As the bright blue car burbled it’s way into the distance, the exhaust was still set as I left it, popping and crackling in Dynamic Mode, the carbon blade rear wing slowly getting smaller, my driving licence heaved a sigh of relief in my wallet. My Shell points card, of course, was sad to see the XKR-S depart, but my pink licence had grown grey hair and crows feet over the last seven days undertaking the Jaguar XKRS review. The horns on my head slowly disappeared and my forked tail fell off. This Jaguar is one bad, bad car that brings out the worst in me…. And worst of all, I simply couldn’t help it.
When I heard that the XKR-S was coming, I’ll admit that I was looking forward to it, but not expecting this. “Ungrateful git” I hear you say and you’re right. I’m a lightweight car person. Lightweight air cooled Porsche 911s and Lotus Elises are a truly superb way to have fun. Big cars with huge stereos, massive wheels and huge equipment lists don’t do it for me. Usually, theyre fat, inefficient and always run out of brakes. So I had mixed feelings about the idea of a Jaguar XKR-S for a week. It’s big, it looks very long, so bound to be heavy, a cruiser not a street fighter. It’s no ‘A’ road blaster, surely? And besides, I don’t play golf. Wrong. Totally wrong. This car is superb. Prepare to be surprised if you haven’t driven one. It’s ballistic but not just in a straight line. It has a chassis that makes it a GT3 / 911 Turbo rival, but with the engine in the front. Yes, really.
[quote]Mid range torque that’s right up there with a Porsche 911 Turbo. [/quote]
So, £97000 for a Jaguar coupe? That’s a lot of money. “How much!?” Was the response, whenever the unsavoury question of value came up. Which is an understandable one. But you’ve got to drive it and understand it. In fact, the XKR-S is punching way above its weight. An exhaust almost as tuneful as a Ferrari 458 Italia. A crisp, sharp chassis with immediate turn in better than an Aston Vantage and with no initial understeer that sends you looking straight for the corner exit each time. Pin sharp steering and damping that makes light work of controlling the 1700kg and a lovely tight rear differential that you feel working every time you lean on the power on the corner exit. And mid range torque that’s right up there with a Porsche 911 Turbo.
The gearshift is a straight forward six speed auto, with no twin clutch technology and yet it has sharp up shifts that don’t leave you wishing for anything better. For sure a twin clutch ‘box would be faster, but this is perfectly fine and faster than you can shift a manual. Downshifts were slightly slower, with a tendency for the nose to push on when the downshift blip came in, the gearbox still driving the car forwards if you hung a lot of revs on it when shifting down. I found braking with the left foot and giving it a helping blip was a good way to drive it. A minor niggle and certainly far better than most ‘standard’ auto boxes.
[quote]540bhp, plus a colossal 680 nm of torque from 2500rpm[/quote]
The engine, of course, is a monster. 540bhp, plus a colossal 680 nm of torque from 2500rpm. Utterly seamless, with no supercharger whine to hear inside, it simply feels like the biggest V8 you’ve ever driven, but with the lightning throttle response of a race engine on throttle bodies. Add in a Dynamic Mode which adjusts steering and throttle response and opens of that cartoon exhaust, barking under acceleration, then popping and crackling like a Spitfire on a low pass and you have a package that you simply cannot resist opening up everywhere you go.
And other people liked it, too. Very often, there are one of three reactions to performance cars on UK roads. it’s either “Cock!”, ‘Drug dealer…” or alternatively “Nice car.” People liked the Jaguar, there was a distinct difference in the number of people who generously gestured us out of junctions in traffic with a smile. The pop n crackle of the exhaust at low speeds attracted turning heads and then smiles, not frowns from people, in ways that other cars ever get. It made me feel rather British in a very odd way. Be brave, order it in the beautiful French Racing Blue seen here and you have a truly striking car.
And it’s comfortable. It fits me. I’m a six foot four Englishman, but with longer legs than the average Giraffe. I learned long ago that cars don’t have enough leg room for me. I accept it but find it frustrating. Even those cars that do have legroom place steering columns too far away from me for comfort. This one fits. Enough leg room and a telescopic column that actually does what it’s supposed to do, placing the wheel and its paddle shift right where I want them. Seats that adjust to support under your thighs and side bolsters that wind in nice and tight, meaning that you’re using that quick steering as a precision instrument to steer the car, not as a method of support.
[quote]It fits me. I’m a six foot four Englishman, but with longer legs than the average Giraffe[/quote]
[quote] Gear selector rises with a sense of occasion on startup…[/quote]
So who buys the XKR-S? If you like Porsche, you like Porsche. You probably won’t buy a Jaguar, generally, even though you’d be missing out. And vice versa, too. And yet the only car I can think of as an alternative to this machine is the GT3 RS or the 997 Turbo S, or possibly the Ferrari California. It really is that good. Jaguar are reaching out beyond the caricature of the Jaguar owner, indeed it’s unlikely that what is the stereotypical ‘traditional’ buyer will appreciate the car’s qualities. They’ll probably be more than happy with the XK-R. Instead, it’s built for enthusiastic drivers, those out there who will indeed use those huge 380mm brakes to the full, who accept that while 20mpg may be possible, driving it hard will probably give you closer to 12, rear tyres are a simple consumable item, but who cares?
So it’s gone. There’s a gap in my life, but it’s probably for the best. The Jaguar made me laugh, put a huge smile on my face and everybody loved it, even those with only a passing interest in what comes and goes on my driveway. But it made 130mph the default setting for cruising speeds all too easy, overtaking traffic became only a minor chore that simply required a bit of advance planning, then pull the trigger. It’s a dull, grey day here right now, clouds skidding over the rooftops. I feel like someone who’s best mate has just moved overseas. See you later, feller. I’ll miss you.
Words and photography, Neill Watson