Story and photographs by Benjamin Greene
Originally published by Dupont Registry: http://www.dupontregistry.com/autos/blog/post/2011/09/16/hands-on-preview-2012-jaguar-xkr-s-coupe.aspx
When we first viewed some pictures of the 2012 Jaguar XKR-S, we thought its aerodynamic kit added too many Viper-like hard edges for the soft lines of the XK. We threw those thoughts out the window after we were introduced to our XKR-S test car. Pictures give the car no justice. Its long hood, small cabin bubble, and steep rear-window rake mix with its new pronounced carbon-fiber wing, rear diffuser, and prominent vents at a near-perfect ratio to captivate the eyes. The Jaguar is not only causing murmurs around the office, but out in public as well. We literally heard an adult male mutter “good-looking car” to himself as we crossed paths at an entrance to a store; more discreet people just openly point. Its styling almost defines the term elegant exotic, leaving us to wonder if Aston Martin will now be stealing some ideas from Jaguar.
The blend of elegance and boy-racer continues inside. The cabin is adorned in the same soft leathers as any XK, but makes its track-day readiness known with its sport seats and, to a lesser extent, its red-accent stitching and carbon-fiber trim. The seats look racecar-ready and come standard with inflatable side bolsters. There is no need to dive deep into the infotainment system’s menus to adjust those bolsters thanks to a button near the rest of the seat’s controls on the door; push to inflate or deflate at a moment’s notice, with the latter accompanied by an audible hiss as air escapes.
So it’s good looking, like many Jaguars in the past, but what it is like to drive?
The cars we love most are the ones that cause us to spurt out exclamations, even when we are alone. The Jaguar XKR-S is one of those cars. Jaguar calls the XKR-S its most agile, responsive, and driver-focused production car ever, and, without back-to-back drives with an XJ220, we have no reason to argue with them. Power buildup is explosive and immense. It comes from a free-revving supercharged V-8 engine with a raspy exhaust note that evokes spine tingles and goose bumps. It produces 550 hp, 40 more than the standard XKR. The engine is joined to an automatic transmission that does a very good job of swapping gears and holding onto rpms. It may be even too good at the latter. It holds onto gears for so long, it feeds the need to drive fast and provokes pops and burbles from the exhaust that act as a constant reminder that the Jag was built to be driven hard. Jaguar claims a zero-to-60-mph time of 4.2 seconds, which would nearly verify the hair-less-than-four-seconds estimates from our in-seat impressions. Understeer is present, but it plows through corners with noticeable rear-differential lock and grip and steering feedback better than we ever remember from the luxury brand. This could sum up the car: better than we ever remember. If Jaguar continues down this path, the next generation could have a very different outlook on the leaping-cat badge.
Is this love?
In case you haven’t already guessed it, we are smitten with the Jaguar XKR-S. And just when we were about to call back home to tell mom we found the one, it drops a big disappointment in our lap: a check-engine light. A check-engine light in a car with less than 2,000 miles on the odometer! Suddenly, we feel like all of Jaguar’s promises that it has changed were just lies. But, is it enough for us to call off this love affair? We doubt it, but we will let you know more about our fling next week.