Jaguar XKR-S Coupe Grand Tourer review – Insane GT Will Be Missed

Insanely fast, handles beautifully, full of character, race car looks

Older touchscreen system, XK ending soon

Jaguar XK?

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1996 saw the Jaguar XK8 land firmly on the GT car scene, along with the supercharged XKR version a couple of years later. The styling lasted well, and it’s rather a modern classic now. In 2007 an all-new XK was unveiled, and this time they were even faster and more powerful than before, and a change of ownership also meant no more raiding the parts bin hence meaning a more refined and classier cabin too. From there on it went from a great car to a superb one.

Sadly, 2014 sees an ending in production of this curvaceous GT car and it will be greatly missed by many. To wave it off we were fittingly sent the most bonkers version of it to review: Behold, the mighty 550PS Jaguar XKR-S Coupé! Let’s plant that accelerator and see what she’s capable of eh…

Exterior. Butt ugly or beauty?

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I love the XK’s design. It’s a truly beautifully curvy thing that looks like its travelling quickly, even when parked up. Really, it’s the exactly how a bona fide GT car should look: long, sleek and sexy. Should your eye catch sight of the XKR-S though, no one would blame you for thinking a) someone appears to be driving a missile sporting a set of 20″ rims, or b) a race car driver seems to have spun off the track on onto the road.

Yes, the Jaguar XKR-S really is that aggressively styled. It’s lower than its siblings, fits a set of twenty-inch wheels snugly under the arches and also apparently has a slight fetish for wearing carbon fibre. These pieces of trim are what mostly set it apart from the other XK’s, at least in the looks department. Bits made out of the black weave include the front splitter, rear diffuser and the rear boot spoiler.

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Other distinguishing design features include the knife-sharp side sills, two air intake slits at the edge of the bonnet, large side air intakes, plus piano black trim pieces such as the ‘supercharged’ badges on the sides, the window surrounds and all-black front grille. This is one of the most aggressively-stlyed GT cars about, and it got attention everywhere we drove it. It was all positive too, and people of all ages and sexes gave it admiring glances, with other drivers craning their necks to get a good look at it.

In fact, this was the most looked-at car we’ve ever tested or driven, bar none. The sheer amount of people staring at the XKR-S far outweighed the ones that didn’t, and that’s not an exaggeration. Admittedly, the French Racing Blue paint is striking, but even then this is still an awesome looking machine in whatever colour you go for.

It was also the most asked-about car too, with people wanting to know what it was and about the power, speed, price, colour and just about everything else really. Oh, one more record-beating point for the XKR-S: it was by far the most photographed car we’ve driven, with smartphones being whipped out quickly as people saw the Jag. Fair enough – I’d have done the same if I’d have seen it.

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I’m utterly in love with every inch of the Jaguar XKR-S, and there’s not angle I don’t like. Whilst the R-S is an extremely masculine car (more so than the XK and XKR), there’s also a famine side to it. Jag’s chief designer of the car, Ian Callum, famously said Kate Winslet’s curves had inspired the XK’s body. A look at the car’s curvy rear shows, ahem, evidence of this.

Whatever though, this is a monster of a thing which in its design pulls no punches about its on-road prowess and the raw, muscular power lurking under that lengthy bonnet. For me, the Jaguar XKR-S’ exterior is perfection and there’s not a thing I’d change. From the comments I got about the Jag, I’d say the majority would agree. Enough said? Yep.

Interior. Neat or nothing special?

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When you’re paying almost £100,000 for a car, I’d say it’s reasonable to expect a nice cabin. The XK is coming to the end of its run now, and whilst it’s not outdated per se, the interior of the F-Type for example, looks much more contemporary.

Let’s take the XKR-S’ for what it is though: still a lovely place to be sat. It’s clearly a luxurious cabin, with high quality leather seats that are utterly comfortable, yet supportive, and clearly aimed at keeping you in place when you’re hammering it around a bend. The side bolsters are adjustable, and you can really clamp yourself in place with the simple twist of an electronic controller.

Chrome and piano black seat controls are situated in the door panels rather than down the sides of the seats. I’m glad, as they’re such great-looking things and only add to the overall feeling that you’re in something special.

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The dash and centre console is Jaguar through-and-through, with well-presented controls that come easily to hand. Only the essential ones are there, for the heating and a couple of stereo controls, so you can fully concentrate on the road ahead.

The rest are done from the 7-inch touchscreen satellite navigation system. Again, this is an older version of the one Jaguar uses now and while it’s okay there are a couple of things that aren’t as good. For example: there’s bluetooth for your phone, but for music you have to use either the iPod connector under the armrest, or the aux-in point. No wireless music, then.

The sat nav mapping still works well but the graphics aren’t as smooth or as nice as the newer systems either. Aside from those points it’s still fine, and the 525W Bowers & Wilkins surround sound does the job of pumping out AC/DC tracks above the roar of the exhaust as you accelerate hard very well.

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The cabin actually feels larger and slightly more airy than the F-Type’s. At the end of the day this is a GT car, and it’s what you’d expect. The boot isn’t especially big at 330 litres, but you can cram in more than you’d think, thanks to a deep ‘hidden’ compartment under the boot floor.

Overall, there’s nothing to really complain about here and the highlight perhaps being the super-comfortable 16-way sports seats that make long-distance cruises a pleasure.

Engine & gearbox

The most powerful of the XKs, the XKR-S’ engine is a mighty beast. Its all-aluminium 5.0 litre Supercharged V8 packs a no-nonsense 542 hp (550 PS) at 6,000 – 6,500 rpm, and 502 lb ft (680 Nm) of torque between 2,500 – 5,500 rpm, transferring that through the rear wheels and a 6-speed ‘Jaguar Sequential Shift’ automatic gearbox, propelling it from 0 – 60 mph in just 4.2 seconds. and on to a limited 186 miles per hour (300 km/h) at the top end.

The all-aluminium 5.0 litre Supercharged V8 packs 542 hp (550 PS) at 6,000 - 6,500 rpm, and 502 lb ft (680 Nm) of torque - Jaguar XKR-S Coupé Grand Tourer review

As I often say, the zero to sixty mph is just a figure and really doesn’t mean much in the real world unless you’re planning to race from every set of lights you come to. Nope, it’s once you’re rolling that the XKR-S impresses, and my goodness you’re going to be wanting to bring a spare pair of pants (make that a couple) when you decide to put the hammer down. More on that later.

If you really have to know (like an XKR-S owner would care much), the official UK mpg stats are: urban: 14.9, extra urban: 33.0, combined: 23.0, and CO2 emissions are 292 g/km.

Ready to roll? Let’s drive!

The Jaguar XKR-S - 0 - 60 mph in just 4.2 seconds. and on to a limited 186 miles per hour (300 km/h) at the top end - Jaguar XKR-S Coupé Grand Tourer review-

Sliding into the low-slung drivers seat of the Jaguar XKR-S and staring down that long, muscular bonnet, there’s a perceivable sense of drama before I’ve even started the car. It’s honestly a privilege to sit behind the wheel of an XKR-S. The beautiful cabin emanates class, and as I adjust the side bolsters to clamp me into the seat firmly, I’m reminded by this one action that there’s a clear reason behind being able to do that – this car does not mess around in the speed and handling department.

Pushing the starter button, the supercharged 5-litre V8 turns over briefly before firing into life, the exhausts roaring as the engine revs highly and strongly as it warms. I always enjoy the first time the R-S is started, when it’s at its coldest and it takes its time warming up, as this Jaguar gives a very tangible sense of being sat in a racing car. The revs drop, I blip the throttle a few times and the exhausts bark back loudly as the needle flicks lightly across the rpm dial. Goosebumps appear on my skin.

Foot on the brake pedal, I turn the ever-impressive chrome JaguarDrive Selector to D and the R-S pulls against the brakes slightly, wanting to be off and going. As I drive slowly through a town centre, I’m struck by how tame the XKR-S is. From its looks I expected this Jag to be straining heavily at the leash, and the suspension to provide about as much give and flex as a steel girder.

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But no, it’s an absolute joy even in the city and over the council-approved potholed roads, thanks to Adaptive Damping which “assesses body motion and pitch rates 100 times per second and adjusts the settings for each damper accordingly”, and in short makes sure that the XKR-S provides a surprisingly comfortable, non-boneshaking ride. The 6-speed sequential shift gearbox may be the older predecessor to Jag’s 8-speed offering, but it’s a very good one and changes from it are slick and fast, both up and down.

The R-S may be fine in town, but I am not okay with cramping the potential of this monster and so I turn off at the next exit and head for the type of country roads that brings back the joy of driving. I engage Dynamic mode (which sharpens the throttle, shifts gear quicker and gives more feedback through the steering wheel) and give the XKR-S’ throttle a hefty shove towards the carpet and. The huge rear tyres break traction for just a moment before gripping and propelling us towards the horizon at rate that knocks my senses sideways, and makes the scenery pass in an unrecognisable blur. Speed gathers epically quickly, and as the rear squats down I discern a slight degree of front-end lift before it settles itself back down.

I maintain that the 0 – 60 miles-per-hour dash is of little importance in a road car – it’s what happens once you’re rolling that counts. This is certainly true in the case of the XKR-S, and once that accelerator is pushed you’d better make damn sure you’re concentrating on things, because this Jaguar takes no prisoners. The acceleration literally shocks the senses, and I grip the steering wheel hard as I’m pushed firmly into the back of the seat.

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The exhausts roars joyfully as I bang through the gears using the paddle shifters, I’m all smiles: Jaguar certainly know their stuff when it comes to making noise. It’s not quite as loud or aggressive as the F-Type V8 S‘ exhaust system (see video on our review), but it still bellows and howls wonderfully, crackling loudly on the downshifts. Back to it, and that bend I saw which seemed miles away arrives suddenly, and I make full use of the powerful high performance brakes, which are specific to the Dynamic R and XKR-S, slowing the car quickly and efficiently.

Pushing the R-S hard around the bend, the Adaptive Dampers and stability control work together in keeping the car firmly on the road, instead of parked sideways in a bush. Without the system on I’ve no doubt the XKR-S would chew me up and spit me out into a ditch, and I’d only try that on a very wide track with large run-off areas. Out of the corner and flooring the throttle again, the power and torque is instantly on tap from virtually any point of the rev range and makes it easy to achieve the speed required.

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The way this thing accelerates leave me in no doubt that its 550 PS 5.0 litre supercharged V8 makes the 186 mph top speed attainable without too much trouble. There’s a name I like to give cars like this: licence loser. Yes, it’s down to the driver as to how fast they go, but the R-S is so incredibly rapid that it takes a major re-jigging of the brain-to-right foot signals in order to sort this out. Still, once you’ve successfully re-wired your brain in line with the XKR-S’ speed, this is a hugely fun car to drive, yet livable enough to use on the daily commute.

On that, the XKR-S will do long distance runs excellently – after all, this is a GT car. 6th gear is long and revs are low at 70 to 80 mph, and it settles down into a perfectly decent mile-muncher. The only thing I found was that there’s a fair amount of tyre and road noise coming into the cabin, likely because of the wide low-profiles fitted. It’s not irritatingly bad, but it’s noticeable and it also varies depending on the road surface.

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While the R-S has this superb performance, if you’re planning on using the car a lot for everyday use and the occasional road trip, I’d say you’re better off with the Dynamic R version. There’s not much in it performance-wise as it still packs 503 bhp, hit sixty mph in 4.6 seconds, and go on to 174 mph (280 km/h), and you’ll benefit from less of a firm ride as well as saving yourself a rather sweet £27,000.

Price

 

(prices Sept. ’14) Jag’s XKR-S Coupé costs £97,490 minus any options. That’s a fair ol’ chunk of change right there. The question is though: does it feel worth it? In short, yes. It looks, feels, and goes like a super car rather than a GT, and for that insane acceleration alone it’s worth the asking price.

However. I’m still convinced that if you can live without the carbon fibre bit ‘n’ pieces and slightly less power, a £27,000 saving for the Dynamic R is not to be scoffed at. Take it to a good aftermarket tuners and I’ll guarantee they’ll make up that power difference for less than 27K too.

Rivals in a similar price-bracket to the XKR-S include the Aston Martin V8 Vantage, Audi R8 4.2 V8, Porsche 911 GT3, plus the Nissan GT-R or Corvette Stingray with almost every option box ticked.

Jaguar XKR-S Coupé Grand Tourer verdict & score

Jaguar XKR-S Coupé Grand Tourer side view

The XKR-S is a car that people want when they see it, and with the XK now ended in production, it’s only going to gather more reverence as a proper GT car capable of insane, near-supercar speed.

The Jaguar XKR-S is a special car too, and you do feel the soul pouring from its beautiful, powerful lines and luxurious interior. If you have a love of all things motorising, it means that when something special comes along, it tends to stick in ones mind – the XKR-S is that car.

Do you own an XKR-S? What are your views on it, and what are the best and worst points? Share your thoughts and leave a comment below!

Exterior  9.5
Interior  8.5
Engine  9
Gearbox  8.5
Price  8.5
Handling  9
Drive & Ride  9
Overall Score  9.0 / 10

Specs

Model (as tested) 2013 Jaguar XKR-S Coupe Grand Tourer
Spec includes  20″ alloy wheels (optional), leather sports seats, DSC & Trac DSC, Jaguar High Performance brakes, active differential, performance active exhaust, heated steering wheel, HID Xenon lights, Bowers & Wilkins 525W surround sound, Bluetooth (calls only), 7″ touchscreen with sat nav, carbon fibre rear diffuser, front splitter, and part carbon spoiler.
Options you should spec  French Racing Blue paint: no cost, reverse parking camera: £410
The Competition  Aston Martin V8 Vantage, Audi R8 4.2 V8, Porsche 911 GT3, plus the Nissan GT-R or Corvette  Stingray
Price  (Sept. 2014) £97,465
Engine  Petrol, 5.0 litre, V8, 32-valve, Supercharged
Power, Torque  Power: 542 hp (550 PS) at 6,000 – 6,500 rpm | Torque: 502 lb ft (680 Nm) 2,500 – 5,500 rpm
Drive, Gears (as tested)  Rear wheel drive | 6-speed Jaguar Sequential Shift automatic
Top Speed, 0 – 60 mph, Euro NCAP  Max speed (limited): 186 mph | 0 – 62 mph: 4.4 seconds | Euro NCAP rating: No rating
Fuel economy (UK mpg), CO2  Urban: 14.9, Extra urban: 33.0, Combined: 23.0 | CO2: 292 g/km CO2
Weight (kerb)  3,856 kilo’s (1,753 lbs)
Websites  Jaguar UK, Jaguar USA

Words: Chris Davies | Photography: Chris Davies, Matthew Davies

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