Tech Review: 2007 Jaguar XKR
By Doug Newcomb of MSN Autos
If there are any lingering doubts about Jaguar's recent renaissance after years of stodgy design and substandard quality, the 2007 XKR Coupe proves that Jag is once again capable of leading the sports car pack.
The XKR Coupe I test drove, with a sticker price of $99,575, exhibited feline grace due to its lightweight aluminum chassis and produced a menacing growl courtesy of a supercharged 420-horsepower 4.2-liter V8 engine.
The XKR Coupe also benefits from practical tech features that fit well with its refined high-performance. The model I tested came with a DVD navigation system, Bluetooth hands-free phone capability, adaptive cruise control, adaptive front lighting, and the interior was comfortable and quiet enough to hear the Alpine-branded premium audio system purr or roar.
An in-dash six-disc CD changer that also plays MP3/WMA-encoded discs is located below a 7-inch LCD touch-screen display used to control the audio system as well as the navigation system and climate controls.
The touch screen uses Macromedia Flash animation for sharp and clear graphics, but I initially found the controls not very intuitive to use and the various menus difficult to navigate. But Jaguar thoughtfully provides a "home" button below screen that allows quickly getting back to square one if you get lost.
Volume up/down and track/station up/down controls are also included on the left side of the steering wheel via a unique jog dial that has a nice feel. But because the two controls are spaced tightly together and are the same size, more than once I hit the wrong control and inadvertently changed tracks instead of cranking the volume—just as I was starting to really enjoy a particular song.
Below the steering-wheel volume and track controls are buttons to change the audio source (on the right) and activate the Bluetooth hands-free feature (on the right). Similarly arranged cruise-control switches occupy the opposite side of the steering wheel.
Three Channel Mode
Listening to Alejandro Escovedo's "Thirteen Years," a CD I've used to evaluate hundreds of sound systems over the years, I was able to discern subtle parts of the music in three-channel mode that many systems typically mask. The track "Helpless," for example, features an eclectic mix of instruments—dobro, trombone, and organ—and in the XKR each was well-defined and balanced in the mix. The XKR also included SIRIUS Satellite Radio, which sounded great and the stations were easy to access.
One of my few gripes is that, as with some other recent Jaguar models and at least one other Alpine-branded Jag system I've tested, I was able to max out the volume. More than once I wanted to crank it up, only to find that the volume was at its highest setting—something that never happens with most of the audio systems I've evaluated.
Some of the most useful tech on the XKR, however, had nothing to do with entertainment, convenience and communication and everything to do with enjoying the drive. This included the Sequential Shift paddles on the steering wheel that allow quick fingertip control of the six-speed automatic transmission and adaptive cruise control, which makes highway driving in heavy traffic a lot less frustrating.
The adaptive front bi-xenon headlights help you see what's around the bend on a twisty road at night, while the Reverse Park Control warns of objects behind you when the car is shifted in reverse. But with the poor rear visibility of the XKR, a back-up camera would be even better.
The Cat Is Back
Doug Newcomb has been writing about car electronics since 1988, as editor of Car Audio and Electronics, Car Stereo Review, Mobile Entertainment, Road & Track Road Gear and as a freelance writer. His new book, Car Audio for Dummies, is available from Wiley Publications. He lives in Hood River, Oregon.