Join Date: Nov 2004
First Drive and Video/ XKR-S
There are two ways to celebrate finding an extra 39 horsepower in the performance version of a sports flagship. You can call it "improving the breed" and make it part of a mid-cycle "face-lift," or you can add a letter and make it the ultra ne plus ultra.
Jaguar chose the latter. It boosted the supercharged 5.0-liter V-8's 503 horsepower to 542, jacked up torque by 41 lb-ft to 502 lb-ft, freed up the speed limiter from 155 mph to 186 mph (a metric-round 300 km/h), and shaved 0.4 seconds off the 0-60 mph time, to 4.2. It lowered the ride height by 0.4 inches, stiffened the front suspension uprights, and raised spring rates by 28 percent front, 32 percent rear. This will cost you $35k-plus more than a garden-variety XKR coupe, the only bodystyle in which the XKR-S will be offered when it goes on sale this fall.
In the sports car universe, the XKR-S is still a big-bore blown V-8 gran turismo. It's a car with horsepower, and especially, torque that surpasses the 10/10ths handling capabilities that could be judiciously used on the esses of Portugal's mountain roads. That's why Jaguar let us loose with a professional coach in the passenger seat on the Autodromo Internacional Algarve, an especially twisty, technical track with elevation changes and blind corners.
With its stiffened front uprights, the XKR-S gives you quick, crisp turn-in via its light-touch steering. With its active differential and the adaptive dynamics system in track mode, the tail can come out with injudicious use of the throttle. The right amount of throttle steer for quicker cornering happens only when you keep the car on the edge of oversteer with the weight of the tail shifting slightly to the outside of the corner. Overdrive it, and you'll scrub speed with a short lateral slide of the grippy rear tires.
The tremendous torque contributes the most to quicker lap times. No matter how slowly you exit a turn, that 502 pound-feet get you back up to speed with alacrity and an overhead cam V-8 burble that has been cured, via baffles, of its supercharger whine. On these mountain roads, third gear and even fourth offer enough low-end grunt for tight turns.
The big brakes feel a bit soft at the top of the pedal, but they powerfully bring the car back down for the next corner. The XKR-S' "performance active exhaust" has valves that open and close for just the right cacophony to accompany the AJV-8's performance, and a throttle-blipped downshift of the six-speed automatic, particularly to second, often is accompanied by back-pressure pops and burbles. From the pits, watching another car pound down the Autodromo's front straight along the start/finish line at 140 mph, the engine's basso profundo is accompanied by the whoosh of 3900 pounds of air quickly being re-arranged. If NASCAR stockers used sophisticated, modern, blown V-8s, they might sound like this.
On the road, the tail can dance a bit over pockmarked pavement, though the big GT always remains planted and composed. It would take stupid levels of speed to break the tires loose on fast public corners. While the driver's view contains lots of hood, the wallowy feel of earlier XKs is long forgotten.
The combination of a big, 108.3-inch wheelbase and a stiff suspension with a modicum of compliance makes for a firm and busy ride, though it's never harsh. Turn off the track mode and the ride is noticeably softer, though you'll still feel the bumps while the electric nannies cut off the limited supply of trailing-throttle oversteer.
Competitors? This is tough. While the Porsche 911 Turbo and Aston Martin Virage coupe come to mind, so does the Mercedes-Benz CL63 AMG and the next or the last BMW M6. The XKR-S fits in somewhere between these models as a big, comfortable gentleman's, or lady's, racer. Jaguar marketing will tell you that the XKR-S is the seriously trackable version of the XKR, though as a daily commuter it's as relaxed a ride as its lesser sibling.
So why offer both cars? Because Jaguar can, and because it can get $132,875 for the S. If it's successful, don't be surprised to see other S models, such as an XFR-S, to be far behind, ready to put the Mercedes E63 AMG, Cadillac CTS-v and next BMW M5 on notice. "S" gives Jaguar more of everything, and for the lucky and well-heeled, it's worth every penny.
Short Take: Other 2012 Jaguars
XFR: Along with the standard model, the XFR gets a new front bumper, grille, trunk finisher and a more luxurious interior. The "J-Blade" daytimerunninglights now are light-emitting diodes. The XFR comes with a horizontal chrome side power vent. With the same 503-horsepower engine as the standard XKR, the XFR is 0.1-seconds quicker in its 0-60 mph time (manufacturer's estimate). On the road, it "drives" smaller than the XKR, with very nicely balanced handling. If/when Jaguar does an XFR-S, CTS-v, M5 and XKR-S had better watch out.
XJ Supersport: The aluminum-intensive XJ weighs just 2.2 pounds more than the XF, so the Supersport, with the XFR/XKR's 503-horsepower supercharged V-8, matches the XFR's 4.7-second 0-60 mph time (manufacturer's estimate). Despite all that, Jaguar has wisely chosen not to stiffen up the suspension, so it's no XJR. Our testing of a right-hand-drive model was limited to the Algarve circuit, where the luxury car leaned cushily into every turn. It's reminiscent of those classic British sports car races in which Jag Mk IIs lean into corners that MGs, Austin-Healeys, and Triumphs take flat. The Supersport is for the executive who has lots of access to Autobahn-like roads.