Standout: Steering wheel controls audio and telephone
The Jaguar XKR is all dressed up and ready to go and go and go.
It hits 60 mph in 5.2 seconds without breathing hard thanks to a 390 horsepower 4.2L supercharged V-8. The smooth highway seems to endlessly unroll for the XKR while comfortably cosseting the driver and passenger in leather-clad bucket seats amid burl walnut trim.
There's an almost superfluous handling package. Overall styling remains the traditional sculptured crouching cat, and that's how the XKR pounces on curves it seems to gather itself and leap into and through the corners.
The adaptive cruise control does everything but brush a driver's teeth. It keeps a set distance from the car ahead and resumes highway speeds when the road is clear. It brakes when necessary.
But the XKR rewards more-personal driving with a stunning combination of sports car luxury at a base of $81,330 and togged-out version at $96,495.
THE BMW 645Ci
Base price: $76,300
Acceleration: 0-60 mph in 5.8 seconds
Estimated mpg: 18 to 26
Standout: Display projects data onto windshield
This soft-top convertible shines with new and crisper styling direction that doesn't abandon traditional looks. Some purists are offended but the 645Ci is a standout both in looks and performance.
And performance is what the 645Ci is all about. It's not a luxury ride or even luxo-sporty. It's all about sporty. That gets the ragtop to 60 mph in a brisk 5.8 seconds with a smooth-shifting six-speed manual transmission. (A six-speed automatic also is available.) Both are teamed with a 4.4L V-8 of 325 horsepower driving the rear wheels.
On the road, there's dynamic stability control for curves and a steering system that electronically controls steering ratio and throttle response.
Goodies include real birchwood trim, parking-distance controls, a navigation system, and supportive bucket seats. An iDrive system with an LCD screen allows drivers to use a single control to access dozens of operations such as climate, entertainment, and on-board navigation system.
Base price: $85,542
Acceleration: 0-60 mph in about 4.9 seconds
Estimated mpg: 11 to 17
Standout: Button-activated hard-top roof
Blue-blood vehicles can also come in exotic, albeit quirky, flavors. Take the Maserati Spyder ($85,542 base). The convertible seats two, a hardtop has down-market ($81,013) room for four. An automatic transmission pedals through six speeds like the shifting of a race car driver or the driver can shift using paddles on the steering wheel. The tranny won't let you commit sins like over-revving and stripping gears.
Then there's leather everywhere including the dashboard, door, and center console. The soft-top convertible opens and closes in 30 seconds, without any need to lift a finger.
And while the Spyder is decent looking on the outside with a sleek bullet-like shape, it's the inner mechanics that are really special (it's not under the Ferrari umbrella for naught). The 4.2L V-8's 390 horses whip the Italian convertible to 60 mph in just 4.9 seconds in a smoothly silken power curve. Top speed is a factory-measured 176 mph.