Well I've finally climbed another rung on my car ladder..............started out in '97 (newly licensed) with a VP Commodore , 2006 it was a Subaru Liberty 3.0R Spec B , 2007 a Mercedes CLK500 coupe (5.5L) and on Friday I pick up a 2010 Jag XKR in black/black. My interest these days lies entirely with the grand tourer style of car - I don't have the time or inclination to be enjoying myself on the track , although the XKR could hold its own amongst some decent company if it had to. I'm more a cruising driver who enjoys long trips in fast cars. When I first bought the CLK I said to the wife "This is all the car I'll ever need " but it didn't take long until I was bored with it, even though it's a great car and I'll miss it in some respects.
Over the past couple of years I've spent plenty of time scouring the net for just about every review for the style of car I like and then road testing those of most interest when I had a chance. It pretty much came down to a match between the Aston Martin DBS and the Maserati Granturismo S . I don't consider cars like the M6 and SL AMG competition for these cars - they might get close in performance but not much else. If you just want a fast car , then hey - GTR.
I haven't contributed a great deal to the forums, so I thought (at risk of being very much in the minority) I would share my analysis of the XKR vs the competition that I considered. Like I said I do expect I'm in the minority in my final choice , but I'm certainly not alone (see next post) . I would also say that I couldn't blame anyone for favouring either one of these amazing cars.Maserati:
It didn't take long for me to rule out the Maserati. Not only did I hear and read of numerous horror stories with Granturismo lemons and how the local dealer dealt with it (only one dealer in the state of course which I never really like anyway , especially when they have a bad rep) but there were just too many compromises to be had. When I spend in the $300k-$500k+ range I don't expect to get in and immediately notice all the areas where costs have been cut - everything should look bespoke. Of course it's bloody gorgeous from most angles and a decent performer but in the end the following counted against it:
- the reliability issues above. I understand that some are prepared to live with the "charm" of brand new Italian exotics that spend half their life in for service/repair but I'm not one of those people. I spend 80+ hours a week running my own business and the little bit of time I have for driving should be for just that. Everything I've seen tends to indicate that Maseratis are not particularly well put together.
- the very low rent looking centre dash/controls/gps straight from Peugeot/Citroen and boring dash/steering wheel
- the seats ........the weirdest design I've seen and only comfortable for certain builds due to the "lump" around the shoulders (see pic) - also quite hard and no good on my bad back
- not enough travel on the seat - couldn't get back far enough to get comfortable (i'm only a touch over 6 foot).
- a very narrow foot well with a disproportionately large brake pedal which is also too close to the gas pedal.
- the low rent job they've done of integrating the side air bags into the driver/passenger doors - looks very ordinary
- the tail lights right off a Mondeo
In the end all I could see to recommend the Maserati were its external looks , the more usable back seats and the exhaust sound which is quite spectacular. Not enough to get a win over the DBS.Aston:
The DBS is a better all round car than the Maser but for six figures more it should be. The DB9 doesn't get a look in because it feels too slow and the styling is getting a bit old to these eyes. They keep giving it updates and the only way they seem to be able to keep it current is to make it look more and more like the DBS with each update (now has similar side skirts, the DBS stereo, clear tail lights etc...) , which leaves it a bit in the middle of nowhere until a more complete styling change occurs.
From what I can gather the DBS is significantly more reliable than the Granturismo , so a tick there.
I found the DBS an exciting drive but it was a bit messy in the handling department and if you push it a bit there's a lot of work needed to keep it on track. There seemed to be a bit of shudder at speeds greater than 100kmh which was rather concerning. I've since found out this is a known issue with the car. Both the DBS and XKR have adaptive dynamics/suspension but it seems better sorted in the XKR. Of course the sound is immense.
However once again , despite the sense of occassion in jumping into an Aston (and the lovely speedo/tacho which is a work of art) , I found my eye drawn to all the short cuts in the interior. I find myself thinking why bother with all the gorgeous leather etc.........in a half million dollar + car when it's set off by the diabolical pop up , out of date Volvo sat nav. The dash looks good but is extremely fiddly and an ergonomic disaster. It seems there's still Ford parts bin stuff being used as some of the stalks/switches feel cheapo for the price tag.
The Emotion Control Unit key is a nice touch but the name is a real wank for want of a better term .
I did find it hard to find a comfy driving position - in the end I had to raise the front of the seat to get my knees far enough away from the pedals. Fine for a test drive but it would've become uncomfortable over time.
I am being picky and there are far less issues than the Maser so overall the DBS was the obvious choice in terms of performance and overall finish.The Jaaaaag:
It was just a few months ago I was having a chat with a mate about the DBS and he said "have you tried the new XKR?". I said no - it's not even a big step up from my CLK for God's sake. I then found out about the new V8 in it which is putting out 510hp and 625nM of torque from only 2500 rpm ...........so it was now a fair starting point for a comparison. Clearly better than anything Maserati does. The DBS has the same power and less torque , also peaking much higher. The DBS is however lighter due to some carbon fibre panels. Both cars share a very similar aluminium chassis.
To drive, the Aston is possibly a little quicker off the mark (due to its carbon fibre components knocking off some weight) , although not a huge difference. Car and Driver got the XKR to 60mph in 4 secs which is a match for the DBS so perhaps there's not much difference - it also indicates that the horsepower and 0-60mph times quoted by Jaguar are rather conservative. . The Jaguar is noticeably more powerful from a running start and would be quicker than the DBS from 60-100kmh due to much more low down torque/wider power band. The Jag felt a better all round steer and beats the DBS for technical merit too with things like its electronic/active diff which provides better traction and less interference from engine cuts/braking etc....like many other TC systems. The ZF gearbox is the best setup of any kind that I've experienced with faster, smoother changes than the DBS or Granturismo and nicely rev matched downshifts. The suspension is firm without being harsh and the steering , whilst lighter than the DBS , has decent feel. This is one area that will grate on some people (the light steering) - to me it just means that the XKR is ever so slightly leaning towards the GT side of its dual personality , as against its sports car ambitions.
Not that it bothers me but I understand from talking to others who've driven both (and Jeremy Clarkson LOL) that the XKR is the better drifter and easier to control.
The interior of the Jag to my eyes is better overall than the DBS - having said that the DBS is a touch better in terms of creating a sense of occasion. The leather is lovely , even if the Aston's may be a little more expensive. The clincher is not only that it feels just as luxurious , but everything looks purpose built for the Jag - it just looks more the complete package rather than being fiddly and seeing compromises made. It's also far more ergonomically livable. As an audiophile I also find the Bowers and Wilkins stereo the equivalent of anything I've heard in a car , including the Harmon Kardon. The only thing that pissed me off was the speedo which is marked 50,70,90 etc.... The steering wheel in the Jag is much nicer than either the DBS or Granturismo and the seats (whilst not as sporty as the DBS) are very comfortable and hugely adjustable (16 way). Unlike the DBS and Granturismo I didn't struggle to find a comfortable driving position.
The Jag also comes with far more standard features and for all intents and purposes there is no option list other than adaptive cruise at $5000 (which my car has - can't see me using it though). Optioning up a DBS Volante to a similar standard (Aston don't offer some of the Jag's features) would push it well into the $600's on the road compared to the Jag at a touch under $300k.
While fuel economy is never a top priority at this end of the market the Jag does a pretty amazing job at combined 12.3L/100kms compared to the Aston's 16.4L/100km
My understanding is that the new range of Jags are rating well in the reliability data (JD Power etc.....) and there's a better network of dealers and mechanics around for the Jags. I'd expect the Aston to have more niggles (one of the joys of lower volume cars)The Final Decision:
On any objective basis I feel the XKR is the better car, even before you consider value for money. The decision to purchase the Aston and spend another $200-$300k would come down to subjective matters like looks and badge , whether you prefer a V8 or V12 (I find both equally awesome) and whether you loathe forced induction engines ( the XKR has no whine btw). The DBS and XKR both have the active exhaust where > 2500 rpm you get a symphony of destruction with all the pops and crackles.
Aston will always be more exclusive due to the lower volume production , although having said that I've seen more Vantages and Db9's in Melbourne than XKRs so around here there's no great difference in rarity. Most people who see the XKR think it's an Aston anyway , which isn't surprising given the involvement of Ian Callum in both (the DB7/9 was a Jag derivative)
Despite its recent success , particularly with the XF and XJ, Jaguar still has a huge amount of work to do to get rid of the "old man's car" image and improve its reputation for reliability - those buying now probably get the benefit of that to a small extent. I know first hand - every single person I told I was considering a Jag called me an old geezer LOL.
The new range of cars and the amazing C-X75 concept are slowly restoring Jaguar's street cred.
My wife wanted me to trade up to a CLK63 AMG convertible which to my eyes DOES look like an old man's car
I find both the Jag and DBS spectacular from the rear and side but less so from the front , with the edge to the DBS -. Depending on the day I really waver between which looks the best overall. Note that Jaguar have ruined the front end with chrome blingy vents and intakes which I am going to get resprayed to match the Ultimate Black colour of the car...........it looks a lot better then .
In the end I feel the Jag is a better drive and unless you wish to pay mucho extra for the badge and James Bond factor , I can't see the point. If you do see the point then I totally get that too. I love the DBS but feel the XKR just pips it overall and that's even before you consider price. From my point of view the XKR is not only the best value GT in the world right now , it's the best period.
One of the more savvy car people I know summed it up like this and I can understand why:
DBS owners, don't ever drive the latest XKR.
XKR owners, don't ever park next to a DBS.
The XKR is spectacular compared to just about any other car but parked next to the DBS it possibly fades into the background a touch. Taking everything into account though (and how often I'll park next to a DBS) , it's clear to me what the best all round package is.
This surely now has to be all the car I'll ever need.............until next time
I'll post some photos of my car next weekend after I've picked it up. It'll then be back in the shop a couple of weeks later to get the blingy chrome gills and vents on the front resprayed in black. For the sake of a temporary pic here's a similar car with a slightly lighter colour and different wheels - enough to get an idea.
PS If anyone's interested in a black/black 5.5L Merc V8 in immaculate condition with <10,000kms on it for a good price (less than half what I paid in 2007) PM me before put it up on Carsales for more.