Jaguar XK-R Convertible
It's a grey day, the thermometer clawed its way towards the giddy heights of 0ºC, there's even the occasional flurry of snow. But it made absolutely no difference, the roof of the Jaguar XKR convertible was coming down and damn the consequences.
I should have taken a wooly hat, the air con created warming pools of heat for my feet it couldn't save my ears from the bitting winds of late February.
The reason for the bout of madness was my inner idiot. He's the fellow that thought climbing on to a wall over a concrete brook was a good idea - until the ambulance arrived, or climbing out of the bathroom window, convinced that, like Spider-Man, I would stick to the brickwork. Again, not so clever.
But nonetheless, with all the cars available, he offered a convincing argument for taking one of only two cars with a folding roof.
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Looking back, the bright blue XKR-S would have made better pictures on a grey day, but another chap had obviously brought his inner idiot too and he ran faster.
The XK-R is not a car for the shy. For a start it's close to five metres long and exceptionally eye catching. Revisions for this, the third iteration are thankfully subtle. The latest lighting technology has allowed for slimmer headlamps incorporating LED signal functions and running lights. The grille has grown and for XK-R is fitted with black mesh. Two slits in the bonnet, bearing the word supercharged imply this a quicker than standard XK, whether they serve any purpose beyond vanity I couldn't say. But they look smart.
Then there's bark from beneath the bonnet. Tucked inside the cabin with the roof closed, there's the merest of rumbles from somewhere behind you. Fold the roof down, however, and what sounds like a very large, angry cat growls and spits every time you apply more than a tickle with your right foot. A Jaguar that shouts 'look at me' is not something you expect of a British Grand Tourer. It's not very P.G. Wodehouse or Kew Gardens is it?
It's more of a Blackpool Pleasure Beach, Alton Towers experience. Not that I didn't love it, but like your favourite album, it's best enjoyed alone.
Gunning the throttle in a queue of traffic will not win you any admiring glances, quite the opposite.
Away from the crowds though, you and your inner idiot may be inclined to tickle the moggy into frenzy. And the aural assault comes courtesy five-litres of aluminium V8 engine. It develops enough grunt to send the Jaguar past 60mph in less than five seconds and onto a limited 155mph should you have a shocking disregard for the law, fuel consumption, or the high performance Pirelli tyres.
Jaguar has left just enough leash to allow the cat to bite should the inner idiot take the wheel. Rear-wheel drive, force fed more than 500bhp in a hurry will rip those big Pirellis away from the Queen's highway in the blink of an eye and snap back just as quickly.
Better to take a considered approach, arriving at your destination yesterday is always necessary.
Cars like this are what new roads are laid for, the smoother the surface the more you'll enjoy the journey. Sadly much of the UK's road network is in poor condition and that married to the inherent weakness of the convertible design means the body shudders at slower speeds when the road surface deteriorates. On longer runs though, on faster A roads the ride is firm but, well damped, corners can driven through with confidence with the steering offering plenty of feedback. For the more enthusiastic driver gear-change paddles sit just behind the multi-function steering wheel, but the six-speed auto is so efficient there seems little point in interfering in the electronics.
As with all the best GTs there are four seats, but the two in the rear only just meet the brief. Up front is where it's at. Broad, swathed in leather and heated for those chilly mornings the front seats are fit for a car of this ilk. And that applies to the rest of the cabin. Flashes of chrome add the glitz to heavily black cabin and the balance is spot on. There are enough gadgets to keep the Jaguar current without announcing their presence. A flashing red start button is one exception to this and unlike the JaguarDrive gear selector which rises gracefully from the ebony centre console on start up, I could live without it.
The XK-R is a very Anglo/American experience, a big V8 lump producing big noises and brutal performance in tandem a finely crafted and understated cabin. Not sure there is a place for a five-litre supercharged engine in the fuel-sipping world of today, but there's no denying it's intoxicating and the inner idiot loved it.