Another old engine in a new shell; why should I get excited?
True, both the new XK and now the new XKR use drivetrains largely carried over from the last-generation XK. But there wasn't much wrong with the old engines, and a whole lot right with the new chassis. The extra power of the supercharged XKR - 420bhp versus 300bhp in the XK - gives the halo Jag the chance to show how good it really is. Carmakers are often guilty of charging more for high-performance models than their extra ability justifies. Not in this case - the XKR is the one to have.
The old XKR only had 400bhp…
Changes to the Eaton supercharger and the induction system and the addition of continuously-variable valve timing account for the new R's extra 20bhp, and Jaguar has worked to reduce whine from the supercharger. The 4.2-litre V8 block is unchanged, as is the superb ZF six-speed auto 'box, although you now get paddles behind the wheel for manual shifts.
What else is new?
The new XK is a night-and-day improvement on the old car, largely due to the lighter, stiffer aluminium monocoque that has a beneficial impact on just about every aspect of the car’s performance, from acceleration and handling to economy. The R gets firmer springs and dampers, meatier steering and bigger brakes, up to 355mm from 326mm at the front. Styling changes are subtle; the XKR's chin is deeper and squarer, with aluminium mesh grilles. Bonnet louvers, ally 'gills' behind the front arches, unique 19- or 20-inch wheels, quad exhausts and quiet R badging let others know where your money's gone. Inside there are redesigned seats and a new aluminium weave finish.
Enough looking: I’d like it driven now, please…
Fine. It’s really fast. It will crack 60mph in 4.9sec – a second less than the standard car and half a second faster than the old XKR. The supercharger means there’s seamless, surging go from anywhere in the rev range and although there’s still some whine, the hammering of the V8 it feeds is much more apparent. It’s a very nice combination; muscle-car brawn and soundtrack in an elegant GT package.
But is it still a grand touring car?
No doubt. Those firmer chassis settings give the R a level of poise and composure than suggest it could handle another hundred horsepower; fine steering feel and massive grip give you the confidence to use all the power, all the time. But Jag plainly hasn't forgotten that this is a GT car, not a pure sports car, and the firmer springs don’t disrupt the XK's excellent ride quality. The XKR's reign as the fastest Jaguar on sale may be brief. Rumours persist that Jaguar engineers are working on a lightweight, harder edged and probably more powerful version - badged XKR-R. And if you want to get the bill closer to the Aston's there’s a new 'bespoke' service on the way that will allow you to be a lot more creative with the colour, trim and gadgets. For a price…
As you might have gathered we like the XKR. At £67,495 for the coupe it's 12 per cent more expensive than the standard car for 40 per cent more power. We love identifying a cheaper version as the pick of the range, but in this case, if you can stretch to the R, buy it. The only criticisms are matters of taste and apply to both XKs. The cabin is almost Toyota-bland, though an easy, comfortable place in which to travel. Ian Callum's exterior styling seems to have split opinion, though we love it, and everyone seems to mistake it for an Aston at twice the price. Praise doesn't come much higher.