Unless you’re Mark Zuckerburg, $340,000 is a lot of money. When it comes to cars, that sort of price tag is generally associated with supercars and ultra-luxury saloons. Nonetheless, there is one, very special, sportscar that can be had for that money and that’s a Jaguar XKR-S coupe.
The Jaguar XKR-S is the ultimate in the XK lineup. It’s the epitome of what the British company can do with the current XK platform and it also happens to be the fastest and most powerful Jaguar you can currently buy. It may be cost the price of a house (in Adelaide) but it’s hard to find another car that oozes so much character, soul and exclusivity as the XKRS.
The Jaguar brand has been synonymous with beautiful cars for as long most of us can remember. It has always created a deep emotional connection with its buyers, which has been the envy of many manufacturers. Jaguar has leveraged over 90 years of history and tradition to design and engineer the XKR-S Coupe, one of the most exciting cars money can buy.
From the outside it’s easy to tell the XKR-S coupe from the ‘standard’ Jaguar XKR. Despite its gorgeous looks, Jaguar says the exterior adheres to the principle of form following function, a task undertaken to allow this supercar to achieve its 300km/h top speed. In order to do so, front and rear lift has been reduced by more than 25 percent thanks to extensive aerodynamic work.
Jaguar’s world famous car designer, Ian Callum (who has not only been responsible for designing the current range of Jaguars, but largely credited for Aston Martin’s DB7 and Vanquish), describes the XKR-S’ design as nothing but true performance, boldly stating that “if you don't like the way it looks, you probably won't like the way it drives either.” Thankfully we not only like the way it looks, we love the way it drives.
Powered by an uprated version of Jaguar’s well-known supercharged AJ-V8 Gen III R direct-injection engine, the XKR-S makes do with 405kW of power and 680Nm of torque (30kW and 55Nm more than the XKR) and can dash from 0-100km/h in a seriously scary 4.4 seconds. There are cars that are faster (some are even significantly cheaper), but there’s something special about the way in which the XKR-S actually delivers that power and torque to the road that makes the experience highly unique and addictive.
Jaguar has revised the fuelling map and undertaken extensive engine recalibration to achieve the additional performance figures boasted by the XKR-S, but the biggest change is the performance active exhaust that has been further enhanced solely for the purpose of creating aural bliss. Engage sports mode and begin to use the steering-wheel mounted paddle-shifters and you’ll quickly realise why this car has so much appeal.
The exhaust note is not that of your typical V8. It’s incomparable to the Italian supercars as its not as high pitch and over-engineered and it’s not as distinguishable as the V8 Vantage as it’s not tuned for a distinct frequency. It’s just raw, loud, masculine, dramatic and brutal. More like a race car at full blast - at all times. This is not the sort of car your neighbours would love you for. If the sight of the XKR-S in the rear-view mirror wasn’t enough to scare other motorists, the exhaust system will certainly do the job. It’s the simple definition of automotive ecstasy in sound form.
This attention to raw power and noise does of course have some side effects, such as the horrendous fuel economy, which was easily averaging over 25L/100km during our weeklong test. But if the words “fuel economy” are even remotely on top-of-mind, this is simply not the car for you.
Behind the wheel the Jaguar XKR-S is by no means your nimble mid-sized sports car. It’s a proper Grand Tourer with lots of go. Weighing 1753kg and measuring 4.79m long and 1.89m wide, this demonic Jaguar is perfect for a blast up the highway or short bursts of acceleration to deafen the plebs.
We took it for a test drive up around Brisbane’s Mount Cootha and found that it behaved much better than we were expecting. There’s minimal body roll but the ride itself is comfortable without being soft. Around the twisty stuff the XKR-S’ weight and size is noticeable but it’s not exactly a big disadvantage. The (red or gunmetal) brake callipers combine with the enormous 380mm front and 376mm rear brake discs to provide unwavering stopping power, which is hugely beneficial in pre-corner planning.
The Jaguar XKR-S rides on Vulcan 20-inch alloys wrapped in Pirelli P Zero tyres measuring 255/35 R20 at the front, 295/35 R20 at the rear. Although bigger and wider than the wheels on XKR, the wheels weigh nearly 5kg less.
To cope with the additional performance credentials required of the XKR-S, Jaguar has upgraded both front and rear suspension systems with the front double wishbone setup gaining a new aluminium steering knuckle that improves the steering feel (with changes to the camber and castor stiffness) while the rear suspension has also been moderately revised. Jaguar has increased the spring rates on both ends by 28 per cent.
Given the long wheelbase the XKR-S is very happy to step out on you at the first opportunity. With the amount of power going to the rear-wheels, driving this beast in the wet is not for the faint of heart. Even in the dry the power delivery is so brutal that the traction control system is generally under enormous pressure to keep the car planted. Some call this lack of refinement but frankly, it’s part of the character that makes the XKR-S what it is. It’s genuinely a raw performance car that behaves as such. Jaguar’s Dynamic Stability Control System has been deliberately tuned to allow rear-wheel slippage before it kicks in.
As the XKR-S is not available in a manual, the standard six-speed ZF automatic gearbox has the tough task of muscling in all that menacing power. It may not have twin-clutches or be the pioneer of current transmission technology, but Jaguar engineers have managed to tune it perfectly to the big V8. Be it in drive or sport mode, it never seems to miss a beat or find itself in the wrong gear. When the time comes to take manual control of the gears, the response from the paddles is instantaneous.
The interior of the XKR-S has also seen its share of improvements with minor enhancements such as ebony soft-feel paint for the switches and gloss black finish to the centre console. There’s a new steering wheel and stainless steel pedals, but the major change is the sporty 16-way adjustable front seats that help keep you planted around corners. The seats themselves are covered in carbon leather accents available in in blue, red and ivory.
Perhaps the main point of concern in the XKR-S is the infotainment system. It’s fair to say the XKR-S is not exactly at the forefront of engine and transmission technology, but Jaguar can be forgiven for that because it has created such an excellent package regardless. As for the infotainment system, though, it’s hard to look past given the price tag. The satellite navigation system is slow, clumsy and generally inconsistent. Trying to program a location takes much longer than it should and response times for the system are almost unbearable.
The Bluetooth system is also lacking audio streaming, which for a 2012 model year vehicle is almost a criminal act. On the other hand the actual audio system is exceedingly good, largely thanks to the yellow-cone Bower and Wilkins speaker system but, again, the interface to control these magnificent speakers can be improved. On the plus side, the exhaust note will likely deafen you so you'll have no use for the audio system.
The Jaguar XKR-S Coupe is certainly not without competition. You can get an Aston Martin DB9 for a mere $20k more, a Maserati GranTurismo S for 30k less and a variety of German competitors for similar or less coin. Nonetheless, the combination of its exclusivity, raw power delivery, looks, attitude and overall performance is hard to beat.
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