APR 07th 2013

Jaguar XKR‑S: XK bares its teeth... is it enough to turn cruiser into sports car?

Softly softly tourer sharpens up

The Jaguar XK Coupé has quietly evolved from relatively soft grand tourer to a much sharper driving tool, but even the supercharged XKR seems a little tame next to the range-topper – the 550bhp XKR-S.

Under the vented bonnet sits a development of the XKR’s supercharged V8 engine and that peak power isn’t the only impressive stat. It also sends its 501lb ft of torque to the rear wheels all the way from 2500 to 5500rpm. The 4.4-second 0-62mph time and top speed of 186mph should come as no surprise with output like that.

But the XKR-S is not merely a dragster or autobahn-basher. Chassis tweaks over and above the XKR include a lower ride height, altered rear geometry, increased spring rates and an expensive new aluminium steering knuckle. The result is a much firmer, lower stance on the road, less slack in the body’s movement and direct, feelsome steering. Some won’t like the reduction in ride comfort, but if you like driving you’ll not be too worried about that.

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While Jag’s chassis gurus were busy the software boffins kept themselves occupied by altering the calibration of the stability control system, adaptive damping and the active rear differential. Suddenly it makes sense that the XKR-S feels considerably sharper than the (hardly blunt) XKR. It scythes through high-speed corners without a smidgen of body roll and it changes direction just as quickly, despite the still-high kerb weight. On track, it’s accomplished too, thanks in no small part to bigger brakes. In that scenario it turns into a mighty fine drift machine as well allowing addictive adjustment of the car’s attitude with the throttle mid-corner.

Volume turned up to 11

All this fun is to one of the best soundtracks in the business, and Jaguar has turned up the volume of the V8 by fitting an active exhaust system. Choose the Dynamic mode for full aural access and you’ll never tire of the pops and bangs that emit from the quad pipes at the rear on the overrun. Although there’s no manual gearbox option, the 6-speed automatic allows a manual override and of course has a gratuitous throttle blip feature.

Holding you in place during all this is a set of ‘Performance’ seats with a carbon pattern and the name of the car embossed into the soft leather. There are a few other touches inside to differentiate the XKR-S from other XKs, including special stitching and headlining, but you’ll be too busy watching the horizon rushing at you through the window to notice all that.

The exterior came in for more attention from the stylists, though the aerodynamicists claim a lot of the credit. The bumpers front and rear are new, the nose features a carbon splitter and the rear a diffuser, a carbon boot spoiler, new hatch and restyled lights. The wings and side sills have been re-profiled too and it’s all nicely set off by chunky 20in alloys.

If that’s not quite extrovert enough for you, Jaguar will gladly take another £6000 of your cash for the Convertible version, which is showier for sure, but it also allows unimpeded access to that defining exhaust note. Saying that, the Coupé is already about £18,000 more to buy than the 510bhp XKR, which to many may be too much.

Playing devil’s advocate, the XKR arguably delivers 95 percent of the XKR-S’s thrills in a rather more subtle package. To most that’ll suffice, but to those fortunate enough to buy special cars on a whim, only the XKR-S will do – and it’ll not disappoint.

Top speed: 186mph
0-62mph: 4.4sec
Engine: 5.0-litre supercharged V8
Power/weight: 313bhp/tonne
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
Wheels: 9.0J x 20 front, 10.5J x 20 rear
Tyres: 225/35 R20 front, 295/30 R20 rear
Power: 550bhp at 6000 to 6500rpm
Torque: 501lb ft at 2500-5500rpm
Economy: 23mpg
CO2:  292g/km
Price: £97,430
On sale date: Now

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