Jaguar ended production of the immortal E-type in 1974. Its immediate successor, the 1975–95 XJS, was neither as pretty nor as fun to drive. When the XK8 coupe debuted in 1996, it had styling that once again evoked Jaguar’s sporting heritage. But arguably, it wasn’t until 2005 when a truly worthy E-type successor arrived.
The second-generation XK, chassis code X150, reached the U.S. as a 2007 model and was a huge leap forward (pun intended) from its predecessor. Based on the 2005 Advanced Lightweight Coupe (ALC) concept, it inherited the show car’s gorgeous design and, more importantly, its aluminum monocoque construction. The XK was built in coupe and convertible variants and from the beginning, Jaguar offered the higher-performance XKR version.
Ian Callum, the XK’s designer, explained with saint-like patience during every interview and design presentation at the car’s unveiling, that the tall upright windshield, the exaggerated stretched hood and waif-like body of the E-type simply won’t translate to a modern car. Rather, the XK’s elliptical grille, athletic curves and swept-back headlights recall the style and spirit of the quintessential Jaguar, the design an accomplished pastiche rather than parody.
Aside from featuring two large round gauges and an essentially unusable rear seat, the interior shares almost no commonality with the E-type. The XKR is large and lavish. Jaguar certainly leaned towards the luxury-lounge end of the spectrum, with buttery leather, real wood, an Alcantara headliner and knurled knobs and trim made from actual metal. Amenities are contemporary, with keyless entry and ignition, heated and cooled multi-adjustable power seats, and an amazing Bowers & Wilkins stereo, sadly linked to a touchscreen infotainment system that was outdated even when new. Options do exist to modernize and remedy that with Apple CarPlay.
Growl and purr
The XK debuted with a DOHC 4.2-liter V8 that was developed in-house and made a perfectly adequate 300 horses. The XKR used the same “AJ” V8 but produced 420 hp thanks to a Roots-type supercharger. A 2010 midcycle facelift gave an increase in displacement to 5.0 liters and added direct fuel injection. Output rose to 510 hp and 461 lb-ft of torque, making the XKR a wonderfully overpowered GT car. Both engines make ferocious noise, but the 4.2 sounds smoother, where the 5.0 is more menacing, helping to pioneer the artificial “crack and pop” exhaust noise that is so popular today.
It’s a popular misconception that Jaguar borrowed the V8 from Ford — the opposite is true. Jaguar designed and built the engine in-house and later licensed it for use in (gasp) Lincolns. The AJ V8 even made its way into an Aston Martin. These are strong engines, but plastic pipes and a weak water pump can cause cooling-system failures, leading to serious engine damage if you don’t have an eye on the temperature gauge. Other annoyances are minor oil leaks, which are generally inexpensive to fix, and faulty timing-chain tensioners, which are not.
The same VF 6HP26 transmission found in the 4.2-liter XKR was also used by BMW, Lexus and Volvo. It was the first production 6-speed automatic transmission and was smaller, lighter and simpler than the 5-speed autos it replaced. The seal for the mechatronic unit wears out and leaks and the clutches will eventually need replacement, but fluid and filter changes will help prolong their lives. The same can be said for the solenoids. The 5.0-liter cars received a strengthened second-generation 6HP28, which is preferable in terms of reliability and performance.
The XKR’s contemporaries were the BMW M6 and the Mercedes SL, and the Jaguar fits somewhere in between. It is well balanced, although its supercharged torque allows throttle-on oversteer everywhere, sometimes at freeway speeds. Although fully defeatable, the traction control keeps everything in check. Drivers will find the system was designed for near-constant operation, while those who choose to disable it on the street will likely learn that airbags and crumple zones are single use.
Earlier cars featured Jaguar-developed Computer Active Technology System shocks — seriously, they were called “CATS” dampers — which featured Comfort and Sport modes. Facelift cars used computer-controlled Bilsteins, which are superior. Both cars ride nicely, even with optional 20-inch wheels. The steering is light but accurate, and braking power matches the rest of the car’s performance. The XKR is capable of turning respectable and enjoyable laps, but that’s probably not why you’re buying one. The coupe is slightly stiffer than the convertible, but maybe not as enjoyable.
Jaguar sold roughly 20,000 total XK/XKR coupes and convertibles in the United States between 2007 and 2015. It didn’t break out how many of these were R versions, but R-model registries estimate as many as half. When XKRs were new, they carries $100k MSRPs. Like most cars in this market space, current used prices are far more reasonable.
Early 4.2s from 2007 to ’09 are the most affordable, with good drivers in the mid-teens and low-mile creampuffs in the mid-twenties. Later cars with 5.0-liter engines are more desirable, with nice drivers in the mid-twenties and the best examples easily reaching into the mid-thirties, with outliers into the $50k area. Jaguar also built higher-performance versions, both the XKR-S and the XKR-S GT, the latter being instantly collectible.
As with so many cars of this era, a large number of XKRs are living with owners who can afford to buy them but can’t or won’t give them the attention they require. Beware of “deals” on cars that appear to be in excellent condition but hide plenty of deferred maintenance underneath. Trends in the past year have seen prices continuing to fall. It’s now time to pounce before the market starts moving in the other direction. ♦