By Keith Griffin
It’s been a good summer filled with the opportunity to drive cars like the Porsche 911, the Nissan GT-R, and probably, to me, the crème de la crème, the 2012 Jaguar XKR-S. For me, it just doesn’t get much better than this.
The 2012 Jaguar XKR-S, in French racing blue, that I am reviewing is one of only 100 to be shipped to the United States for sale. That level of exclusivity makes me appreciate it that much more above its competition. I’m not normally a snob but out of more than 314 million people in the United States, only 100 can own one. I have left myself succumb to the rarity of this vehicle.
From an automotive perspective, some might question my sanity for a couple reasons in selecting this as my car of choice. The first would be because, barring a sudden Powerball win that would be mysterious because I don’t play the lottery, I am most likely never going to find myself in the position to buy any of these sports cars, especially the Jaguar XKR-S, with its price tag of $138,000.
Fast but not the Fastest
The second reason, and this where the car enthusiasts would weigh in, the Porsche 911 would be the de facto winner in the automotive purists world, and the Nissan GT-R literally blows the doors off by getting from 0-60 35 percent faster (2.7 seconds for the Nissan vs. 4.2 seconds for the Jaguar).
Yet, the Jaguar just tops my list because of its refinement. It imports Jaguar’s legendary performance background and infuses it with its new reputation for stylishness. Combine Jaguar’s rapidly improving reputation for quality and you have a winner.
Lets examine first the most powerful Jaguar ever. The XKR-S has an engine based on the supercharged unit in the XKR, which has 510 horsepower from its supercharged V8 engine. Revised fuel mapping and an active exhaust have boosted power and torque to 550 horsepower and 502 lb/ft respectively. This allows the two-door coupe to reach 60 mph in 4.2 seconds and join the exclusive “300km/h” club with a limited top speed of 186 mph.
Just a short diversion here but it strikes me as funny to see the phrase “limited top speed” of 186 mph. How many people are ever realistically going to test the top limit? Why not just say “top speed” of 186 mph? Besides the people who are going to hit that limited top speed are going to know how to defeat that limited and go even faster.
Finesse and Power
But the Jaguar XKR-S is about so much more than brute speed (especially because as noted above there are faster cars out there for less money). It has a beautiful ride thanks to the double wishbone front suspension.
According to Jaguar, which loaned me the XKR-S for a week to review, the suspension has been comprehensively revised with a new fully-machined steering knuckle. This significantly increases camber and caster stiffness to transform the accuracy and weighting of the steering for greater levels of feedback and precision. Rear suspension geometry has been revised with rear wheel steer optimized for maximum agility.
In other words, the XKR-S is going to go where you point it. It stays firmly planted through even the sharpest curves when approached correctly. (After all, as our friends at Porsche like to point out, “You can’t overcome the laws of physics” or as Ron White might say, “You can’t fix stupid.”)
Beautiful Front Fascia
Consider me a fan of the front end of the Jaguar XKR-S, or as the purists like to call it, the front fascia. The latest lighting technology has allowed the front headlamps to be made slimmer and at the same time incorporate LED turn signal functions and running lights with a distinctive ‘J-Blade’ signature. LED lighting has done so much to return individual design to automobiles thanks to its ease of use. Now, you can tell what kind of car is approaching you by its headlights – that was becoming a dying art.
Each car in the XK lineup is distinctive with the larger grill and new bumper design. Chrome mesh grilles on the XK are replaced with black detailing on the XKR while the XKR-S receives a unique front fascia with carbon fiber details.
The Active Differential has been programmed to reduce steering sensitivity at the very high speeds of which the car is capable. Bespoke software for Jaguar’s Adaptive Damping has been written for the XKR-S, ensuring both total body control and maximum traction and grip.
Quick off the Line
Changes to the TracDSC mode alter intervention levels to allow the experienced driver to explore the outer edges of the performance envelope, rewarded by the motorsport inspired soundtrack from the exhaust, which features an active pneumatic valve. (As others have pointed out, that means the Jaguar XKR-S unofficially comes with launch control when the electronic stability control is switched off.)
In the midst of al this talk of performance is one little surprise, this car functions well as a daily driver. Sure, the backseats are good for little more than holding packages, but it does have a spacious trunk. Plus, as mentioned above, it’s just outright comfortable to drive.
Not that people who buy $138,000 sports cars care about such things, but the XKR-S doesn’t come with a gas guzzler tax thanks to its 15-mpg city and 22-mpg highway rating. (Of course, it does run on premium gas so there is just a little bit of suffering at the pump.) Needless to say, my fuel economy numbers don’t match the EPA because I was enthusiastic about constantly engaging the accelerator.
(For the latest new car news, follow me on Twitter at aboutusedcars. You can also learn about buying and selling a used car at UsedCars.About.com.)
- Wheelbase: 108.3 inches
- Length: 188.7 inches
- Width: 74.5 inches
- Height: 52.0 inches
- Curb weight: 3968 lbs.
- Engine: 5.0-liter V8 supercharged
- Horsepower: 550 hp @ 6000 rpm
- Torque: 502 lb. ft.
- EPA estimated mpg city/highway: 15/22
- Base price: $132,000
- As-tested price: $138,000
- Also consider: (a comparative vehicle) BMW M6, Porsche 911, Audi R8
Photos (c) Jaguar