Jaguar's 550bhp grand tourer

It is fascinating to watch a new, more youthful, more confident Jaguar emerging from the various trials and turmoils of recent decades. It was a transformation that was needed. The age profile of Jaguar owners was greying and getting greyer.

For me, the Jaguar XKR symbolises the new more youthful, confident, sporting image. But, as if the five-litre supercharged Jaguar XKR was not sporting enough Jaguar launched the XKR-S at the end of last year.

Jaguar XKR-S
Destination reached, the Jaguar XKR-S poses at Elgol in front of the Cuillins of Skye

Development work on the engine has upped the power output from 500 bhp to 550 bhp, making this the most powerful car I have driven – up 50 bhp on the BMW M6 that was the first car I tested on this website.

To match that stonking power, there are comprehensive upgrades to the chassis and modifications to the body – notably front splitter and rear spoilers in carbon fibre, plus new vents to help the monster gulp air. Although designed for functional aerodynamic reasons, the result is suitably aggressive and sporty.

If the appearance is not enough to get attention, Jaguar has paid considerable attention to the soundtrack that the XKR-S produces. The burble of the five-litre V8 is accompanied by a glorious throaty Jaguar growl that is bound to excite the eardrums of any enthusiast.

Press the now-familiar Jaguar start button and the engine starts with a little automatic blip of the throttle, as the Jaguar clears its throat. Apart from the exhaust, the cabin is a quiet and serene place to be. So much so that I could detect a slight wind riffle from a misaligned driver’s door window and seal.

A car like the Jaguar XKR-S demands a special journey, rather than just a few laps round the block. So it was that we headed into the Highlands and on to the Isle of Skye on a glorious couple of days when spring seemed to have adopted summer blue skies and temperatures of 20ºC and above.

It was the perfect car for the job.

Jaguar XKR-S

The prodigious power meant that the Jaguar XKR-S romped effortlessly up hills as if the incline had disappeared. The twists and turns were dispatched with finesse, thanks to the superbly tuned sporting chassis.

Yet, when we found ourselves, inevitably, stuck in convoys of slower-moving traffic, it was easy to relax and find the Jaguar happy to burble along placidly – but ready to pounce when an overtaking opportunity presented itself. All that was needed was a prod on the accelerator and almost immediate lift-off as the XKR-S catapulted itself past slower traffic and slowed back to its own side of the road.

I was always aware that this Jaguar could bite too. Even in the dry the sudden application of power can cause the rear wheels to scrabble for grip as the XKR-S takes off, pushing both driver and passenger back into the leather seats. Acceleration 0-60 mph takes just 4.2 seconds and the top speed is quoted at 186 mph.

You are not going to buy a car like this on the basis of its economy. However, I have to say I was pleasantly surprised by our best figure of just over 20 mpg, which compares well with an official combined figure of 23 mpg. CO2 emissions are 292 g/km which pushes the XKR-S into band M for UK car tax.

As you would expect, the Jaguar XKR-S is very well-equipped with adaptive cruise control, automatic main beam and dip, plus all the expected luxuries. But it does stick with the Jaguar philosophy of not over-complicating the driving experience. The dashboard is notably uncomplicated and there is simply a rev counter, speedometer and fuel gauge, but no temperature or oil pressure gauges.

Jaguar XKR-S interior

The automatic gearbox has a sports setting, but so powerful and torquey is this engine that we tended to run in the normal setting most of the time. There are the expected steering column paddles for manual changes and you can sample the raw performance, without electronic aids, by selecting track mode by pressing the chequered flag button.

I was glad my test coincided with five days of glorious weather. But a colleague who had been not so fortunate, reports that driving the XKR-S in the wet requires careful judgement. Even in the dry, such power demands respect.

Indeed, the only frustration is that you can only really enjoy the performance of such a quick and powerful car in short bursts. It's not just the speed limit but simple common sense that dictates applications of power must be relatively short lived. But, for these glorious few seconds, the effortless surge of power, with that beguiling soundtrack, is quite thrilling.

Throughout our trip it was obvious that it was not just us, as occupants, who enjoyed the experience. I will long remember the young lad who lingered on the wall at the Aros Centre in Portreee, just to hear the XKR-S start up and burble out of the car park. As I looked in my rear-view mirror, he was jumping up and down, waving his arms in the air with excitement.

Although most people are a little more restrained, it appears that Jaguar is still a marque that enjoys affection from all ages and we found ourselves engaged in conversation, notably with a Gaelic film crew in Elgol who wanted to know all about the car.

The Jaguar XKR-S, in coupé form, costs £97,000.

Jaguar XKR-S

That actually seems something of a bargain for a car that really can hold its head high in the company of Porsches, Aston Martins and even Ferraris.

For us it certainly proved to be the perfect supercar car for our trip to Skye and back. The saddest part of the whole experience was handing back the keys!
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