2003 Jaguar XKR Convertible (459)


This week I drove the 2003 Jaguar XKR Convertible on a trip around California. Being on the open road I got a great chance to experience the Adaptive Cruise Control package that was totally impressive. I know some other cars have it but I noticed the improvement since the last one I tested. It is unbelievably accurate. In addition it was equipped with a GPS Navigation system. Some day all cars will use similar technology so you should be able to put it on “Auto Pilot”. The technology is here, but just needs the infrastructure to catch up. Thanks to the folks who can afford to pay the big bucks for development of this kind of technology.

On the stupid side, the car comes equipped with a rear seat but what’s the point? With the front seats in a comfortable position there is virtually no legroom in the back. That’s zero, zip, nada. Without the seats you’d have more luggage room. Go figure.

Nephew Paul rode half way up central California with me and commented that this is definitely a “Chick Magnet”, and for some that’s all it will take to justify the purchase. But from another perspective it truly is a “Chick Magnet” for another reason… this is a car seriously preferred by women. Watch close at who is driving the next 100 Jags and I suspect it is 80% women.

The 2003 Jaguar XK Series is available in four trims: XK8 and XKR, both available as a coupe or a convertible. You’re gonna love this car.

Handling & Performance: 

Awesome would be one adjective, while smooth, cool and elegant would help to define this sports car further. Handling is made easier with the inclusion of the Adaptive Cruise control package. That allows you to set the cruise and the system monitors and maintains the exact distance between you and the car, bus or truck in front of you. It will speed up if the car in front moves out of the way or speeds up, and it will brake when it needs to as traffic slows. It takes very little getting used to and I miss it already now that I’ve moved on to the next test car. I particularly like it because it will watch over you if your mind wanders for that split second that causes so many accidents. It truly makes a magical touring car out of the ordinary.   It has two settings for Sport and Touring suspension.


Jaguar has retained its distinctive look for all the years I can remember. There is no mistaking it’s a Jag. This has to be my favorite body style that is so reminiscent of the XKE in the 1960’s.

Fit and Finish:

The walnut burl wood dash is beautiful and it’s real. But you know, you can’t tell it from imitation plastic. That’s a bad thing or good if you consider how imitation component parts like this can be virtually as good as the real thing in appearance. Even if you tap on the surface you can’t really tell the difference. Everything fits well together as you’d expect for a car of this quality.


The most obvious is the Adaptive Cruise Control mentioned above, but it also has sensors that tell you when you are close to objects around you. This can be annoying, but if it is you can turn it off. I can’t bitch too much, but I did find it inconvenient that the odometer is not visible while the cruise is on. The other inconvenience was the cup holder that is on the center console must be closed in order to open the storage space beneath.

If you must own a convertible they don’t get any better than this one. The old fashioned days when you knew it was a convertible from the inside are gone. The headliner is so good you wouldn’t know you’re in a convertible. On the other hand the headroom is limited with the top up. The top of the windshield gets in the way for me at 5 foot 9” so taller than that will surely be a problem.


Priceeeeeeeeeeey. Ok, so they are out of reach for most of us but you DO get that old feeling of class. That has always been the case, but since Ford took charge you also get much better reliability according to the “Wrenches” I talk with. 

Consumer Recommendation:

If this is in your price range you will want to include the Adaptive Cruise and the GPS Navigation system. And take a look at the Aston Martin for the best comparison for what you get for your money.

The Competition:

Jaguar XK Series $69-86,000, Acura NSX $89,000, Aston Martin DB7 Vantage $142-152,000, BMW Z8 $132-137,000, Lexus SC 430 $62,000, Mercedes Benz SL Class $86-113,000, Mercedes Benz CLK $44-69,000, Porsche 911 $69-182,000.

Good News:

Beautiful styling, powerful supercharged V8, ultra smooth touring ride and one touch power convertible top.

Bad News:

Useless rear seat, average mileage and pricey.

Standard Equipment:

 4.2 liter 32 valve supercharged, intercooled 390 hp V8 engine, 6-speed automatic, dynamic stability control, Brembo abs disc brakes, computer active suspension, dual front and side airbags, remote keyless entry, driveway locking feature, anti theft engine immobilizer and security system, memory settings, burl wood walnut trim, power top with glass rear window, rain sensing wipers and reverse park control and optional Adaptive cruise control package.

Gas Stats:

16 City and 23 Highway MPG.


MSRP $88,130.

Your comments are welcomed. My e-mail is joe@atthewheel.com

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