It was time to celebrate the greatest car in Jaguar’s 75 Year history, and they had one chance to get it right. Did they succeed with their Limited Edition XKR-175…? All photos taken exclusively for Lost In a Supermarket by Robert Kerian.
Since their glory days celebrating the widespread success of their iconic E-Type in the 1960’s, Jaguar has suffered a slow and steady 3-decade decline from world-class headturner to the dominion of the rich and staid. Sorry Coventry, but that’s just the way it is. Not that all Jags in the past 40 years have been boring, they just never matched up to their halcyon days —collecting SCCA Championship trophies while carrying silverscreen starlets to and fro, heads wrapped in silk scarves and faces in the sun. Cancerous electronics problems blamed on the infamous Lucas Industries’ wiring in the 70s and 80s almost put a stake in the brand’s proud heart, but things actually improved when Ford took over the Leaping Cat in 1989 (although few Brits want to admit it). But the cars themselves…well, they still left much to be desired.
Then designer extraordinaire Ian Callum took over as Design Director at Jaguar in 1999, vowing to modernize the fleet with fresh, dynamic design. Rejecting the retro stylings of his predecessor, Callum eschewed many of the now-dated lines of the brand — a move that angered many purists and pleased others, but at least promised to get Jaguar back in the automotive dialogue.
And the first car released completely under Callum’s watch is the second generation XKR —the direct bloodline carrier of the vaunted E-Type, Jaguar’s most important vehicle and one of the most iconic GTs in automotive history. And given Jaguar’s financial, design, reliability and performance woes in the past 30 years, a car they absolutely had to get right. And with the limited edition XKR-175 — a car created to celebrate the vaunted marque’s 75th Anniversary — Jaguar definitively did.
The XKR-175 is a beautiful machine — in exterior design, in interior appointment, in sound and in performance. And even in pricetag… but more on that later. Jaguar has always been the Gentleman’s Car, a rarified luxury vehicle that looked perfectly at home parked in front of an immaculately kept estate. But what happened to the brand in the 80s and 90s nearly buried the great cat, as the amount of oxygen in Jaguar’s sport blood slowly vanished. The XKR-175 plans to exorcise those slow-witted demons, and its aluminum-block, supercharged 5.0-liter V-8 does just that. With a 174-mph jet of holy water — increased from the standard XKR’s 155 top speed.
Hit the Jump to continue reading our test drive with the Jaguar XKR-175…
“Jaguar scores with its XKR-175 by crafting a GT with all the gentleman’s appointments you’d expect, and fusing them with an engine that finally earns the Jaguar moniker…”
Bristling with 510 hp and 461 pound-feet of torque, the XKR-175 funnels all that power straight to the rear wheels, delivering one helluva giddy ride and a 0-to-60 clip of 4.6 seconds. Even with traction control on, you can chirp the tires at a stop sign, and if you’re not careful you might lay considerable rubber just making a U-Turn. In snow or rainslicked conditions, that XKR-175 just might burn you. That’s why the car even offers a “Snow” mode, offering even greater traction control at the push of a button. Now I’ve seen many performance cars that let you eliminate traction control, but the XKR-175 is the first that necessitates a button that increases traction control. And it’s not just a gimmick — there may be a snowy afternoon that you’ll be thanking the stars.
With an EPA claim of 22/15 mpg, the V8 is also one of the most efficient engines in its class… although I averaged considerably less in the 9.6 ballpark. Still, maybe that wasn’t the V8′s fault but the fact that I kept it permanently locked into Sport mode and caressed the throttle just heartily enough to continuously make the Jaguar’s V8 growl. And what a growl it is — perhaps not as dramatic as a Lambo or R8, but the exhaust note certainly is euphonic to the ears (and more than enough for the luxury the car provides).
The ZF 6-speed automatic transmission is mated to a peculiar gearshift control: the JaguarDrive Selector. It is not a traditional stick shifter but a round twist-knob that rises up from its flush mount in the center console when it’s time to party. The twist-knob design works on sedans and luxury cars like the XF (in which it was first introduced), but unfortunately declaws the car of its sportiness… there’s just no way spinning a knob can offer the same sort of visceral potency than using a shifter does. Other deficits of the car include the absence of Bluetooth Audio and rear-view camera, as rear visibility is quite poor. Also its touchscreen sat-nav is frustratingly unintuitive, and had to be explained before it could be used. There are other Jaguar-specific eccentricities such as door handles that you push in to lock, but these are classic Jaguar peculiarities lifted from its history that actually add to the vehicle’s charm.
The beautifully appointed XKR-175 interior, with JaguarDrive Selector twist-knob in center console
Visually the XKR-175 features an Ultimate Black exterior, red brake calipers peeking out from behind 20” ten-spoke Kasuga rims, larger front and rear spoilers, rear diffuser, lower body extensions and quad exhaust pipes. It’s a gorgeous and brutal looking package — refined by an interior more than up to Jaguar’s lofty standards. Its dark charcoal soft-grain leather-wrapped interior pops with cranberry stitching and piano black wood veneer. Other amenities include a 14-speaker, 525-watt Bowers & Wilkens 7.1 surround sound stereo, heated steering wheel, elaborate seat controls handily placed on the door instead of under the seats (which are heated and cooled), tire pressure monitoring system, keyless entry/start, portable audio connectivity for iPod and USB devices, adaptive cruise control, an anti-theft engine immobilizer and a bright red start/stop button placed center console — a pulsing beacon begging to be activated like a missile launch button. And wrap it all up with a metal badge on the doorsill that reads “1 of 175” — letting everyone know exactly just how rare your vehicle is.
Add all that up for just $8,500 premium over the base XKR, and you have one of the best luxury GT values at $104,500. Some have argued that the XKR is a bit reminiscent of another Ian Callum creation (and lovechild with Henrik Fisker), the Aston Martin DB9, and they’d be right. Squint, and you might walk to the wrong car. But considering the XKR-175 comes in about $80,000 cheaper than the DB9 (and $10K cheaper than Maserati’s standard GT), and you realize the value. Jaguar scores highly with its XKR-175 for crafting a vehicle with all the gentleman’s appointments that you’d expect from the legendary British marque, and fusing them with an engine that finally earns the Jaguar moniker. It seems Leaping Cat has finally released a GT worthy of its heritage.