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Jaguar XKR-S (2008) review

Published:23 May 2008

Jaguar XKR-S car review: side view picture
  • At a glance
  • 5 out of 5
  • 5 out of 5
  • 4 out of 5
  • 5 out of 5
  • 5 out of 5

By Ben Barry

Contributing editor, sideways merchant, tyre disintegrator

By Ben Barry

Contributing editor, sideways merchant, tyre disintegrator

Here’s the car Jaguar fans have been waiting for: the XKR-S, the fastest, hardest-looking XK so far. Available only in Ultimate Black as a limited run of 200 in right- or left-hand drive for European-only markets, the XKR-S is yours for a fiver short of £80k. Read on for CAR Online’s first review.

How much extra power has the Jaguar XKR-S got?

Actually, it’s exactly the same as the standard supercharged XKR. Same 4196cc engine, same 410bhp, same 413lb ft torque. It’s faster because, while the electronic nanny is still there, it’s been raised to 174mph – a 19mph hike.

But for your extra cash, you get lightweight forged 20-inch rims with wider rubber (255/35 ZR20 Pirellis up front, chunky 295/30 ZR20 out back); specially tuned suspension (it’s stiffer and lowered by 10mm); revised steering; six-pot Alcon brakes up front with four-pots out back; a unique and subtle bodykit highlighted in graphite grey; and a classy interior upgrade previously offered only the Portfolio edition models. The latter includes soft-grain leather and a Bowers & Wilkins surround sound stereo system.

Surely they could have tweaked the XKR-S’s boost up a little?

No doubt, but a power hike would have entailed lengthy (and costly) development trials to guarantee reliability. Yes, it’s a cop-out and some extra go would have helped make the XKR-S more desirable and differentiate it more clearly, but it’s hardly sluggish.

More disappointing is the lack of a limited slip differential. Again, it’s not really a huge deal, but this is a car tweaked to satisfy driving enthusiasts – it’s a comfortable road car that can double as an occasional track toy.

The vast majority of people won’t notice the absence of an LSD, but turn off the traction control completely (the Trac DSC mode is still to keen to intervene so you’ll have to hold down the button for more than 10 seconds to smoke the rubber) and the inside wheel will flare up flamboyantly out of junctions and through hairpins. It’s much more satisfying if you can get the power down cleanly through both rear wheels while winding on some opposite lock.

We’ll live with the power remaining the same, but the diff is a must-have.

Click ‘Next’ to read more of CAR Online’s review of the Jaguar XKR-S

Not looking too good for the Jaguar XKR-S, then…

Not at all. These are relatively minor black marks on a brilliant package. Chassis engineer Mike Cross is a genius and the XKR-S shows how adept he is at extracting the very best from a chassis. The XKR-S gets new springs, anti-roll bars and dampers and a 10mm drop, while the Computer Active Technology Suspension (CATS) system has been retuned.

Where most lower and stiffer suspensions cause low-speed ride to deteriorate, the XKR-S still feels incredibly supple. You can tell it’s firmer than the XKR, but it’s never crashy. How do we know? We took a standard XKR to the press launch and drove them back to back.

Tell me more about the XKR-S’s ride and handling

The revisions also make the XKR-S feel much more planted over crests and into compressions where the longer travel of the dampers in standard XKRs can feel a little loose when you really push. Yet it still feels agile and supple on a hard charge – not crashy and fidgety as we feared – and it’s extremely intuitive.

The front end bites hard but loses grip progressively and communicates clearly as it does so. From there the choice is yours: back-off or push through this very mild understeer into oversteer.

Apparently this suspension package will be offered as an option on non-R-S models at a later date – unlike the wheels and styling enhancements.

How do the steering and braking updates affect the drive?

As with the chassis, the changes are very effective. You’ll notice that the XKR’s previously ultra-light helm has gained a little weight on turn-in, both around town and when committing to high-speed corners. It’s still fingertip light, but the extra weight lends some welcome meat to the feedback.

And the brakes are a transformation. The previous single-pot brakes were effective enough when you really needed them but the pedal travel was quite long and initial feel a bit mushy. Now there’s far less travel before you’re rewarded with a much more reassuring feel and, naturally, the stronger stoppers are much more accomplished at shedding speed.

Click ‘Next’ to read CAR Online’s verdict on the Jaguar XKR-S

Is it a flappy-paddle gearbox?

Yes, and it’s – you guessed it – exactly the same as in the XKR. But unlike rivals from Maserati (Granturismo S) and Aston (Vantage V8) who use automated-manuals (no clutch, an auto mode on demand but full manual control from the paddles), it’s a good old-fashioned torque converter.

That means you get all the benefits of smooth around-town progress and easy three-point turns, but the changes are also quick when you need them. Not being able to keep full manual control (it will kick down under full acceleration, change up at the redline and revert back to auto slushing if you stop making paddle commands), but it rarely frustrates and still makes the most sense in terms of matching the GT-characteristics of the car.

Verdict

Labelling the XKR-S as an entirely separate model could be seen as a little disingenuous. Adding an S to key rival the Maserati Granturismo results in a much more comprehensive series of revisions, while Aston offer something similar – though not as comprehensive, doing without brake or interior upgrades – on the Vantage as an optional Sports Pack.

However, we’ll give Jaguar the benefit of the doubt. We already liked the XK but these well-thought out revisions transform a rewardingly agile GT into an even more rewarding driver’s car without compromising the base car’s well-rounded character.

I can’t think of a GT that does sporting comfort and luxury better, and that includes the twice as pricey Aston DBS. But do us a favour Jaguar: indulge our childish urges with that LSD.

 

 

Specs

Price when new: £79,995
On sale in the UK: Now
Engine: 4196cc 32v V8, 410bhp @ 6250rpm, 413lb ft @ 4000rpm
Transmission: Six-speed automatic, rear-wheel drive
Performance: 5.2sec 0-62mph, 174mph, 23.0mpg, 294g/km CO2
Weight / material: 1665kg/aluminium
Dimensions (length/width/height in mm): 4791/1892/1312

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Photo Gallery

  • Jaguar XKR-S car review: rear view picture
  • Jaguar XKR-S car review: front three quarters picture
  • Jaguar XKR-S car review: rear picture
  • Jaguar XKR-S car review: interior picture
  • Jaguar XKR-S car review: interior picture

By Ben Barry

Contributing editor, sideways merchant, tyre disintegrator

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