Two New British Beauties from Jaguar and (maybe) Lotus

November 13th, 2009

2010 Jaguar XKRFor years we’ve been hoping for a resurgence from Jaguar. Now it may be happening with the XKR (right), a gorgeous, hot-performing car that brings back memories of Jag’s glory days. Power comes from a 5-liter supercharged V8 that is good for 510 hp and 0-60 mph in 4 seconds. It pulls .92 g on the skidpad and runs the quarter-mile in 12.3 seconds. The cost is roughly $100,000 which, for a car like this, seems a bargain.

Says Car and Driver:

In a lot of ways, the XKR is a better car than the [BMW] M6, which is a techno-overload on wheels. The Jag rides better, we prefer its styling, and it is actually quicker. It lacks the cachet of the Mercedes SL63, but is cheaper, more stylish, and less ubiquitous. We don’t think it’s as gorgeous as the Aston Martin DB9, either inside or out, but is more practical, faster, handles better, and is about 60 percent of the price.

They took it to the track as well as Ann Arbor’s streets. On the track it was “well balanced, predictable, and immensely satisfying.” There are a few minor quibbles—too-small rear seats and a weird throttle pedal—but the car could bring Jaguar back to what it was years ago. I want one; please send money.

A nice touch: acknowledging the fact that many drivers of high-powered cars just can’t cut it, Jaguar is offering free of charge to XKR and XFR buyers the “R Performance Academy,” a day at one of five U.S. tracks where they will be taught basic hard-driving skills.

2004 Lotus EspritLotus, too, is trying for a renaissance and is reportedly going to bring back the Esprit (right). A new seven-year plan for the company posits that the Esprit will reappear (maybe under a new name) in 2012 as both coupe and convertible. CEO Dany Bahar wants to go head to head with Ferrari and other supercar makers.

Well, that’s a tall order, especially if you consider what the Esprit once was: a fussy, expensive, hard-to-repair tag-along to the Ferraris and Astons of the ‘80s and ‘90s. I drove a friend’s Esprit in the mid-‘80s, and it was a blast. The guy wanted to sell it to me—a dubious proposition even if I could have afforded it. But, God, it was fun to drive.

Word has it that the car will be built on the Evora platform and use an engine from BMW or Lexus. If it does use the 552-hp V10 that will power the 2011 Lexus LFA, maybe Ferrari should get out of the way.

Do you see high-performance British cars making a comeback in the next two years?

—jgoods

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