The new XKR-S is Jag’s hottest XK yet, a 542bhp beast based on last year’s 75 anniversary special but with even more power. And this time it's got mouth as well as trousers.
The front end of the XKR-S features a pair of gaping nostrils delivering air to the supercharged V8, and a black mouth that gives it a very different look to the faux E-type nose found on other XKs. At the back there’s prominent hoop spoiler and part of a diffuser, although since it extends about a hair’s breadth under the car, it might be more for show than go.
So the new 2011 XKR-S is like Jag’s answer to a 911 GT3?
It’s probably better to think of it having some of the flavour of extremely focused cars like GT3, but still retaining a very Jaguar feel, and therefore a load more civility than the Porsche.
So while Jag has finally fitted some body-hugging Recaro chairs, you won’t find anything so grubby as a roll cage in there. Its closest rival would probably be Maserati’s new Granturismo-based MC Stradale.
How does it compare with a standard XKR?
By any normal standards the XKR is a great performance coupe. But this new XKR-S inherits some of the tricks first aired on last year’s 75 anniversary special to lift the R-S onto another plane dynamically, including a very stiff aluminium front suspension upright. So the steering is more precise, incredibly alert and full of feel.
The body control is superb too, and not just on smooth roads. Throw in some bumps and the XKR-S barely notices, somehow managing to glide over them. A very acceptable pay-off is the noticeably knobblier low-speed ride, particularly since you also get 39bhp and 39lb ft more to play with than in the regular XKR.
If this thing’s got 550bhp, that makes it as powerful as the legendary XJ220 supercar!
Yup, but the XK’s a damn sight torquier - 501lb ft plays 476lb ft. And while the XJ220 was blighted by serious turbo lag, the R-S’s power is spread evenly and available instantly. It’s not much slower either.
The old timer hit 60mph in 4.0sec and 100mph in around 8.0sec; the new boy takes 4.2sec and 8.6sec. On top speed though, even the 186mph R-S has to give way to the two-decade old XJ220.
Sounds incredible. What’s not to like?
Virtually nothing. The back seats are a joke, the cabin didn’t feel particularly special five years ago when the XK cost £50k - and certainly feels out of its depth at double that price, although the carbon-look woven leather trim is very smart.
And the chassis isn’t perfect. With so much torque available at any point in the rev range, traction can become an issue on really wet roads.
The Jaguar XKR-S is brilliant. It takes the already exciting and very capable XKR and creates an even more thrilling GT, one that would be just as happy thrashing round a circuit on the weekend as ferrying you through London traffic to work during the week.
If you are doing loads of trackdays, a 911 GT3 would still be more fun, although since production has finished, you’d need to find a used one or go for the much more hardcore, much more expensive GT3 RS 4.0.
That’s a very different kind of car though and nowhere near as broad in its talents as the Jag. And while the XKR-S’s £97,000 price is a bit of a shocker – it costs £20k more than an XKR - you’d certainly have to be steadfastly determined to have a set of Aston keys in your pocket before you spent another £80k on a DBS.
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