First Drive : Jaguar XKR-S
There’s no doubt about it – Jaguar is on form right now. The marque has a three-car range that it can truly be proud of, is generating record profits and looks set for a huge production increase with the arrival of the XF 2.2D later this year so it’s on the back of this burgeoning performance that the company has launched its most powerful production car yet – the XKR-S.
What’s the difference between this and the ‘standard’ XKR? For a start, it’s a whole lot more extrovert in the way it looks, featuring new aerodynamic addenda at the front, a carbonfibre rear spoiler and some of the lairiest colours ever seen on an XK. This is clearly a Jaguar built by a confident company for confident buyers.
Upgrades from the XKR are headed by a 39bhp and 41lb ft power-torque increase, via a tweaked ECU, and an active exhaust system, which delivers an amazing soundtrack under full throttle. Indeed, it’s the numbers that catch the most attention – maximum speed is limited to 186mph (although an Engineer on the launch told us that it will easily hit ‘the high 190s and bangs into the limiter like a brick wall) and 0-100mph comes 8.8 seconds, compared with 7.8 seconds for the XJ220 – that’s an impressive performance given this is a series production car and is as easy to live with as any XK.
However, it’s on the road – and track – where the XKR-S really hits hard. It has higher-rated springs (by 28%), reprogrammed damper and differential controls and wider tyres riding on lighter wheels. The combination of these factors transforms a great driver’s car into a brilliant one.
We first sampled the XKR-S at the Autodromo do Portimão, a circuit which will expose any car’s dynamic failings, it’s a plunging roller-coaster of a track which demands concentration and can easily punish mistakes. Considering that the XKR-S weighs over 1700kg, it turns in beautifully, almost aggressively, and, unless you’re clumsy with the throttle – or are deliberately out to drift it (and it will, easily in race mode) – it digs in and squats before haring for the next straight.
At that point, you’re going to be overwhelmed by the melodious exhaust wail, which is near narcotic at high revs and a liberal throttle opening. It’s an active system, which is louder than the standard XKR’s, and feels pure to the point of you expecting the coughs and spits on downchanges that never come. We’ll fully understand if you find yourself blipping the throttle for the sheer hell of it…
The steering weight and gearing are perfectly judged at this venue and are even more precise than the standard XKR. The gearchanges on the autobox’s paddle shifters are just as satisfying as before and exceptionally smooth. As for the brakes, the pedal feels more progressive than its rivals, but still has all the stopping power of a nightclub bouncer.
On the roads near the track, the XKR-S is well controlled too. Despite that stiffened suspension, the Jaguar’s ride is pliant and well damped, although we’re keen to try it on heavily cambered and pock-marked UK roads. However, given Jaguar’s Engineers will happily admit that some of the best test and development roads are right on the company’s doorstep at Gaydon, we do not really expect to be disappointed.
The question you’re all asking is whether the XKR-S is worth nearly £100,000? Well, given its monumental performance without the pain of a bone-jarring ride or track-obsessed dynamics, we’d happily recommend it. Thinking of rivals is a tough one – for instance, the Aston Martin Vantage S has more badge kudos and less performance. However, the XKR-S’s toughest challenge is, in fact, the XKR – that comes in at a £20k saving and might be less offensive to the sensibilities of shrinking violets out there.
That, though, is really a sign of just how complete a car the fast XK is. Truly, it’s a British car to be proud of. We love it.
[Source: Octane Magazine]