same chassis mods as the XFR: the new continuously variable damping system and electronic diff. We loved the old XKR and the new one is much improved, with far more accessible performance. It's tractable - running down to 1200rpm in sixth and then pulling away fluently. There is so much torque that between 80-113km/h, the new car is 24 percent faster.

In terms of character the XKR always sat cleverly between the hard-edged Porsche 911 and the softer Mercedes SL500. However, the new car moves closer to the 911 in terms of agility and sharpness, while remaining far more relaxed and comfortable. It encourages the driver to go quickly from the moment you twist the tranny selector. The linear power delivery starts at 2500rpm and goes on and on, all the way to the cut-out at 6700rpm. The exhaust sounds epic, too.

Drive the new XKR and it's difficult to make any case, beyond exclusivity, for the $360K Aston DB9 or $400K Bentley Conti coupe. In these tough times that makes Jaguar's new GT great value for money.

Jaguar XKR

Body aluminium, 2 doors, 2+2 seats
Drivetrain front engine (north-south), rear drive
Engine 5000cc V8, dohc, 32v, s/c
Power 375kW @ 6000-6500rpm
Torque 625Nm @ 2500-5500rpm
Transmission 6-speed auto
Size l/w/h 4791/1892/1322mm
Wheelbase 2846mm
Weight 1753kg
0-100km/h 4.8sec (claimed)
Price $250,000 (est)
On sale November