When I signed up to drive the XKR-S I already knew the basics about the car. Given the modern nature of Jaguar, I was expecting it to be fast but cushy with a bit more focus on luxury than on all round performance. The second I got in the car and felt that hard embrace of a racing bucket seat I knew it would be much different than I had expected.
Many of the fast Jags during the Ford era were just rolling couches with big engines; they would chirp their tires and be fast on the highway, but were not much good as overall sporting machines. They had that crap automatic transmission that wasn’t properly shiftable, mushy suspensions, and unsupportive (sofa-like) seats. Jags back then were very much meant to be luxury cruisers. A new era has emerged though, and it seems it may be a return to form for one of the most legendary racing marques of all time.
As I got situated in the XKR-S I could not help but to be excited at the prospect that this Jag may be nothing like I was expecting. Upon a push of the start button, the engine gave a nice growl as it came to life; there’s a good kitty. Once situated with the controls, I turn out on to the road. Right away I can feel that the steering is nice and responsive, no mush feeling like in prior Jags. I keep the car in auto for a bit, driving through more crowded areas. The car felt very stiff and rode hard on the road, which was definitely a surprise for me. I would even go so far as to say that, while it was definitely livable, the R-S did not feel at home just driving around slowly. Being a Jag I had expected it would almost certainly be fine with just cruising around and that it’s issues would lie in harder driving through corners, but what I the XKR-S is the exact opposite.
With the car feeling out of place in the slow driving, I was getting excited for some fast driving. We hit a stop sign where I was told to turn left onto “the fun road”. We put the settings in sport and the transmission in manual mode. It was go time!
I make the left and get going into 2nd gear through an upward, right bend. The car felt very solid through the bend and I gave it full throttle on the exit. The R-S leaped forward with astonishing force, the V8 roaring and the supercharger screaming as the revs climbed higher. I hit 3rd gear and saw 90mph before it was time to brake for the next bend. Pushing hard through the second corner, I realize that Jaguar has really done something special here; under hard driving this car is fantastic. The handling is crisp and precise on a very well composed chassis. The power is just pure insanity backed up by an epic soundtrack from the roaring engine. The best surprise though, was the transmission; it was so quick and responsive that I had trouble believing it was not a dual clutch. I go wide open onto the next straight, the acceleration is so rapid and hits so hard that you just don’t want it to ever stop. Then I see a fast approaching bend and get on the R-S’s fantastic brakes for just a second before turning in sharply and gradually increasing throttle as I exit the corner. This car is the real deal for sure when it comes to performance.
I would sum up the XKR-S as a performance focused gran turismo. It does have all of the amenities you would expect in a Jag; backup camera, navigation, soft surfaces, high quality everything. While it feels out of place around town, it becomes quite comfortable on the move so those long highway drives would be great in this car. With that said though, whoever buys the R-S had better have performance as their priority over luxury, because that is the only way you will deal with the hard ride at lower speeds. If performance is your top priority, then the R-S delivers magnificently.
In the market the XKR-S is actually pretty brilliant (despite what Clarkson said on Top Gear). Speed wise this Jag is in the same league as a Lamborghini Gallardo, but it’s value is really shown when it is compared to the Aston Martin DBS. The XKR-S has 542hp, the Aston has 510hp, and both share that sleek British GT car shape. The difference is that the Jag costs $132k and the Aston costs more than double that. They will also only be building a few hundred R-Ss, so it will be far more exclusive than any Audi R8, Aston Vantage, Nissan GTR, or Cadillac CTS-V that it may be compared to. This give the XK-R-S some serious appeal to anyone looking for a car in that range, and it has something to offer over any of its competitors. In the market Jaguar seems to have done right by the R-S.
I really liked this car, far more than I thought I would. It surprised me with extremely solid performance on all fronts with just enough comfort left in it to still be considered a GT car. It is also priced right in the middle of the range while offering far more exclusivity than any of its competition. Finally there is also that unique “Jaaaaaaaag” appeal that it has, a sort of cool, sly attitude that makes you feel like a cool cat while driving it. This feeling is the really the cherry on top of it all, giving it that all-important “X factor” that distinguishes good car from great cars. I thoroughly enjoyed driving the XKR-S; it gives me hope that we may see a full-on return to glory for Jaguar in the near future.
WoM Score: Jaguar XKR-S
Primary Function: Performance: 2
Secondary Functions: Unique(2) Luxury(1) Practicality(2): 2
Visual Appeal: 2
Build Quality: 2
Value for Money: 2……. few other such limited production cars cost this little (relatively)
Final Score: 10/10