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Jaguar XKR-S review: 5.0/5

The XKR-S is undoubtedly the most exciting Jaguar in decades.

Shane O' Donoghue

Words: Shane O' Donoghue - @Shane_O_D

Published on: June 3, 2011

Words: Shane O' Donoghue - @Shane_O_D

Published on: June 3, 2011

When: June 2011

Where: Faro, Portugal

What: 2011 Jaguar XKR-S

Occasion: International first drive

Overall rating: 5/5

According to Jaguar, its new XKR-S is one of the fastest and most driver focused car it has ever made. Although it costs about €33,000 more than the already great XKR, it's worth every penny - and some.

Pricing: €172,360 excluding delivery related charges Engine: 5.0-litre supercharged V8 petrol Transmission: six-speed automatic, rear-wheel drive Body style: two-door coup� Rivals: Aston Martin Vantage-S, BMW M3 GTS, Porsche 911 GT3 CO2 emissions: 292g/km Combined economy: 12.3 litres/100km (23mpg) Top speed: 300km/h 0-100km/h: 4.4 seconds Power: 550hp at 6,000 - 6,500rpm Torque: 680Nm at 2,500 - 5,500rpm Kerb weight: 1,753kg

In the Metal:

There's no doubting the identity of the Jaguar XKR-S. Aerodynamic testing has resulted in significant changes to the body. Up front the aggressive bumper and carbon splitter dominate proceedings; the wings are new too. They complement reshaped side sills and 20-inch matt black alloys (far sexier than the chrome or gloss finishes). A large carbon fibre rear wing sits above the new hatch and tweaked lights, while the deeper bumper houses a diffuser.

Inside, the fantastically adjustable 'Performance' seats feature and we'd urge buyers to go for one of the brighter contrast stitch colours to make it feel even more special.

Driving it:

The Jaguar XKR-S's cabin will be familiar to other XK drivers, but hold down the start button and a harder edged noise erupts from the quad exhausts. It settles down to a distant rumble at idle, but the exhaust note is undoubtedly one of the defining features of this car. It's an 'active' system featuring a by-pass valve for higher performance. In Dynamic mode the valve is open all of the time and the sound is reminiscent of an old-school racing V8, full of purpose. It crackles and pops on the overrun too.

Other than providing thrills, the new exhaust is partly responsible for the extra 40hp and 56Nm liberated. They don't sound like massive gains, but the XKR-S is tangibly faster in all situations than the regular XKR.

Nowhere is that more true than on track or a particularly challenging road. Jaguar's engineers revisited the whole chassis, deciding upon a new aluminium steering knuckle, altered rear geometry, lower ride height and increased spring rates. The result is sublime, precise steering and composure even at and beyond the limits of adhesion. Massive brakes assist, as does the reprogramming of the active differential, the adaptive damping and the stability control system.

Despite all of that it's not out of its depth on the motorway - or in town. The six-speed automatic gearbox is quick and smooth and though the suspension is relatively stiff we would not describe it as uncomfortable.

What you get for your Money:

We don't believe that, even in today's economic environment, buyers of high-end sportscars such as the Jaguar XKR-S focus too much on value-for-money, fuel economy or even the purchase price. If you're one of these fortunate people, then it's irrelevant that this car costs €33,000 more than the XKR. It's also immaterial that there's only 40hp between the two, as the S is more even than the sum of its impressive parts.

For the record, standard equipment is generous, with options pretty much limited to customisation of colours and trim materials. The French Racing Blue paint pictured is unique to the Jaguar XKR-S.

Worth Noting

Though we reckon the driving dynamics and sound are the stars of the XKR-S show, Jaguar is keen to point out that it's the 'most powerful and fastest series production sports car' it has ever made. So how does it compare to its granddaddy, the mighty, 'limited edition' XJ220 supercar? The latter's twin-turbocharged V6 engine produced 550hp and 645Nm of torque, accelerating it to 100km/h in about four seconds and onto a top speed of nearly 340km/h. The XKR-S's figures are above. Bet the XJ220 emitted a little more CO2 though...

Summary

Performance stats do not define the Jaguar XKR-S. While it's significantly quicker than the regular XKR, it's also much more engaging and exciting to drive. However, like all the XK models, it retains a degree of civility that makes it usable on a regular basis. It's up there with the best performance cars on sale today.