As I reflected back on my recent experiences with the Jaguar XKR in California, I was struck by an article penned by Cathy Horyn for The on the spring Prada collection that debuted in Milan.
Ms. Horyn wrote: For any other designer, it would have been a car crash. Crusty guipure lace fronting a tough, garage mechanic-style jacket. Automobile prints racing across wafty, feminine, pleated dresses. And the models striding on streamlined shoes shaped like car fins. “Donna e Motori,” or women and cars, said , taking an Italian expression pregnant with glamour and testosterone but using it as a tool for her main aim for Prada summer 2012: to bring back “sweetness.”
This mood translates back into car speak, and captures the persona of the sinewy XKR -- a work that speaks of“donna e motori” as much as Italian brands Lamborghini and Ferrari. In fact, the XKR has the firmer grip on the concept of sweetness with an unexpected tangy bite.
In many ways this quality is unique to the British automaker, because Jaguar can get away with designs that other carmakers can’t. Jaguars can be majestic and powerful. Jaguars can subdued yet flashy in the details. Jaguars can have a sense of humor about their fabulousness. And Jaguars can look pretty, and still packs an unforgiving punch -- ala Prada.
When it came to driving these Jaguars, I delighted in the performance of both XKRs. The base XKR is adorned with a slick 5.0 liter V8 engine that produces 510 hp. On the even more audacious side, I also had chance to drive the wicked XKR-S from San Francisco in August that produces 550 hp. Both reached levels that qualify as whip fast in a cabin that was quiet and sumptuous. The XKR has ample power, while the S has power that borders on dangerous if aren’t prepared for what is unleashed with the tap of the throttle.
While the S was super fun to drive on twists, the more refined XKR version I tested had a spiffy matte black aesthetic called the “black pack.” This look helped it do exactly what a car is supposed to do in California -- it caused triple takes at stoplight and at valet stands. What’s most evocative about XKR is its full-bodied, curvy styling, and the details stood out with contrast in the black pack -- such as the air vents on the side to produce aerodynamics. Of course, the XKR certainly owes a tip of the hat to the finest automotive design ever -- the Jaguar E Type, as fluidity takes precedence over sharp egotistical lines. All in all the XKR is a beautiful automobile to look at, with a fierce and feisty heart that’s tantalizing to drive.
The Jaguar XKR made me hunger for the romance of old Hollywood, as I winded up the curves of Laurel Canyon Road, and disappeared into the sunset. Here’s more from Ms. Horyn about the Prada collection, and a mood that captures what I felt driving the $103,500 Jaguar:
The set, by the team of the front-row guest Rem Koolhaas, gave the first clue: a space like an industrial street, with the effect of oil spills, heavy metal pillars and abstract cars in pastel pink colors. All those elements appeared on the runway: the sugary pink, yellow and light blue of a Cadillac that could have been ordered up for Elvis; a bustier top and slim skirt exuding the hot sexiness of a revved-up motor; an almost childlike addiction to cars — appliquéd on clutch bags and, by the end of the show, with hot-rod flame symbols flaring over the back of a coat.
- Cathy Horyn