Jaguar XKR vs. Aston Martin DB9

2014-04-23 Read: 1 794x

Bill Ford has added to his monopoly taking ownership of Jaguar Motors and partial stake (as of March 2007, shared with ProDrive’s David Richards) of Aston Martin. Ian Callum was the design chief on both the XKR and the DB9 — building on the tailored chassis of the Jaguar XJS — and his creative control resulted in two aesthetically identical cars. Both have engine capabilities of 400+ horsepower and have enjoyed success in premier road races, but how does that success translate to your everyday drive?

We've pit these two British powerhouses against one another to find out which is a more fitfully race-inspired consumer vehicle. Both were evaluated in six categories from interior design to bang for your buck, with 100 points awarded at the checkered flag.

Jaguar XKR

MSRP (base): $86,700
Engine: 4.2-liter, 32 valve, DOHC supercharged V8
Horsepower: 420 bhp
Torque: 413 ft. lbs @ 4,000 rpm
MPG: City: 15; Highway: 23

Performance - 16/20
The RWD XKR rests atop an aluminum-based frame, shaving 70 kg of drag mass over its predecessor, despite the XK’s chassis being abbreviated in inches. Rigidity-minded dampers and springs were applied along with 38% stiffer shocks in the front and 24% at the rear. Couple the recalibration of the hydraulic power steering and a rear shock tower strut brace with a well-developed e-stability control system and the result is a drastic improvement in accurate handling and maneuverability. Twin air intakes aid the coupe in breathing as an Eaton supercharger brings the 4.2-liter V8 and its available horsepower to a whopping 420. With a 0-60 mph time of just a hair over five seconds, the XKR will reach top end speed of 155 mph. But no worries — this Jag is also outfitted with the largest performance brakes ever to be put on a production Jaguar.

Exterior - 18/20
2007’s XK was regarded by a slew of critics as being the aesthetic epitome of the British GT bracket and has seen some modifications for the sport-tuned R version. Heightening aerodynamic performance, the entire lightweight cast including all panels and the frame were implemented to make a uni-spaceframe design. Unique to this year's offering are the quad tailpipe afterburners that were derived from the manufacturers FIA race car. The XKR was also garnished with a freshly meshed grille, aluminum hood vents, and a convertible at the consumer’s prerogative.

Interior - 6/10
New engine mounts allow for very minute reverberation in the cockpit, enabling the pilot to enjoy the interior styling of the XKR without the engine taking over — mind you, there's no reason why you wouldn't want that, really. The cabin employs race-inspired buckets with the signature R emblazoned on the headrests, as well as on the steering wheel, shifter knob and tachometer. Much of the interior, being the center console and transmission pod, is pronounced by brushed aluminum panels — which are in actual fact plastic — although for no extra cost these can be swapped for a Satin American Walnut veneer. The mechanically adjustable seats and door grids are all outfitted in leather, as are the A and B pillars. And while Jaguar pitched their latest installment as a true 2+2 configuration, we found that the rear arrangement could only fit very small children or packages comfortably.

What's the XKR's final score and how does the DB9 fare?

Sound system/Goodies - 8/10
The XKR’s stereo equipment is provided by the perfectionists at Alpine, with eight quality high-output, low-distortion Kevlar mid-range 525W speakers and specially designed aluminum-dome tweeters. There is a standard six-disc in-dash CD changer with MP3 capability mated to a Dolby Pro Logic 2, three-channel signal processor. All functional selections, including navigation, are displayed via a seven-inch LCD touch screen and are fairly simple to operate.

Bang for the buck - 17/20
This two-door Jaguar fares well on all fronts and is priced accordingly. Not only does it encompass race-inspired performance, but it suggests safety and aesthetics to boot, making it a serious contender in the under-$100,000 class.

Driving experience - 18/20 
It is most evident that leaps and bounds have been made since the debut of last year's XKR, perhaps best manifested in the handling. The ZF seeded six-speed automatic Sport Mode breezes through the balancedgear ratios, allowing the pilot full range of  the vehicle's torque at all times. The gearbox downshifts extremely well even when the tachometer's redline is hit — and believe us, you'll want to hit that redline often.  

Overall score - 83/100
The Jaguar XKR has dispelled the naysayers who claim that Ford’s boardroom influence has stripped the UK marque of its edge. This Jaguar has a soul and it performs to the best of its ability — if not better — at all times.

Aston Martin DB9

MSRP (base): $220,000 (approx.)
Engine: 6.0-liter, 48 valve, DOHC, V12
Horsepower: 450 bhp
Torque: 420 @ 5,000 rpm
MPG: City: 12; Highway: 19

Performance - 17/20
The Aston Martin DB9 is fabricated from a shell identical to its competitor, the XKR. Crafted from an aluminum base, it too sheds a few pounds from its former 3,970 lb skeleton. Keen weight distribution promotes superior handling and agile transitioning at a near flawless 51/49 split. There is an onboard electronic suspension configuration that manages stability control, assisted by a rate/lateral acceleration sensor to help you stay firmly planted to the road at all times. The DB9 also boasts an ICU (Integrated Control Unit) that corrects both over- and understeer, independently braking on each wheel to return the vehicle to its desired line. A 6.0-liter V12 engine, borrowed from the Vanquish, vaults the 450 horsepower beast from 0-60 in 4.9 ticks, with a top speed estimated at 186 mph.

Exterior - 18/20
The freshest class of DB9 can easily be recognized by its calling-card radiator grille and rear haunches. The common theme of a wind-splitting, mono-frame design is shared with the XKR. The DB9 is stretched by nearly two inches in wheelbase to maintain a Coke-bottle physique and sits atop 19-inch aluminum alloy wheels. Other amenities include electric folding mirrors, headlight cleaners and projector beam lens Xenon bulbs. Dual exhaust chutes sit flush with the undercarriage and are classically understated. The DB9 can also be outfitted in a flex-top convertible trim, with the Volante moniker.

Who won the battle of the supercar matchup? Find out...

Interior - 9/10
Noise is heavily dampened to virtual nonexistence, save for the quiet motor rumble allowing the operator to really enjoy the luxurious interior workings. The race-inspired bucket seats are positioned at the lowest point possible without resembling a go-kart, and are dressed in hand-woven Scottish Bridge on Weir Chancellor leather, are fully maneuverable, and are equipped with memory foam for ultimate comfort. Titanium-colored aluminum accents can be found from dash to doors, spreading strategic contrast to the cowhide panels. As with the XKR, some sections can be scrapped in favor of Walnut-lacquered wood. The 2+2 seating arrangement is ergonomically lacking with only 8 cu-ft of rear passenger space. But the crystal start button more than makes up for the useless rear seats and any other flaws the interior might have.

Sound system/Goodies - 7/10
Linn lends its expertise to the six-speaker and subwoofer, 700W audio display. The system is MP3-ready and Bluetooth-enabled, but the text on the HUD is barely legible. A factory six-disc, in-dash CD changer is also protocol and produces a completely digitized listening experience. The pitch-discerning software separates all highs, mids and lows before redistributing them on their respective channels. A navigation aid disappears into the dash until needed — and features a seven-inch LCD touch monitor.

Bang for the buck - 18/20
For a sticker price of just over $200,000, the public receives a street-prepped race car with lineage in both the 24 Hour Le Mans race and FIA GT. But above all else, can we really put a price on the 007 cool factor?

Driving experience - 19/20
The option of a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic with paddle shifters is offered on the DB9. A perfect center of gravity makes for quite the corner carver, and the powerband reaches most of its potential before a mandatory shift is made — so you essentially have power all the time, anytime. The governed top speed will most likely never come to fruition, but it’s nice to know that it’s there — just in case.

Overall score - 88/100

The Aston Martin DB9 is reputably competition-bred and continues to add to its legacy with each manufacturer’s championship. A star in its own right, this vehicle carries a prestige like no other, and it carries it oh so well.

and the winner is…

Although both cars were fashioned with striking similarities, it makes their differences that much more concise. Brainchildren of the same parent conglomerate and designer, the Jaguar XKR and Aston Martin DB9 would be one in the same if it weren’t for the contrast in performance and interior layout. There's also that small difference in horsepower and let's not forget the $90,000 price jump either… In this fairly even matchup the pendulum inevitably swings toward the Aston Martin as the DB9 narrowly levels the XKR, as it should.

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