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When Jaguar created the new XKR-S, it had a simple aim -- to build its fastest mass-produced car ever. The latest hyper-cat is based largely on the standard , but promises even more exhilarating performance, thanks to lowered, computer-controlled suspension, tweaked engine-management software, and new computer-designed body panels that promise the aerodynamic efficiency of a salmon.
We took the XKR-S for a spin to find out whether this £98,000 beast is all it's cracked up to be.
Whoa, body form!
One look at the XKR-S is all it takes to realise that this car is focused on speed. Numerous tweaks to its bodywork are geared towards improving aerodynamic balance and preventing the car from lifting off when travelling at high velocity. The front end, modelled using fancy computational fluid dynamics software, features twin cat-style nostrils for extra cooling, a carbon-fibre splitter that deflects air underneath the car, and vertical side intakes that channel air along the car's side skirts.
The rear, meanwhile, rocks a new rear diffuser and a carbon-fibre rear spoiler above the boot lid, which work together to improve stability. Together, the front, rear and underbody tweaks are said to help achieve a 26 per cent reduction in lift, keeping the car more planted when hurtling along the tarmac at high speeds.
Nuclear power plant
That extra downforce is a real blessing, because, if there's one thing the XKR-S does, it's hurtle. The car uses the same supercharged, quad-cam, 5-litre V8 engine as the standard XKR, but Jaguar has tweaked it to within an inch of its life, so it now produces a quite monstrous 542bhp -- 40bhp more than the standard XKR. Coincidentally, that's the same figure generated by the legendary Jaguar XJ220.
Jaguar has coaxed this extra power from the unit by remapping the software that dictates how much fuel is injected into the engine. The company's also increased the quantity of exhaust gas flowing through the car's new active exhaust system. The system uses special flaps that open at high revs to help the engine breathe more easily -- and scream more loudly.
Finally, Jaguar's bolted on a Roots-type twin-vortex supercharger, whose sole purpose is to ram more air into the engine to achieve bigger explosions during the combustion process. The company says this unit is 20 per cent more efficient at creating additional power than the supercharger used in the XKR.
Shock and awesome
The end result of this added power is savage performance. The XKR-S will achieve 0-60mph in a blistering 4.2 seconds, and will carry on accelerating until it reaches a top speed of 186mph, which, on paper, makes it the fastest mass-produced Jaguar ever.
Numbers don't quite do justice to the sheer brutality of this car's acceleration. Nail the throttle and you'll swear you've just activated the afterburner in an F-16 fighter jet. The rear wheels seem not to push the car forward, but to pull the planet towards you at a frightening rate.
It's possible to extract this performance with ease. Simply leave the car in its ordinary 'D' drive mode and it'll do all the work for you, changing gears automatically as it approaches the red line. If you fancy playing more of an active role, you can twist the JaguarDrive selector knob to 'S' mode and rattle through the gears yourself, using the surprisingly responsive paddle shifters behind the steering wheel.
Whichever mode you select, you can be sure that the XKR-S will emit an exhaust note to match its acceleration. Bury the accelerator and it'll make a din that can best be described as the sound of a Tyrannosaurus Rex gargling hand grenades in a thunderstorm. It's a brutish, primeval bellow that, in conjunction with the car's epic thrust, will leave you whooping like a 12-year-old on a rollercoaster.
The XKR-S is startlingly agile. Push it hard and it'll thread its way through twisty B roads with great poise, gripping the tarmac as if its 20-inch P Zero tyres have sprouted claws.
The car acquits itself beautifully on a race circuit, too. Its prodigious power makes the longest of straights seem like tiny back alleys, the brakes inspire confidence, and even low-speed corners are a joy, thanks to a whopping 680Nm of torque, which simply catapults you from one turn to the next.