2012 Jaguar XKR review

2012 Jaguar XKR review front angle
For a lucky few, there comes a point in life where you have the flexibility to focus less on what’s necessary and more on what you want. And needless to say we were fairly certain we wanted a 2012 Jaguar XKR before one showed up to our offices a few weeks back. It’s the type of luxury sports coupe that aspires to be right up there with Porsches’ seminal 911, the Maserati Gran Turismo, and BMW’s 6-Series, the 2012 Jaguar XKR is a beast of a car that is out to deliver thrills and a heart-pounding drive experience more than anything else. Does this prowling hellcat on wheels manage to do so? Do we still want one?

Let’s find out…

Conveying power through design

Stepping into the cockpit of the 2012 Jaguar XKR is a lot like putting on a bespoke Tom Ford suit, not only does it look great, but it feels like the car was tailor-made and rolled out of the company’s Coventry plant for you and only you. For the 2012 model year, Jaguar has added its equally stylish, equally cool, dial shifter we first encountered in the 2012 Evoque. Truthfully we really like the dial-shifter; it’s different, it’s chic, and it’s just plain cool. Sure there are those out there who don’t like it, but we do.

Aesthetically speaking the XKR’s cabin is uniquely smart. There is an impressive blend of sport and sophistication throughout, and the generous use of chrome accenting on everything from the power seat adjuster controls to virtually the entire cabin’s buttons and dials gives the cabin a dramatic feel. A lot of credit should be given to Jaguar for conveying the vehicles power and dynamism simply through the cockpit’s design.

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2012 Jaguar XKR review center consol interior 2012 Jaguar XKR review bowers wilkins interior

As for driver comfort, the XKR is great for passengers up front. The vehicle’s beltline is naturally high, and the greenhouse is little pinched so taller drivers might long for more headroom. Still, you and co-pilot shouldn’t have too much trouble getting comfortable, and with the XKR’s 16-way power adjusted seats nor will you find it difficult to stay warm with heated front seats and steering wheel. That said, while there is technically space in the rear for two more passengers, unless they have the flexibility of a Cirque du Soleil performer or the height of a Hobbit, forget it. It’s not happening. Of course, this is a sports coupe and the lack of rear passenger space probably won’t be a dealbreaker for many. The 2012 Jaguar XKR’s cabin is not without its low notes, though. We’ll get to the issues surrounding its tech features in a moment, but for now we’ll focus on a few other issues we encountered. Seeing as how our review XKR was a convertible, we expected a degree of road noise to creep into the cabin – and it did. It’s a minor nuisance, but a nuisance all the same. Buyers, be prepared to hear virtually everything going on outside the vehicle when stopped. Thankfully, getting that soft top down is simple, with a flick of a switch the XKR’s convertible top can be lowered or raised in about 20 seconds.

A fast car bogged down by its tech

How well a car delivers its tech features is becoming increasingly more important for drivers. Whether you appreciate the connectivity and convenience tech provides, feel indifferent to it, loath it or a little bit of everything we just mentioned, the reality on the ground (or in the car) is things will only become, well, techier. We figure most drivers, even luddites, won’t mind a sprinkle of tech, but it needs to be done right, and when it’s not, it only fuels a skeptic’s fire even further. The 2012 Jaguar XKR’s tech suite is rather mediocre when placed under close scrutiny.

To be clear, we’re mainly talking about the Jaguar XKR’s infotainment system. A 7-inch LCD display is strewn across the center console. Housed here are touchscreen controls for everything the system can operate. Here you will find climate, audio, and navigation controls. Truthfully the interface itself looks good enough, it’s nothing dazzling, but it’s clear enough to navigate through. What makes the system frustrating is the way in which the menus are laid out. While most infotainment systems have dedicated buttons to help quickly jump from function to function, i.e. an Audio button for Audio, a Navigation button for navigation, and so on, the XKR’s system possesses none of these, with only a home and power button on hand as physical buttons. That means every time you want to switch between functions you need to go back to the home screen to do so. It’s an extra, unneeded step. Truthfully, that might not have been as much of an issue as it was were it not for the interface’s woefully slow responsiveness.

2012 Jaguar XKR review portable audio interiorOur next issue with the Jag’s technology is centered on its Bluetooth and streaming capabilities. Pairing your smartphone is simple, but, if like most drivers nowadays, you like using your phone to stream music you’ll find it more than difficult. The XKR paired our iPhone 4S with ease, and making calls was easy enough, but when it came to streaming apps like Pandora, the system was stubborn like a mule. Switching over to an iPod helped quench our musical thirst, but given our review unit’s base price of $103,000 (all kitted out that figure climbs to $116,125) we can’t think of a good reason why it can’t recognize or stream a simple app. That said, the 2012 Jaguar XKR features an excellent 525-watt Bowers & Wilkins audio system; one that will no doubt please the auditory senses.

For the road-going traveler, we’re pleased to report that navigation and backup camera are both standard in the 2012 XKR. While both system are welcome features, we found both to be average at best. The rearview camera lacks the trajectory displays of other systems found in cars much, much cheaper, but it does provide audible warnings when encroaching upon objects like a curb or a parked car. Unfortunately, drivers searching for further connectivity will be disappointed to learn that the XKR’s system does not support services like Twitter, or Facebook updates. Again, this won’t bother most, but compared to similar systems sported by its rivals, Jaguar’s system isn’t quite up to snuff.

One curvaceous and cunning cat

We’re not going to deny the sheer allure and sexiness this feral feline exudes, why would we? The 2012 Jaguar XKR is one great looking car. It will turn heads, drop jaws, and may even lead to a lot of other things we’d probably get in trouble for writing here.

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2012 Jaguar XKR review left tail light exterior 2012 Jaguar XKR review jag logo closeup exterior

Simply put, the 2012 Jaguar XKR is one beautiful grand tourer. From its sculpted and curvacious Kate Winslett-inspired body to its athletic stance, the XKR exhibits an aggressive aesthetic while also managing to keep its design demure and elegant.

Atop its hood the XKR is swathed with running character lines, and its LED teardrop headlamps are just as eye-catching prowling the streets during the day as they are stalking the streets at night, while a stretched out oval-shaped front grille brings it all together nicely.

Around the side the XKR cuts a striking figure just as well. It looks ready to pounce with a low, cat-like stance and a stretching hood. Our review model came equipped with sport-inspired, five-spoke 20-inch Takoba wheels, upgraded from the standard 19-inch Tamana variety. And while there is certainly a lot to admire about the XKR’s dashing good looks overall, around back we aren’t fans of the abrupt rear end. Because of its short, almost tapered look, we don’t feel it fits as well as it could with the rest of the car’s design. The duel exhaust pipes so closely placed to the center of the rear doesn’t help the pinched look either. Simply put, while the rest of the vehicle looks absolutely stunning the rear design comes off as simply too boring and understated.

A V8 that roars

Merely looking at the 2013 Jaguar XKR is enough to deduce that it’s fast. The base model XK, and the entire XK lineup for that matter, feature an FR layout, meaning it sports a front engine rear-wheel-drive design, and is powered by a 5.0-liter V8 that pumps out 385 horsepower and 380 pound-feet of torque. That’s all well and good, but if you really want to make this cat scat, our 2012 XKR review model featured a supercharged version of the same engine that’s tuned to churn out 510 hp and 461 lb-ft of torque. Of course if that isn’t enough to get your motor running then an even more supped-up version exists in the XKR-S. Introduced in 2012, this thundercat on wheels cranks it up even further by spitting out 550 hp and 502 lb-ft of torque. We don’t have figures for the XK or the XKR-S, but during our road test our XKR was able to sprint to 60 mph from a standstill in about 4.6 seconds. Meow, indeed.

2012 Jaguar XKR review engine angle exteriorNeedless to say the Jaguar XKR is fast, but how fuel efficient is it? Do you even care? Of course you do. Maybe. That being said, fuel economy isn’t stellar, but it’s better than you’d think, thanks in large part to a light-weight aluminum body and six-speed automatic transmission. According to the EPA, fuel economy for the base XK is 15 mpg in the city and 22 mpg on the highway, while the XKR convertible manages to put up the same numbers. And like the Porsche 911, the XK in any form works surprisingly well as a daily driver.

Prowling the streets

Of course a car can be as fast as the wind, but if it handles like a burly lass then what’s the point? As it turns out, that’s not the case here, which is exactly why we’re more than impressed by the 2013 XKR and its cat-like reflexes.

On the road the XKR conducts itself with aplomb. There is no denying that this fast cat can rocket down the track without even batting an eye, but where we found ourselves really impressed was how easily it slices up the open road like a piping hot piece of apple pie. Don’t be fooled though, the XKR can get away from you if you don’t know what you’re doing. Throw down the throttle too forcefully out of a turn and the sheer amount of torque on hand causes the body to jolt with little regard for its passengers or its surroundings. You don’t have to be a pro to drive the XKR, but driving this beastly V8 isn’t for amateurs or the fool-hardy. Respect the XKR and all the roads you encounter are yours for the taking.

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2012 Jaguar XKR review top up side exterior 2012 Jaguar XKR review top up back exterior

Overall the 2012 XKR is a thrill to drive. Virtually everything about its lusty engine and solid underpinnings manages to converge elegantly and impressively on the road. The engine note rivals anything ever created by Beethoven (yes, it does) and the sheer giddiness we felt every time we started the engine is downright embarrassing. Couple that with the XKR’s adaptive suspension and uncanny ability to soak up road imperfections and what we are left with here is one engaging, demanding, and utterly satisfying ride. It might not look as sexy as stunning as a Maserati Gran Turismo or deliver the kind of road-nirvana afforded by the Porsche 911, but the XKR is getting there, and truthfully it’s not that far off and a more than viable alternative to some of Italy and Germany’s best.

Finish Line

At the end of the day the 2012 Jaguar XKR is every bit the British beast its nameplate suggest. What we have here is an excellent blend of power, performance, and luxury all wrapped up in a sexy aluminum shell. At the same time, those seriously considering an XKR will do so knowing that other alternatives, really good ones, exist in this particular segment, and dropping over $100,000 should probably be done so with a modicum of caution – or maybe it shouldn’t.

Nevertheless, if you haven’t already gathered, we really liked the 2012 XKR. Like the Range Rover Evoque, it’s exactly the type of car that branches the brand away from the stuffy monocle-wearing aristocrats (read: rich old folks) we generally associate with Jaguar and the nameplate at large. Yes it’s expensive, yes its tech is slow, but all that doesn’t really matter when you’re out on the road carving away at every twist and turn like a warm knife through butter. The bottom line: this is one fast cat we would love to make purr over, and over again.

For more pictures, check out our 2012 Jaguar XKR photo gallery.


  • Excellent exterior design with very few blips
  • Cabin quality is among the very, very best
  • Fast and furious V8 coupled with uncanny handling


  • Tech feels ancient and slow
  • Cabin can seem cramped at times
  • No Bluetooth audio streaming

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