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2014 Jaguar XKR convertible review

Jaguar Land Rover is no longer a brand that, if you’re under the age of 60, you’ve only heard of. Over the last half-decade, JLR has shot up from near extinction to being stars of the silver screen, the track, and the road. Nowadays, they’re leaving marks everywhere they go.

One of the cars credited with putting Jag back on the lips of potential buyers is the new XK, launched in 2007 and penned by the famous Ian Callum. Overnight, the XK literally seduced prestige and performance car suitors; it was quite a step in a very graceful direction from the outgoing XK8.

Last Call
The Jaguar XK underwent minor aesthetic changes over its lifespan, but now the curtain is falling on the big two-door mouser. 2015 will be the XK’s final production year, as it will be officially replaced by the full F-type line that now includes the new Coupe.

My esteemed and Brit-minded colleague Miranda Lightstone got to drive the balls-out insane Jaguar XKR-S, it being the most extreme iteration of Jaguar’s super GT cruiser. I too got to survey my territory with the sharper-clawed Jag and, although I liked it, it did not fit the XK’s character -- its true reason for being.

No, the Jaguar XK is meant to be a boulevardier-cruiser-GT-style-stupid-fast-in-a-straight-line-and-loud-show-off poser car. Chop the top and I’m all in.

What it is
The 2014 Jaguar XKR convertible is the alternative to the Porsche 911 (but less focused), the Corvette convertible (but with more class) or even the BMW 650i (but with more attitude).

This Jaguar is as mean as any famished cat on the prowl looking for its next meal or as tame as a domesticated kitty that gets a few square meals a day. The difference lies in the application of one small flag-adorned button in the centre console, and a heavy right foot.

Prowling
In domestic mode, the XK hovers above ground and remains calm, comfortable, and as tame as any household pet. The supercharged 510-horsepower 5.0L V8 hums, almost bored, making little or no use of its available 461 lb-ft of torque. Bored perhaps, but clearly not out of sorts as the Jag is quite happy prowling the riverfront for young girls to impress or the missus currently onboard or, what the hell, both.

Low-slung, wide, and always in full-on stance, the Jag will rise to the occasion should an annoying kid in his beat-up Dodge Neon R/T try to cramp your style -- the poor chump will get whipped by the exhaust fumes lashing their way out the quad tailpipes. Once the go-pedal is released, the storm settles and all is right with the world once more.

Hunting
This time around, some clown in a Mustang GT thinks he’s got your number and thinks he can impress your girl with his snarling V8. A quick sleight of hand down to the Dynamic Mode button, located below the chromed JaguarDrive Selector, and the XKR’s fangs come out for the kill. Rotating the selector fully to the right sets the 6-speed automatic transmission in Sport and then the pony can kiss the cat’s ass.

Throttle response is now sharper, steering’s heavier, and gear shifts are quicker and occur at higher engine speeds. As a true bad-ass, a slight tug on one of the paddle shifters behind the steering wheel sets the ‘box in manual mode. Ready; set; attack.

The 2014 Jaguar XKR convertible reaches 100 km/h in 4.8 seconds, and the top speed will send you to jail well over 2.5 times over.

Covering ground
The 2014 Jaguar XKR convertible’s GT nature comes from its suspension tuning designed for cruising rather than setting lap times (that’s the XKR-S’ job).

In fact, the XKR’s ride is surprisingly supple and comfortable. All but the worst road hazards will truly upset the car’s poise on land, and such is pliancy in the dampers that weight transfers are ever present under spirited cornering, acceleration or braking. In Dynamic mode, the dampers stiffen up, but we’re far off from the XKR-S’ sport-tuned setup.

In D, the autobox is efficient and always minding its business. Sweet, luxurious poise is the best way to describe the XKR’s drive. It is possible to forget at times that you’re at the wheel of a 500-hp cabriolet and not an XJL.

The lair
From Coventry, we can always expect the finest hides, top-drawer craftsmanship, and supreme attention to detail. The Jaguar XK is all about leather, sumptuous fit and finish, and class. The seats are supportive, well bolstered, and infinitely adjustable.

The rear bucketed bench is not pleasant for any human, and only the most compact of child seats will ever fit. Much the same goes for the roof when stowed in the trunk, where it belongs.

Sadly, the entirety of Jaguar’s HMI getup is poorly designed and won’t always execute what the driver wishes and when. Miranda also touches on that in all of her recent JLR reviews -- make sure you check it out.

That roar!
Yes, the Jaguar XKR emits quite the snarl under hard acceleration. It also spews out lovely tempered backfires off-throttle. Both sequences of sounds are what I will remember most fondly of the Jaguar XK -- that and the ludicrous rate at which it accelerates.

Farewell, Big Cat. Say hi to Bootsie for me when you get to cat heaven.

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