The great XK!
By David Morgan
JAGUAR has a lot to thank the Scots for. Without us it would have never had the top-selling XF saloon, the soon to arrive F-Type or the mouthwatering XK range.
Why? Because their evocative shapes and stunning design features were penned by Dumfries loon Ian Callum – a quiet 58-year-old Lowlander whose skills have benefited Ford and Aston Martin before recharging Jaguar's fortunes.
In his words: "Jaguars should be perceived as cool cars and cool cars attract interesting, edgy people."
Well I can't argue with that and have to say after a week with the mightiest of his designs – a brilliant white 550bhp XKR-S Coupé – the "cool" factor reached sub-zero levels.
This jaw-dropping supercharged five-litre V8 is not cheap. My Coupé test car carries a chilling list price of £97,000, and taking the top off and creating the beautiful XKR-S Convertible adds another £6,000 to the bill.
But if you have the money, enjoy powerful sports cars with genuine British heritage and want to look cool, this is the badge for you.
Not everyone was impressed. A rather sour-faced lady in Oban muttered to her companion, clearly designed to be heard as I climbed out of the beast: "That's ridiculous! How ostentatious! Just listen to that dreadful noise!"
Well, one out of three isn't bad I suppose. It is certainly ostentatious, but ridiculous it isn't and that "dreadful noise" is sheer music to any car enthusiast's ears – like the best American V8 beat.
There's no pleasing some people. I was going to politely engage her in conversation – then I noticed she had just climbed out of a Toyota Prius. Clearly any opinion I might have had was lost already. I didn't bother.
The XKR-S is a product of Jaguar under Tata ownership and it shows.
The car's construction, fittings and fixtures are superb. What a contrast with Jaguar products in the days of Ford – not bad, but not nearly as good as the latest cars.
You can buy an XK for as "little" as £65,000 which gives you a 385bhp non-turbocharged five-litre V8 Coupé. In some respects that's the best model – fast enough with a top whack of 155mph, 5.5 seconds rest to 62mph, all the style and plenty of GT comfort.
Splash out £78,550 and you can enjoy the hot performance of an XKR model with the same capacity and 510bhp, the same top speed but with rest to 62mph in just 4.8 seconds.
But spend £97,000 on an XKR-S and a supercharger comes as part of the V8 package, bringing huge performance, 550bhp with 501lb.ft of torque between 2,500rpm and 5,500rpm, a top speed hike to 186mph and a rest to 62mph time of only 4.4 seconds. And it all goes through the rear wheels of this 1.75 tonne 2+2.
There's very little to add to this specification. You can opt for a carbon fibre engine cover and a radar-controlled cruise control – but for £97,000 you get a lot of specification. For a start there's a choice of colour for the incredibly powerful brake calipers and 20-inch alloy wheels. My test vehicle came with red calipers front and rear and sinisterly-dark grey alloys. The combination suited the white bodywork.
The dash and cabin are wonderfully trimmed. Some of the chromed fittings are a bit brash for some and I was disappointed to find the main instruments on the small side. However, comfort was excellent with a huge range of adjustment and hugging, heated front seats. The steering wheel is heated too!
But what really turned heads was the XKR-S stance – low, mean and spoilered front and back.
Carbon fibre skirt inserts on the nose and just above the four highly-vocal exhaust pipes attract attention, but it was the dynamic vertical slipstream tuning blades either side of the nose that interested me. Functional or just for show?
Turns out they are very functional and work with other body mouldings and the carbon-fibre boot-top spoiler to generate massive downforce at high speed – downforce that almost doubles the car's weight at maximum speed.
This is a car that needs to be driven with restraint. But with such a glorious exhaust note there's little temptation to be anything other than sensible on the road.
Driving to Oban and back proved the combination of big alloys and their 295/30-section tyres did nothing for the car's hard ride on the rough A82, or tyre noise levels.
But it hardly mattered. The XKR-S delivered smile-widening reactions from behind the wheel and grins of delight from the many pedestrians I growled past in Oban and elsewhere on the West Coast – a car with phenomenal straight-line performance and effortless acceleration. The only thing I had to watch like a hawk was road surface quality and dampness – a reduction in either could make the rear end wayward and spoil your day!
Throughout my drive the 32-valve V8 sent out a wonderful soundtrack – a bellowing snarl under hard acceleration, a melodious deep growl in the cruise and a cracking pop on the overrun when cutting back down through the six-speed automatic's six speeds while using the responsive paddle shifters.
It may not have suited my Prius driving lady in the parking area on Oban's Old Pier, but there were plenty of other admirers.
In practical terms, fuel consumption is horrendous and rewarded my week's driving with an average 18.1mpg, while the rear pair of seats are a joke and suitable only for long-suffering children on very short runs. Luggage capacity is hardly much better. It may have an elegant tailgate but there's only 330 litres of space available for cases in this 4.8-metre-long coupé – and the rear seats don't fold!
But anyone who thinks an XKR-S has to be "practical" is missing the point.
This Jaguar is a Big Cat that stirs the soul and a delight for the fortunate owner who can afford its price, fuel consumption, road tax and insurance premiums.
This is a car for high days and holidays – a British supercar that's excellent value when set against Ferrari, Maserati and Lamborghini. The XKR-S is maybe not the most sensible Jaguar XK – but what a drive!
FINAL THOUGHT: Spectacularly impressive performance for a comfortable and exceptionally well-appointed luxury coupé. Frighteningly fast, but very rewarding in the right hands. Realistically, not the most sensible of the XK breed – that has to be the standard 385bhp XK 5.0 V8 at £32,000 less.
Jaguar XKR-S Coupé
- Price: £97,000
- Capacity: 5000cc
- Power: 550bhp
- 0-62mph: 4.4 seconds
- Maximum speed: 186mph
- Economy: Combined 23mpg, Urban 14.9mpg
- CO2 emissions: 292g/km (VED M)
- ESP: Standard
- Insurance Guide: Group 50 (new 1-50 Grouping System)