The Jaguar XKR-S is the fastest and most powerful road car that Jaguar has ever made. The performance figures – 0-60mph in 4.2 seconds and a top speed of 186mph – are impressive but only tell half the story. It’s fast, of course, but it’s also refined, and luxurious, and makes you feel special in a way that only a very few cars do.
People love it as well, recalling sporting Jags of old; no-one feels threatened by a fast Jag, even one as brazen and in-your-face as this one. Bystanders stopped to watch me drive past, a cyclist gave me the thumbs-up, an old man asked me to rev it so that he could hear the engine, and a passing bin man made expansive and appreciative gestures – drive a Ferrari or a Bentley and the response will probably be very different…
The Jaguar XKR-S is a beefed up XKR and is the result of long hours in the wind tunnel, which explains the far-from-subtle bodykit. The boot-mounted spoiler is the most obvious addition, but there is also a front splitter, bigger bumper, and lower side sills. It looks great though, and has a toughened, more convincing stance helped by the dark-grey 20-inch alloy wheels fitted to my test car.
I’m not a fan of white cars on the whole but there is no denying that the XKR-S is a good looking car, even so. However, in a restrained dark colour – or even the French Racing Blue that is unique to the model – it looks sensational, even if it has lost some of the purity of the base model.
The interior is stylish and sober. You sit down low in the heavily-bolstered and supportive leather seats. Most people should be able to get comfortable, thanks to the 16-way electronic adjustment that’s available via the beautiful door-mounted switches. Everything falls to hand easily and is logically laid out; you feel at home straight away.
The attention to detail is obvious throughout the cabin and is very satisfying; you’ll take great pleasure from the perfect stitching, tactile surfaces, and precision with which everything operates.
It also feels snug but airy, a contradiction that I can’t explain but did enjoy; I imagine that you can spend hours at a time in here without getting cramped or feeling that you must get out and stretch. I think that it’s partly because the ergonomics are so good and also because it is genuinely roomy in there – with the exception of the back seats of course, which are a silly affectation and unusable by human beings.
If you’re a gadget fan then you’ll love the big Jag too; everything, from the mood lighting to the rising gear selector, from the parking brake release to the climate control operates intuitively and seamlessly. I’d like to be able to tell you more about the powerful Bowers and Wilkins stereo but I didn’t turn it on – and I suspect that it would be a while before you did too, given the lovely noises that the engine makes.
The supercharged 5.0-litre V8 engine is so intimately connected to the driver that every action has a reaction – and a consequence. Trying to stuff 558bhp and and more than 500lb ft of torque through the rear wheels – even swathed in 295/30 x 20 tyres – is always going to be a challenge, and so it proves.
Accelerating away from a ‘T’ junction with any vigour will light up the rear wheels, a situation that is made even worse if you have the temerity to switch it into ‘Dynamic’ mode'; in fact, I’d go as far as saying that dynamic is a wholly inappropriate setting for any built up area or village, sharpening the throttle response to such a degree that it makes the car too abrupt to be driven cautiously without a constant state of hyper-vigilance.
On the open road though it is a very different matter, livening up the chassis and throttle response to a wonderful degree, encouraging you to blip up and down the gearbox, just to hear that ethereal howling as you accelerate and the incredible crackling and popping that spits from the tailpipe on the over-run. This is, in fact, a very shouty engine that makes sure everyone within half a mile knows just how much fun you are having. It’s wonderful.
You’d imagine that the enormously powerful (and loud, don’t forget loud) engine would dominate the experience, and it does, but only for a while. After you’ve got the urge to show off out of your system you’ll appreciate that there is some real sophistication to the chassis too. It turns in with precision and the steering is sublime, enabling you to hold a line of your choice, adjusting it on the throttle as required.
The level of grip that is available is far higher than any sane driver needs on a public road but if you do overcook it the chassis is so responsive and obedient that you can bring it back into line with ease. Better drivers than me might be able to wring a bit more out of the chassis by turning off the electronic aids but for most people the automatic monitoring and adjustments make the car feel so secure that confidence levels soar, enabling them to drive it harder than they thought was be possible. It’s not an intimidating car and the chassis is aided and abetted by some of the most powerful and progressive brakes I’ve ever used.
You’ll probably be thinking that it must ride like a steamroller, but you’d be wrong. It’s compliant and absorbs most road surface imperfections with aplomb. Sure, big bumps and sharp corrugations will send a shudder though the body but on the hole it rides far better than it has any right too. This is the Jaguar’s USP; beautifully engineered suspension that balances the handling and ride perfectly.
It’s thirsty, though. I drove it hard, and managed to get 13.1mpg, which is a figure that long-term tests show is probably representative of hard use. You can’t take it with you though and I doubt that you’ll ever find a better car in which to burn a gallon of unleaded…
The XKR-S is a very serious car, and one that Jaguar has lavished a lot of attention on. The bald figures might leave you wondering where all you money has been spent, but it is a very different animal to the standard XKR, despite having just 32bhp more. It goes harder, steers better, stops faster, grips for longer, and sounds utterly amazing.
It’s not perfect; the rear seats are only there to look good and from some angles the aerodynamic tweaks look a bit brash, but that is the extent of my dislikes, and that is a very short list.
If you can afford to buy a Jaguar XKR-S then the chances are that you aren’t too worried about saving a few pounds – but when I tell you that the XKR-S is every bit as good as a Bentley Continental or an Aston Martin DB9 you will be astonished at what great value for money the Jaguar is.
It punches well above its weight, and does so very convincingly and is even a challenge to the mighty Porsche 911 GT3, except for the fact that the British car’s talents are broader and more even. The Audi R8 might run it close, but even that doesn’t leave you feeling the way the XKR-S does.
No, the XKR-S is in a class of its own and is worth every penny of its £97k price tag. Who could have predicted that?
Price: £97,000 OTR
Maximum power: 558bhp @ 6,000 rpm
Peak torque: 501.5lb ft @ 2,500 rpm
0-60mph: 4.2 seconds
Top speed: 186 mph (300 kph)
Claimed fuel consumption: 23.0 mpg
Average fuel consumption on test: 13.1 mpg
CO2 emissions: 292 g/km
Images: ©2012 Carlton Boyce