If you want to find out how well something is made, break it.
Flip it over, crack it open, find the least important part, something you’ll never touch, or even see, and give it a once-over.
Whether it’s a Rolex watch or a Louis Vuitton handbag, if the product is finely crafted, the stuff on the inside will look just as good as the stuff on the outside.
If not, you’ve been had.
If so, you’ve just destroyed something very expensive.
Sorry about that.
There’s no need to go to such extremes with the 2008 Jaguar XKR Portfolio, the limited-edition, $98,000 sports car from the now-Indian-owned automaker.
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Just get behind the wheel, and turn your head.
Covering the back seats you’ll see the same soft, contrast-stitched leather that covers the ones up front, and just about every other surface in the interior.
That’s as close to them as you’ll ever get. They will never be used.
Like the rear seats in many sports cars, they’re tiny, bordering on abusive. Even with the front ones pushed all the way forward, a couple of minutes of waterboarding seems preferable to trying to sit in them for any length of time.
There is no legroom, no headroom, but there is a map pocket, hookups for a child seat, and they are absolutely beautiful. So much so that you might just want to rip them out and put them in your living room.
And that’s what makes this car special.
From "Celestial Black" paint with the same dark blue hue as the night sky around the edge of the moon, to the perfect semicircles spun into the aluminum trim on the dashboard, Jaguar took the standard XKR — an already gorgeous car — and turned it into an absolute gem.
The leather-covered gearshift lever; the aluminum side vents; the 16-way adjustable seats with side bolsters that can be inflated to fit your torso like a tailored suit … everything about the XKR that could be improved upon has been.
Jaguar left the 420-horsepower supercharged V8 engine alone, the most powerful motor in the company parts bin, but added 20-inch wheels to cover the largest breaks ever installed on one of its cars. The 15.7-inch monsters are bigger than the wheels on some vehicles and stop the 3,800-pound XKR like claws digging into shag carpet.
It is a tame beast, though, and you need to hit those brakes hard if you want to stop it in a hurry. They’re easy to use around town and don’t have the on/off feel you get in street cars that try to act like race cars. That goes for the rest of the XKR, too. It’s a Grand Touring car, simple, but not so plain.
When I took delivery of the XKR in the middle of the workday, I was supposed to just drive it around the block and put it in a garage.
I got back to the office three hours later (sorry, boss).
It looks so good, and fits so well, you never want to get out. The ride is firm, but like a true Jaguar, smooth and forgiving, even on tarmac that’s seen better days. Slam on the gas, however, and the car nearly stops short, the traction control nearly shutting down the power to keep the wheels from spinning.
It can be annoying when you want to get frisky, but it does have an OFF button. Press that and you can hang the tail out through the curves all day long, tires smoking, until there’s no rubber left on the wheels.
The six-speed transmission is an automatic but has the usual paddles behind the steering wheel if you decide you’d like to shift for yourself. You will, but only to hear the sweet howl the V8 makes when it’s angry. The windows need to be opened for the full effect, though, because the interior is luxury-sedan quiet.
Even at highway speeds you could easily have a conversation with the passengers sitting in the back… oh, never mind, just enjoy the excellent sound put out by the unique Bowers and Wilkins speaker set-up. But don’t forget to bring your MP3 player; the radio reception of the car’s audio system is mediocre at best.
The only thing approaching a visual flaw, inside or out, is the odd green-gold color of the plastic surrounding the radio and climate controls on the center console. It wouldn’t clash so badly with a wood interior — and Satin American Walnut is available as an option — but doesn’t blend well with the aluminum at all.
Of course, a Jaguar wouldn’t be a Jaguar without an electrical glitch, or two, and I actually smiled when a message appeared on the dashboard informing me that the radar-controlled cruise control was not available, nor was the backup sensor that tells you when you are about to run over someone in the parking lot.
Thankfully, things have changed over the years and, rather than park it in the shop for a couple of weeks while waiting for the replacement parts to arrive on a slow boat from England, I was able to remedy the problem the same way I fix most things wrong with my desktop computer. Shut the car off, and start it again. Problem solved.
Only 255 Portfolios are being built to order for the U.S. market. Buyers have the choice of white leather instead of black, and it also comes as a convertible, so there are eight configurations from which to choose. That means they will end up with one of only about 32 cars of the version they choose. Priced a mere $12,000 more than the standard XKR, it’s a pittance to pay for that kind of exclusivity.
Worth it? The brakes and similar wheels are an $8,000 option on the standard XKR, and it likely would cost much more than four grand to have a custom shop trim the interior out like the Portfolio’s. So, sure, your children can always get a scholarship.
Besides, it comes with a free set of chairs. With those back seats in their room they’ll be the coolest kids in the dorm.
2008 Jaguar XKR Portfolio
Base Price: $98,035
As Tested: $100,325
Engine: 4.2L Supercharged V8
Power: 420hp, 413 lb-ft torque
Drivetrain: Rear-wheel drive w/6-speed automatic transmission
What do you think of the XKR Portfolio?
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Gary Gastelu is FoxNews.com's Automotive Editor.