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2012 Jaguar XKR Convertible Review

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Justin Pritchard
A delightful split personality defines Jaguar XKR Convertible
The Jaguar XKR Coupe is the first car I ever drove that made me fully appreciate why some folks spend so much money on a car. I’d typically rather spend my theoretical $110,000 on a dirty old Dodge Viper and a wing joint -- but the XKR Coupe I drove in 2010 pulled me the other way.

2012 Jaguar XKR Convertible

Ditto for the slightly refreshed 2012 convertible version of the Jag. Turns out, both machines do an unmatched job of supporting their prices with how they look and feel.

See this one in person
Though some of the stunning lines on the coupe are interrupted by the convertible top and deck-lid, the drop-top XKR is still an incredible piece of design work. Photos don’t do the depth, curvaceousness and passionate design justice here. You need to see this car in person.

The 2012 Jaguar XKR Convertible literally stops people of all ages dead in their tracks. Quad-pipe exhaust, hood vents, huge red brakes, and a rear lip spoiler all add to the effect -- and the new LED headlamp accents look like evil cat's eyes in the rearview mirrors of other motorists.

Pure class on board
On board, drivers enter a world of chrome, metal and contrast-stitched leather so fragrant it leaves its smell on your clothes. The 2012 Jaguar XKR Convertible is trimmed and detailed like the lobby of a top-end hotel, and it all looks, feels and even smells expensive. The chrome shift-dial, which raises from the console when you fire up the engine, is a unique touch, too.

Seats are comfortable and highly adjustable, at-hand storage is decent, and there’s room enough for full-size adults up front. Trunk space is limited thanks to the folding roof, and the rear seats are tighter than the back of J-Lo’s pants.

The Bowers and Wilkins stereo system in the 2012 Jaguar XKR Convertible is one of the best I’ve ever decimated my eardrums with -- though without Bluetooth audio streaming for my phone, I had to bust out the old CD case and rock out to Phil Collins for most of my test drive. Turns out, I’m OK with that.

And, with the 2012 XKR’s roof opening and closing in mere seconds at the touch of a button, Mr. Collins can be enjoyed with or without the sky overhead. Top up or down, wind noise and turbulence are managed well, and the body is notably stiff and virtually free of the sloppy jiggle exhibited by most convertibles on rougher roads. And even on those rougher roads, ride quality is all-around excellent in the 2012 Jaguar XKR Convertible.

All said, the XKR Convertible’s cabin stimulates the senses quietly.

2012 Jaguar XKR Convertible interior
On board, drivers enter a world of chrome, metal and contrast-stitched leather so fragrant it leaves its smell on your clothes. (Photo: Justin Printchard)

The (snorting) beast within
What’s under the hood doesn’t.

Stand on the throttle, and one supercharged 5.0L V8 sends 510 hp to the rear wheels while making a noise typically reserved for the climatic gun-battle in an IMAX war documentary. The sound drenches the cabin, and with the top down, it literally comes to the driver’s ears from every direction at once.

All of this while the 4,000-pound machine rampages fiercely forward on a shockwave of noise and thrust that’ll rattle the teacups on your grandmother’s wall.

The 2012 Jaguar XKR Conertible is extremely fast, very torque-y, and has heaps of power to spare. Appropriately, it’s also buttery-smooth at all times -- despite the aggression suggested by the exhaust note. Cruising the strip or ripping up a road course, drivers can expect world-class levels of refinement.

Dynamic Mode
There’s even a button to engage “Dynamic Mode” which tightens the shocks, sharpens the throttle, recalibrates the rear differential lockup threshold, and opens some flaps in the muffler to make even more noise. This turns the high-class touring car into a 4,000-lb feline that’s gotten into the catnip.

Steering is very quick, turn in is instant, cornering is largely flat, and unless you get carried away, the 2012 XKR’s handling inspires plenty of confidence.

So do the brakes. These bite hard, and scrub off forward momentum straight away.

All in all, for a car that’s capable of such velvety and relaxed operation, the full-blast performance of the XKR seems delightfully sneaky and almost inappropriate. It’s got my vote for best exhaust note of all time, too.

Complaints? Since it sounds like a Spitfire at full throttle, you’ll want to floor it. A lot. This is expensive on both fuel and speeding tickets. The navigation and infotainment interface looks slightly dated, and the gleaming chrome surfaces inside often reflect the sun’s rays directly into your retinas when the top is down. Proper driving sunglasses are advised.

The big draw here is the ability of the XKR to deliver both long-haul comfort and hot-rod performance, without sacrificing anything in between. The 2012 Jaguar XKR Convertible is absolutely comfortable
Justin Pritchard
Justin Pritchard
Automotive expert
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