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2011 Jaguar XKR Black Pack

This big cat really knows how to purr

By Bill Roebuck

Thunderclouds on the horizon, or is it the rumbling exhaust note of the Black Back we hear in the distance? City or country, the 2011 Jaguar XKR looks dashing. Of course, it's the open road of the countryside that appeals most to this 510-hp luxury sports coupe. Photo: Bill RoebuckI'm now a big fan of the Black Pack.

It's not another rap group. It's the model name for a new car that's sure to garner a coveted diecast reproduction as a 'Hot Wheels' toy.

The Black Pack is the moniker for a new version of the venerable Jaguar XK -- typically thought of as the "I'm-going-to-the-country-club" coupe. However, that changed last year as the XK family underwent a metamorphosis with its 2010 models, introducing revamped interior and exterior designs, plus more engine power. For 2011, you get all that and more with the new Black Pack version of the powerful XKR series.

The XKR Black Pack looks as ready for a workout on the track as it does dressed for success around town and on the highway. This is especially so when it is suited out in its fancy tux, as was this tester, painted Ultimate Black with gloss black 20-in. alloy wheels. Wow!

If you're a commuter, with the new XKR you'll live for long highway on-ramps, where you can put down the hammer and feel the exhilarating thrill of one of the fastest-accelerating luxury coupes on the planet. The power surge is incredible -- the acceleration has been tested at 4.8 seconds from zero to 100 km/h. The supercharged 5.0-litre XKR simply puts a heck of a lot of fun back into driving.

Normally, Jaguar XKs have a speed limiter holding them to 250 km/h (155 mph). Then there's the Speed Pack option on the XKR, which releases the limiter somewhat and allows a top speed of 280 km/h (174 mph). You also get the same top speed limit in the XKR Black Pack model.

Overall, the XKR is a very impressive luxury sports coupe, but it's even more so with the Black Pack options. The black does not refer to the colour of the car, although co-incidentally our tester was painted black. This model comes in only three colours: Ultimate Black, Polaris White or Salsa Red, all with the black alloy wheels.

Further gloss black finishing is applied to the window surrounds and front grilles. Body-coloured front and rear spoilers and a boot lid finisher are included. All 2011 Jaguar XKRs with the Black Pack are trimmed with charcoal-coloured leather hides that can be personalized with a range of colour stitching and grain. Three interior finishes and veneers for the fascia and door trims are also available -- Dark Oak, Piano Black and the trim on our tester, Dark Mesh Aluminium. (It seemed odd for a Jaguar to have not a splinter of its trademark wood trim.)

Jaguar's design director, Ian Callum, says that with the optional Black Pack, "you can now add a sense of drama and severity to [the car's] performance.

2011 Jaguar XKR Black Pack 16-way seat control really coddles the driver and passenger. Photo: Bill RoebuckAs to be expected, the XKR boasts many customary luxury car options -- heated and cooled front seats, twin-needle stitching in the leather, headlamp washers, heated windshield, MP3 and iPod connectors, touch-screen navigation system, rain-sensing wipers, and 16-way adjustable driver and passenger seats (16! Talk about coddling).

A parking aid beeps when you get close to objects front and rear, such as another car, although the front sensors cannot detect how close you are to a parking curb. With the low overhang of the front spoiler, you must park carefully to avoid damage. Interestingly, the XKs come with bolt-on front and rear sections to help minimize repair costs in the event of an accident.

Our tester also had the 'R' performance brakes, 20-in. Kalimnos wheels, bright red brake calipers, "tyre" pressure monitoring, and an extra-tall rear spoiler, which is included in the Black Pack features.

2011 Jaguar XKR Black Pack. Photo: Bill RoebuckThis is easily one of the finest cars I've tested. It's got Aston Martin beauty and Corvette performance rolled into one slick package.

One press of the start button, with the key fob securely in your left pants pocket, and the XKR quickly roars and burbles to life, the 510-hp engine popping and growling. (Why the left pocket, you ask? In your right pocket, the key fob is quite likely to slip out and fall into the impossibly tight space between seat and the centre console, and you'll have one heck of a time fishing it out -- it took me about 10 minutes to do so.)

As I took the XKR out on the road for the first time, I noted my thoughts. Push the red start button. Listen to the engine roar to life. Hear the sweet burbling sound of the exhaust. Feel that it's hard to restrain as I pull away from the first stop sign. Learn that it's nearly impossible to hold back the speed on the first highway on-ramp (thanks to no other traffic). My cheeks start to hurt from my wide grin. Slow down -- and the Jag gears down automatically for you. No need to touch the well-placed paddle shifters under the steering wheel.

One more press of the gas pedal and the XKR literally pounces down the road.

Handling is impeccable. The steering response, to me, seemed absolutely perfect. On highway-speed corners -- even banked on-ramps -- the XKR felt completely balanced and stable. Around town, it's agile, and it even boasts a reasonably tight turning circle (10.9 m).

Four big pipes play exhaust notes like they are from a church organ -- the Church of Automotive Tuning, of course. Photo: Bill RoebuckThe four big pipes under the rear bumper play exhaust notes like they are from a huge church organ -- the Church of Automotive Tuning, of course. It's loud enough that my neighbour, Peter, who was mowing his lawn at the time, looked up as I drove down the street, so he could observe what was making that sweet rumbling sound.

Oh yah, it's a head-turner. Big time. Guys mostly. This will never be thought of as a chick car. Not a chance.

So that is how it is. It wants to go wild on the highway. It craves to be taken to the track. Yet it holds its aplomb on crummy, rutted roads. All is smooth as silk. Upshifts are nearly imperceptible. The ride is steady and quiet. The torque -- rated at 461 ft-lb -- squishes you into the seat, especially on the lift-off as the six-speed transmission slips into third. The rate of acceleration is as phenomenal as it is seamless and effortless, from launch until you run out of road -- or courage.

I took my friend, Dave -- someone who has owned many new Jaguars in his lifetime -- out for a spin. "I've never, ever felt that kind of acceleration in any car," he said, as he shakily got out of the XKR after a brief but exhilarating ride.

Jaguar calls this car a 2+2 coupe, but the '+2' -- as is often the case in sports coupes -- isn't much more than a space to put a briefcase during the commute to the office.

2011 Jaguar XKR rear seat is minimalist. Photo: Bill Roebuck.Even though the XKR has four seats, there are no friends I dislike enough -- nor kids I know that are small enough -- that I would care to put in the back seats. The legroom is minimal, for certain, and the interior of the rear deck lid is festooned with a warning sticker about the possibility bashing the head of anyone in the back seat when you shut it.

In fact, I was reluctant to test the seat by dropping my smallish butt into the deeply cut-away seat, because I figured it wouldn't be pretty watching me trying to haul myself out. I couldn't even get Noel, my vertically-challenged neighbour at 5-ft. 6-in. tall, to give it a try.

At least the rear seat gives you some extra cargo space, something you'll probably need, as the rear storage area, covered by the steeply sloping hatch, can only accommodate 330 litres (11.7 cu. ft.) of cargo. However, you could go for Jaguar's optional Bespoke Fitted Luggage, a suitcase that fits precisely into the 30-litre wheel well space under the load floor.

The curve of the Burlington Bridge isn't nearly as picturesque as the curve of the roofline of the 2011 Jaguar XKR Black Pack. Photo: Bill RoebuckStorage space inside is lacking as well. A centre cubby box, which includes a sliding armrest, couldn't hold the case for my Maui Jim sunglasses. The glove box is just as frugal, with the thick Jaguar manuals filling up almost all of the available room.

After a week of driving, the trip computer claimed I'd been getting 12.5 L/100 km -- with a balanced mix of city and highway driving. Officially, the XKR Coupe is rated at 14.1 city/9.1 highway/11.9 combined L/100 km. The car has a 71-litre fuel tank, and it gives you a clear warning on the speedometer display when you've got about 60 km worth of fuel left to find a gas station.

In short, the 2011 XKR Coupe is simply a fabulous car that will provide you with a superb driving experience.

Text and photographs above are by Bill Roebuck, a veteran member of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC), and the Editor-in-Chief of CarTest! © 2010.

Posted Sept. 6, 2010. Updated Sept. 7, 2010.

2011 Jaguar XKR Black Pack. Photo: JaguarPricing (Canadian MSRP)

2011 XK Coupe base price: $96,500
2011 XKR Coupe: $107,000
2011 XKR Coupe Black Pack, as tested: $116,450 (see breakdown below)

Black Pack option: $6,500, includes
-20-in. Kalimnos alloy wheels with gloss black finish
-Gloss black finish to upper and lower grilles and side intakes
-Gloss black finish to window surrounds
-Body coloured Aerodynamic Pack - front chin spoiler and larger rear spoiler
-Body coloured rear trunk lid finisher
Other options on test vehicle include
-Red brake calipers with R logo (required with Black Pack): $500
-Heated windscreen: $300
-Suede cloth headliner in canvas colour: $800
Destination and delivery (freight): $1,350
Total price, 2011 XKR Coupe Black Pack: $116,450


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