First Drive : Jaguar XKR-S

Carole Nash Classic Insurance Specialists

Keith Adams

Jaguar XKR-S
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]

Keith Adams

Keith Adams

Editor and creator AROnline at AROnline
Created in 2001 and built it up to become the world's foremost reference source for all things BMC, Leyland and Rover Group, before renaming it AROnline in 2007.

Is the Editor of the Parkers website and price guide, formerly editor of Classic Car Weekly, and launch editor/creator of Modern Classics magazine. Has contributed to various motoring titles including Octane, Practical Classics, Evo, Honest John, CAR magazine, Autocar, Pistonheads, Diesel Car, Practical Performance Car, Performance French Car, Car Mechanics, Jaguar World Monthly, MG Enthusiast, Modern MINI, Practical Classics, Fifth Gear Website, Radio 4, and the the Motoring Independent...

Likes 'conditionally challenged' motors and taking them on unfeasible adventures all across Europe.
Keith Adams


  1. WOW! That’s all I can say. I will never understand why Ford got Jaguar Land Rover all set for success and then let another company rake in the profits.

  2. I bet MG Mal comes up with some racist rubbish about it being the fastest Indian takeaway on earth. Idiot…

    I, for one, celebrate this ingenious achievement in British Automotive Engineering and, over the last few years, I’ve been in total awe of what Jaguar has achieved as a brand. It’s a long way away from Ford ownership and I’m wondering just how long before it encroaches heavily on Aston Martin’s deep territory. It’s already nipping at the heels.

    Actually, given it’s now independent status, I’m wondering exactly how Aston Martin is going to survive without the technological economies of scale. Remember, Porsche couldn’t do it on its own… Maybe either Tata Motors or SAIC Motor will buy Aston Martin and keep the operation here but provide the financial and technical resources necessary to keep the marque alive… Who knows?

  3. The XKR-S is a great car to drive and the XF 2.2D coming up is nothing to be sneezed at – that pulls away as well as the 2.7D did (without the lag).

  4. It rankles that it is a British car being launched in Portugal, but it’s got German plates?!?! I would be interested to know why it can’t sport British plates?


  5. @Keith Adams
    Well, in no particular order, it rankles because:

    1) When Citroen launch a car in France, what plates does it wear?
    2) When BMW launch a car in Germany, what plates does it wear?
    3) Why is it offensive to be proud of a British designed and made product?
    4) Why should I be ashamed to advertise that a car is British designed and made?
    5) Does Buckingham Palace fly the Tricolor or the Union Flag?

    This car should be a cause for celebration for ALL it’s facets, one of which is that it is British.

    Anyway, that is my opinion, others may differ. However, I am fervently patriotic which I realise is very, VERY un-PC.


  6. @Chris Cowdery
    Well, if you want the XKR-S to be in full British spec, it needs to be RHD with an mph-speedo. 😉

    Are you saying that Jaguar should have brought RHD, UK-registered cars to Portugal instead of these LHD cars registered to Jaguar Germany? The same thing happened with the European launch of the XJ in Paris.

    Come on, everyone knows they are British cars and no one cares about the number plates they wear… Or not?

  7. @Chris Cowdery
    You are absolutely right, Chris.

    Why, but why, is this fabulous British car wearing a German registration plate? Okay, so Jaguar has an establishment in Germany but it’s not even on German roads.

    I am not British, I am Belgian, but that’s a scandal.

  8. @Chris Cowdery
    Crackers… 🙂

    Seriously, it’s a British car that happens to wear German plates for a Portuguese launch. The final line in my piece, ‘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’ positions me in the patriotic discussion.

    I’d have thought that you’d have been happy to see British cars being sold overseas to help the balance of payments situation.

    Anyway, as an aside, this was a LARGE Jaguar event, an international launch, and there were cars representing several EU nations’ Press Fleets including the UK. I just happened to pick one which was registered in Germany rather than Coventry.

    Now, screw that – this is one brilliant car. I, for one, am bloody delighted about that.

  9. I well understand Chris’s point, but the fact is that the XKR-S will sell well in all these territories EXCEPT it’s home one, because no one on these shores takes anynotice unless a car’s wearing a Teutonic badge.

    Every car mag, every episode of Top German and Filth Gear is packed full of Deutsche metal. You’d be forgiven for thinking cars don’t come from anywhere else. It’s now in the national psyche, it’s now part of the DNA of the car buying public. You are considered a bit “special needs” if you don’t agree, which I certainly don’t.

    However good Jaguar are – I believe they’re superb and own one – in this land, I fear they will be forever handicapped by not being German. The same struggle will be faced by MG.

    MINI, on the other hand, have no such problem – they are always referred to as BMW MINI, even on this site. That irritates me – they should be just referred to as MINI, forget the BMW bit, forget BMW. Actually, let’s make this a BMW free zone… Now I’ve started something!

  10. @Timbo
    It seems to me that Jaguar sales are doing particularly well in the UK. Here, in Germany, the sales are – well – slow, despite generally good reviews. It would certainly be good for the UK to export more cars, but the recovery from the bad old BL days is not yet complete.

    Incidentally, on the BMW MINI point, BMW do separate BMW and MINI strictly – you’ll hardly ever see BMW mentioned in MINI’s PR.

  11. @Timbo
    Funny, that. Jaguar has been enjoying its best sales for years since the arrival of the XF and XJ. Reality and perception are very different. Many people accuse the British motoring press of a pro-German bias, but have you read the Jaguar’s reviews? They’re all glowing. Yes, and that’s because they’re good.

    Anyway, if there is a pro-German bias – and I don’t think there is, certainly at my end of the scale – then it’s only reflecting the wants of UK car buyers, who do lean in the Teutonic direction. I certainly know that, on one weekly magazine, there’s a lift in sales if its Editor sticks a BMW on the cover. Bias from the mag? Or the readers?

    Incidentally, does anyone think this whole thread is ironic, being posted – as it is – on a website that supports and caters for the British car industry?

    Oh, and as the creator and Editor of this site, I take exception to the MINI being referred to as a BMW. I never have and never will.


  12. There’s a lot of xenophobic nonsense masquerading as patriotism here. An article I read last week about JLR’s profitability is of more interest. The company seems to have its cost base well under control and can break even by selling only 130,000 cars a year – anything they sell over this is, in effect, pure profit, hence last year’s £1bn profit on 175,000 sales. That’s before the Evoque and 4 cylinder XF go on sale.

  13. The XKR-S’s a cool car and has stunning looks. It’s a future classic design for sure and, as the article says, a car to be proud of – if I had one I sure would be.

    Jaguar is going from strength to strength and seems to have recaptured the essence of what they were about: style, performance and innovation. The marque has moved on from the retro gentlemen’s club image it saddled itself with in the past.

  14. @Paul
    The sales figure you quote (175,000) for Jaguar Land Rover for last year is of concern to me as Land Rover alone with its current five models produces around 200,000 vehicles in a ‘modest’ year – with sales of Jaguar Cars included this figure should be nearer 250,000.

    Amongst all the so-called “xenophobic nonsense” I think there are some good comments. For example, I personally refer to the BMW-owned MINI as simply “the MINI” (although I do tut every time I have to remember to use uppercase letters throughout when writing it, because of BMW’s pedantic insistence).

    The practicalities of press cars on an international launch should not be confused with the official photos that manufacturers use for press and marketing purposes. Due to the need to make images flexible for use in publications produced for many market territories, some manufacturers will reverse images dependent on what side they want the steering wheel to appear and also photoshop different numberplates.

    However, with Photoshop technology being more advanced these days, it is a shame that British marques don’t use it to their advantage by featuring British number plates in images used for the UK market. It is almost as if there is a fear that “being British” is not good enough. Swedish, Italian and German manufacturers still use promotional images with their own respective country’s number plates, so why not us Brits? It is an interesting question for a ‘British’ manufacturer to answer.

    That said, about ten years ago, Land Rover featured some images in its UK market sales brochures of left-hand drive Discoveries with North American number plates. However, it did not detract from the appeal of the vehicle or its ‘Britishness’. It seems it can work both ways!

  15. It’s great to see that Jaguar are doing really well now under Tata Motors’ ownership. It seems that they turned round as soon as they left Ford. What does that say about the quality of Ford’s management?

  16. Well, despite the fact we are still in a global credit crunch, it’s great to see a huge demand for JLR products across the world.

    JLR deserve a huge slap on the back across the board from the guys and girls on the track to the Designers and management – JLR’s a well oiled machine. Great cars like this are just the start of many great things to come from JLR – just look at the investment Tata Motors has made since it acquired the two marques.

    I am not sure about some readers’ agenda… This XKR-S has foreign number plates, so what? It’s a global launch and I was looking at the beautiful car not the irrelevant bits of oblong perspex for and aft.

    Ford had little choice in selling off the ‘Premier Group’. The US taxpayer has so far bailed out their car industry to the tune of $14.7Billion – selling the group was the right thing for Ford US to do in order togenerate cash flow. Ford’s loss was Tata’s gain.

    Finally, as for who owns Jaguar Land Rover, who cares if they produces great cars like this and safe guard jobs here in the UK. Don’t forget Jaguar was owned for a while by Brits, they were called British Leyland…

  17. @Richard Truett
    I suppose that, given that Alan Mulally’s car of choice at Boeing was a Lexus, it was no surprise that he didn’t want to keep any strange European car marques within Ford.

  18. The British press is generally very supportive of JLR – the Autocar and Auto Express websites seem to be full of positive Jaguar Land Rover stories.

    I boggle slightly at the idea of a car being limited to 186mph – it almost implies that 190mph would be horrendous and disastrous, whereas 180mph would be normal…

  19. @Keith Adams
    I agree with what you say – as I said, I think JLR are superb and they are my favourite (along with MG Rover or what’s left of it here) by a mile or should that be kilometres. Furthermore, I think this website is brilliant and I keep a keen eye on what’s going on here. I admire your input.

    Actually, I’m not xenophobic or patriotic, but I do support my local car manufacturer(s), as some support their local football team, which means through good times and bad whilst not being blind to their flaws.

    Jaguar Land Rover lately seem to have fewer flaws in their model range than at other anytime I can remember. Hats off to them, I hope they sell in every territory.

    I do remain convinced that there is a bias in the UK media towards German cars though, despite not everyone agreeing. I can’t remember many episodes of Clarkson’s programme without a German car featured. Yes, you say it reflects what the public wants – we’ve been drip fed since the mid 1970s – that’s why I say it’s now in the DNA of the average car buyer here. Think of the advertising slogans: “If only everything in life was as reliable as… Ultimate driving machine… Engineered like no other car… Ver der sprung kaput… Blah blah blah”. Some of those strap lines haven’t been actually used for donkey’s years but the sheep keep buying.

    I know of so-called car enthusiasts who tell me they only buy German “‘cos they’re better innit”, whilst I prefer to think local marques are not necessarily better because they’re not German, but as good as and an alternative to the boring, obvious choice of the bland Eurobox.

  20. The speed limiter has probably been fitted because of the agreement whereby all European car manufacturers limit the speed to 186mph (300Km/h). Before, this was limited to 155mph (250Km/h) but I’m sure it was a British manufacturer (either domestically or foreign-owned) that had something to do with this.

    I know Triumph did the same thing with a prototype of one of their motorbikes by touching 202mph but steadfastly refused to remove the limiter for the production model – allegedly after a Government spokesperson reminded them that a voluntary limit was a good idea before they considered enforcing a compulsory legal one.

    I suppose another reason might be that it’s simply just down to warranty protection.

  21. @Keith Adams
    Why does that matter??? Because it’s a BRITISH car not a German or Portuguese one. Do you ever see Audi, for instance, launch a new car in Portugal with UK plates on?? Never!

  22. There’s no doubt that Jaguar is the most British of brands.

    However, the fact is Jaguar has had an identity crisis for the last 20 years. Every model (except the XK) since Ford’s takeover has been an increasingly sad charicature of a much older one. Fortunately, we now have the XF and XJ, both fantastically fresh new designs.

    That said, as far as the marketplace is concerned, it will take a long time to turn the perception of naff retro into Brit Cool. To me, a Jaguar is British and always will be, but a left hooker in the Med with German plates reinforces the shift from old school to new school and that can only be a good thing.

  23. I believe some of these posts are right – British car journo’s do tend to favour German metal over anything else.

    Take the XKR-S – the MSN Cars website draws an immediate comparsion with the Porsche 911 GT3 and states that it’s not as good! Keith’s report is, at least, putting the XKR-S up against the Aston Martin – well done.

    British journos also have a habit of bigging up German quality but don’t Jaguars nearly always beat them in the Customer Satisfaction Surveys?!

  24. @Keith Adams
    I wouldn’t listen to any of these people – don’t worry about it. I couldn’t care less if the XKR-S had number plates for the moon. The only way any of you lot can ‘support’ ‘British’ car manufacturing is to BUY ONE. Any of you going to do that?

  25. I’m a big fanz of der German numberplatesen and I can’t understand why this latest number plate has a Britischer car stack to it…

  26. Oh, for heaven’s sake, will you listen to yourselves for two seconds? It’s a sodding number plate, get over it!!! Who really gives that much of a toss one way of the other?!

    Anyway, that said, the XK was always my least favourite model in the Jaguar range but that’s only because I’m not really into sports cars. I prefer saloons and such (yes, I know that’s boring). Mind you, the XK would still be the car I would go for if I was going to have a sports car – they’re sexy beasts! That was until I saw this, wow it looks fantastic.

    Jaguar just keep gettiing better and better. I’m starting to think there is nothing they can’t do… Yet another big well done to Jaguar. I hope every single person in the company buys themselves a drink. They deserve it!

  27. Jon Pountney :
    @Keith Adams

    I wouldn’t listen to any of these people – don’t worry about it. I couldn’t care less if the XKR-S had number plates for the moon. The only way any of you lot can ‘support’ ‘British’ car manufacturing is to BUY ONE. Any of you going to do that?

    Well, I have owned four Montegos, an SD1, two LDVs, a Land Rover, a Range Rover and a Rover 200 so, thus far, YES!

    Oh, and back to number plates, although arguably unimportant in themselves, they stick out like a sore thumb. I suspect I was slightly misled by the high artistic content of Keith’s photographs into thinking they were official photos – if they were official photos, then somebody needs telling off.


  28. Ryan :
    Jaguar just keep gettiing better and better. I’m starting to think there is nothing they can’t do…

    How about bringing Rover back now that Jaguar Land Rover own the IPRs to the name!!

  29. @Timbo
    I couldn’t agree more with your suggestion that Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) should bring back the Rover marque. It would make my day, month, year and decade if the Rover name came back on a model (or range of models) positioned in those sector/s of the market which were ‘right’ for the brand.

    Moreover, any future new Rovers should offer timeless elegance fused with avant-garde confidence, high levels of build quality, a sense of wellbeing and, above all, aspirational value.

    A medium-sized and compact executive-class Rover would be the icing on the cake for JLR’s model line-up. Oh, and yes, I would definitely buy one to go alongside my other British-made cars!

  30. Jaguar have been itching to make a hot XK for a while – if you remember Ford canned a really hot version of the previous generation XK8 R to prevent direct competition with Aston Martin.

  31. Timbo :

    Ryan :
    Jaguar just keep gettiing better and better. I’m starting to think there is nothing they can’t do…

    How about bringing Rover back now that Jaguar Land Rover own the IPRs to the name!!

    You know what mate, although it’s still a bit too soon for Jaguar Land Rover to think about that in terms of their own recovery, I really do believe that they could pull a Rover revival off brilliantly and do a great job. Whether they will in the future, who knows?

  32. @David 3500
    You’ve missed my point. Jaguar breaks even on 130,000 sales. This covers their fixed costs – factories, permanent staff etc. Anything over this represents profit and, by selling 175,000 cars, they made £1bn last year.

    Profits at this level are far more important than sales volume and demonstrate that the company has got its costs under control – that’s vital if the company is to grow and invest.

    With regards to the number plate issue, I would say that, given the level of investment BMW has put into the UK and the highly skilled manufacturing jobs it has created selling Cowley-built cars which people actually want to buy, they can stick whatever number plates they want on the car.

    Besides, years ago new “British Fords” where always launched with German “K” Koln number plates and Vauxhalls with “RuS” Russelheim plates. Nothing new here…

  33. @Paul
    Wow, hold fire there! My point was concerning the fact that Jaguar Land Rover ‘only’ sold 175,000 cars, not the profit margin.

    I’m something of a number cruncher and wondered whether this figure was correct given that both Jaguar and Land Rover sold record numbers in 2010. Land Rover, as I have said before, consistently sells in the region of 200,000 vehicles a year, which almost suggests that, with a sales figure of 175,000, there was a potential sales slump and nothing built by Jaguar Cars.

    I can only guess that the sales figure of 175,000 for the previous financial year is incorrect – the actual figure is over 200,000 and the profit made was in excess of £1bn.

    My comment about BMW made reference to how I refer to the MINI and how it has to be written, according to BMW’s request, not the number plates they display in promotional photos. My comment about British number plates referred to all British marques, not just to custodians of specific marques, as you incorrectly imply.

    Finally, please read my comment in response to today’s AROnline MINI : £500m investment safeguards over 5000 jobs at Plant Oxford article – my thoughts on the BMW Group’s investment plans might surprise you!

  34. Paul :
    @David 3500
    With regards to the number plate issue, I would say that, given the level of investment BMW has put into the UK and the highly skilled manufacturing jobs it has created selling Cowley-built cars which people actually want to buy, they can stick whatever number plates they want on the car.

    Right, that’s enough praising of BMW now. This is not the place, there’s plenty of other sites around for that – if they had managed Rover properly and then not walked away, and this has been covered many times here, there would’ve been many more jobs. That’s such a non-argument.

    For many of us, that particular car company will forever be associated with never allowing Rover the chance to reach its full potential. The company will, therefore, always have some blood on its hands for what eventually happened.

    I don’t come here looking for pro-BMW guff – I can get that from any UK car mag or loosely car-based light entertainment TV programme. This is my sanctuary away from that populist piffle. I want to read positive news about the home grown car industry that I wouldn’t get elsewhere.

  35. @Timbo
    Yes, and just for the record, AROnline will continue to report on the BMW Group’s plans for the MINI brand and Plant Oxford in a balanced and objective manner – after all, for us to do anything less would be unprofessional… 🙂

  36. I miss the ‘Good Old Days’ before this new fangled thing called progression and yearn for the simple things in life, like mass unemployment and subsequent anarchy so can we have more stories about hand threshing?

    Can we have more negative Jaguar, Land Rover, MINI and MG whinging stories for us ill-informed LUDDITES who litter this site?

    I, for one, have written frequently to The Times about the jolly nasty Hun and his misuse of the Mini brand.

    I have very little concern for the welfare and self-respect of a person who wishes to get off their backside to earn a living in a UK-based car plant that happens to be owned by ‘Johnny Foreigner’. Instead, I believe that all progression must stop so that more people can stay at home and watch Jeremy Kyle, draw benefits and never contribute anything to the Britain PLC, so that we can build good schools, hospitals and eradicate rickets etc.

    I think that AROnline should, instead, post more stories of the misuse of British number plates and give advice on trawling ‘Wickithingy’ for vague styling comparisons with cars from the past.

    I want to feel free to knock a product that I have never tried in order to feel smug and superior whilst hiding behind my key board. I also want more stories about British-owned mass car producers, like Morgan and the other one.

    Oh, and can someone invent a keyboard that will make typing a lot easier for my old gnarled and blooded knuckles, a burden I have to drag behind me during my bitter and twisted day.

  37. Luddite :
    I miss the ‘Good Old Days’ before this new fangled thing called progression and yearn for the simple things in life, like mass unemployment and subsequent anarchy so can we have more stories about hand threshing?


    Oh, and can someone invent a keyboard that will make typing a lot easier for my old gnarled and blooded knuckles, a burden I have to drag behind me during my bitter and twisted day.

    Sheer brilliance! 🙂

    Thankfully, the mythical creature that Luddite is referring to is very much in the minority…


  38. Luddite :
    I believe that all progression must stop so that more people can stay at home and watch Jeremy Kyle…

    Jeremy Kyle? NEVER! He drives a BMW!

  39. @25 Steve McGill, Chris Cowdery and all the other haters…

    You said, ‘would Audi launch a car in Germany wearing UK plates?’

    YES – and here’s the evidence.

    That shot was taken 50 miles from Audi’s Ingoldstadt factory.

    So here’s what I think of you 😉

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