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Motoring: BMW 650i Cabriolet vs. Jaguar XKR convertible

Nauman Farooq | Interrobang | Sports | October 24th, 2011

Summer might be over, so logically most people would rather look at SUVs for the climate ahead. I, on the other hand, think we should look at convertibles to remind us of the beautiful summer we had, and excite us about the summer to come next year.

If you're planning to have a great summer next year, having a convertible would be a great idea; better yet, pick from the cars we are testing this week, the Jaguar XKR convertible and the BMW 650i Cabriolet. Which is best? Let's find out.

First of all, both cars are achingly good-looking. It was a pleasure to just walk up to either of these cars. For 2012, both cars are new, however the BMW has changed more than the Jaguar has. While for 2012 the Jaguar XKR has some updated styling (just a side note, my test car was a 2011 XKR and hence did not have the new styling update), BMW has completely overhauled the 650i.

The silhouette of the new 650i might look very similar to the outgoing model, and under the skin some of the old cars structure is kept. But in detail, the 650i has gone through a big upgrade, and one that has turned a decent-looking car into one of the most handsome designs on our roads today. I just love the way this new 650i looks, so BMW designers deserve a pat on the back for doing a great job.

The Jaguar XKR, on the other hand, was always a very beautiful design and it just seems to be getting better with age. My test car was a 2011 model, so it did not have the new nose, but since the car has not changed much mechanically, it can still put up the fight against its newer German rival.

Asking which is better is a matter of personal opinion. I say, from a styling point of view, it's a draw.

It is the same story once you open the door. Jaguar has steadily been improving its interior, and my 2011 tester had the upgrades from the last time they changed the interior. I have seen the 2012 model, and apart from a new steering wheel, could not see any other difference.

The 650i has a completely new interior. The dials, the dashboard, the infotainment system are all new, including what has to be the largest navigation screen on any production car for the time being.

So from an interior upgrade point of view, the BMW is the winner here. Also, from an interior space point of view, the BMW is again the winner, because you can actually fit four adults in the 650i, something you cannot do with the XKR. The Jaguar is best used as a two-seater with space for your shopping or your Maltese puppy.

If it's interior space and gadgets you're after (after all, the 650i can be opted to have night vision camera, blind spot indicator, lane departure warning system and heads-up display, things you cannot get in the XKR), the BMW takes a clear victory here.

Driving Feel and Performance
This is where the Jaguar claws back. While the new BMW 650i has a 4.4-litre, twin-turbo V8, producing 400 hp and 450 lb/ft of torque, the Jaguar XKR has a 5.0- litre, supercharged V8 that produces 510 hp and 461 lb/ft of torque. While both cars are capable of hitting their 250 km/h speed limiters, the Jaguar will get there much sooner.

The XKR sounds better, too. While the 650i has a very refined hum as you put your foot down, the XKR explodes forward with an angry growl that would wake up your entire neighbourhood. I like that.

From a technology point of view, the BMW has the edge by offering an 8-speed automatic transmission, rather than a 6-speed as found in the Jaguar. Plus, while the XKR is only offered with rearwheel drive, the 650i can have rear-wheel drive or all-wheel drive. My tester was a rear-wheel drive model.

From a ride and handling point of view, both cars are very good, but the XKR is better. First, it's the ride. While the BMW feels like it crashes over bumps, the Jaguar just glides over them. As for the handling, both cars are pretty good, but the Jaguar seems just a bit more aggressive to attack the corners, and hence will be more fun on a twisty road. The XKR also sounds better when you put your foot down through a wooded forest.

Convertible Top
Blasting around back roads is one thing, but convertibles are all about driving with the top down, so which is better? Both these cars have a folding soft-top roof, rather than a hard-top, so they are equal in this regard.

You can raise and lower the roof while moving in both cars, but in the Jaguar the speed has to be around 10 km/h, while in the BMW you can do it at speeds up to 50 km/h, which is quite handy. The BMW, thanks to its power rear deflector, also has less wind buffeting at highway speeds, which is good to have.

Fuel Economy
Okay, while most people who buy such cars aren't looking at fuel-economy figures to make their decision, I will still publish my results here. This came as a big surprise. While the 650i has more gears and more technology, it was the XKR that takes the win here. I averaged 12.9-litres/100km in the BMW, and 12.6-litres/100km in the Jaguar. A small advantage, but an advantage nevertheless.

The Jaguar XKR convertible is yours from $116,125. The BMW 650i cabriolet starts at $106,800. With some added options, both test cars were worth about $130,000.

If you're looking for a luxury convertible, both these cars are excellent choices. The BMW works better if you have family to drive around, because it has more space. However, if what you're interested in is pace, the Jaguar XKR sounds better, handles better and goes even faster.

I think for me, it has to be the Jaguar XKR.
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