Jaguar XKR-S review
by David Finlay (5 August 2011)
When the XKR 5.0 was launched a couple of years it established itself as the craziest car Jaguar sold in the UK. On September 1 it will slip down to an honourable second, for that is the day on which the XKR-S will officially become available in this country.
It would be fair to say that, in creating the XKR-S, Jaguar has carefully avoided the temptation to make it look unnecessarily subtle. More accurately, the add-ons which add so much aggression to the sleekness of the basic XK are far more about function than about form. As Design Director Ian Callum puts it, "The physics have led the aesthetic."
And you can see why this might be when you consider what is behind the inspiration to add -S to the XKR name. The supercharged five-litre V8 petrol engine has been reworked - it's largely a matter of remapping the fuel system - so that it now produces a maximum of 542bhp or, more mellifluously, 550PS.
The extra power brings the 0-62mph time down from 4.8 to 4.4 seconds, and the top speed has been raised from 155mph to 186mph. It's the latter statistic that has led Jaguar to introduce quite a number of aerodynamic aids so that stability can be maintained when you're blasting down an autobahn, or perhaps an airport runway.
I said in my original review of the XKR 5.0 that I thought Jaguar had for the first time in recent years overpowered the back end of one of its cars. It seems reasonable boosting the engine's output by nearly 10% won't have helped the situation very much, but I'm going to have to reserve comment on that until another time.
That's because my first experience of the XKR-S has been on exciting but not noticeably smooth country roads, and in conditions which ranged from lots of puddles to "I think we're starting to see a dry line appearing, Martin." Even in the most favourable of these circumstances it wasn't possible to use anything like the full performance without either various safety aids coming into play or some unusual geometry being achieved, the latter case including getting the tail out on less than half throttle while starting to overtake a Land Rover Discovery.
It was, however, possible to get some idea of the sonic treats that are available to an XKR-S owner. Driven gently, this is a quiet car, but under hard acceleration it sounds fantastic, though most of the noise comes from the exhaust - Jaguar refinement these days is at such a level that the engine is very much a secondary sound source, and if you really want a musical thrill you should be standing outside the XKR-S rather than sitting in it.
I'm going to have to suggest that most buyers will experience the sound occasionally, the full straightline performance hardly at all and the maximum possible driving experience almost never. Combining the power with the cornering ability requires a lot of concentration, and it could all too easily lead you into trouble if you tried it on the public road.
It's an exciting car, though, and in a strange way something of a bargain. Not many of us may be able to afford the £97,500 list price, but how many cars do you know that offer 542bhp for a less-than-six-figure sum?