While Jaguar is widely regarded as a pure luxury brand, this venerable English car maker has certainly delivered its share of hot cars over the years. And the hottest Jag for 2003 is the XKR. A hit with Jaguar fans since its 1999 introduction, the XKR has been heavily revised to deliver even more power and performance. So let’s see how this big cat runs!

And run this 2003 Jaguar XKR will indeed, thanks to a host of improvements that make Jag’s most fleet-footed cat even faster and more desirable. Sensuous feline styling has been an XK trademark since the first E-Type in 1961. Our XK coupe augments its standard sleek shape with the R-Performance chain-mail grille and hood louvers. 2003 exterior additions for both coupe and convertible XKR are restricted to standard Xenon headlights and new ‘‘R’’ logo and supercharged badging.

But beneath that elegant skin, the XKR packs more than its share of muscle! The heart of today’s XK is a new 4.2-liter AJ34 V8 engine. While larger than last year’s 4.0-liter, the AJ34 is built with a lighter ribbed aluminum block. Four lightweight chain-driven overhead cams are controlled by continuously Variable Camshaft Phasing. Our XK adds an intercooled Eaton rotor-style supercharger, that increases flow through the 32-valve heads to produce 390 horsepower, up 20 from the 4.0-liter, and a gain of 12 pound- feet of torque to 399, 86 percent of which is available at just 2,000 rpm. But all of which is fed through a new 6-speed automatic transmission, a first among performance coupes. It retains Jaguar’s increasingly vintage J-gate shifter which does allow manual selection for maximum driver fun.

And the entertainment peaks as the new drivetrain punches the XKR to 60 in 5.2-seconds, and through the 1/4 mile in 13.6 seconds at 103 miles-per-hour. Now those times are slightly slower than the XKR Silverstone we tested two years ago due to an overall weight gain of about 80 pounds. Still, the supercharged V-8 spins up rapidly, pulling hard all through the rev band, while under heavy pedal the transmission delivers crisp, refined shifts. But other than in acceleration tests, the 6-speed’s manual mode was less enjoyable, with softer shifts, and seemed confused when downshifting during braking.

In corners, the corners of Georgia’s 2-mile Roebling Road Raceway to be precise, the big XKR also felt soft, with the double wishbone suspension producing a fair bit of body roll. Yet it still delivered sharp turn-ins, impressive balance, and plenty of grip. Better than a 3865-pound Grand Touring car has any right to deliver. Of course it doesn’t hurt to have Jaguar’s new CATS Computer Active Technology Suspension with optional sport tuning, and Dynamic Stability Control working full time to keep you off the armco. Plus the XKR’s now standard, super-strong Brembo brakes, which use ABS and Brake Assist to smoothly haul the big cat down from speed, and our car’s optional 20-inch BBS alloy wheels, which wear sticky, ultra-low profile, ZR-rated Pirelli P-Zero tires.

But it’s on the open road where the XKR really struts its stuff. That soft track ride is still firmer on highways than a standard XK8, but never harsh and very controlled. While the drivetrain delivers both ultra-high end refinement and autobahn-burning power. You really only have to wish to go faster. Then there are systems like the new Adaptive Cruise Control option, which uses microwave radar to maintain a safe distance between cars.

The refinement naturally continues in the high-end interior, which features enough luxury to please a prince or a pop star. Wood and leather abound. Standard features include an electric tilt and telescoping steering column with a Momo wheel and shift knob on the XKR’S short options list. Standard seating includes these plush power-adjustable buckets with lumbar control, heat, and memory. We highly recommend our car’s high bolstered Recaro sport seats to really keep you in place during fast cornering. For information, comfort, and enjoyment, there is a competent DVD-based navigation system, easy to understand automatic climate controls, and a great sounding 320-watt Alpine sound system with a 6-disc autochanger. Meanwhile, the rear seat of the XKR, while also elegantly outfitted, is 2+2 tight, and more suitable as a posh package shelf. You will need it for extended touring since the trunk itself measures a soft-bag only 11.5 cubic feet.

All in all, the XKR is a truly premium car, and it carries a premium price to prove it. The Jaguar XKR Coupe starts at $81,975. Add in our car’s optional sport suspension package, Recaro seats, and Adaptive Cruise Control, and the price jumps to $94,775. So this is one pricey pussycat! And if you prefer a bit more wind in your hair, add 5-grand more for the just as appealing XKR Convertible.

The 2003 Jaguar XKR delivers all of the luxury that this venerable English brand is known for, but it’s also one very hot performance car. It is the quintessential Jaguar, a car with the power, grace and speed of an automotive legend ; a big cat that can really run!


  • Engine: 4.2-Liter V8 W/ Eaton Rotor-style Supercharger
  • Horsepower: 390
  • Torque: 399 Lb Feet
  • 0-60 MPH: 5.2 Seconds
  • 1/4 Mile: 13.6 Seconds @ 103 MPH