Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Fire up the... Jaguar XKR-S Convertible

BILL Lyons would have liked this car. Jaguar's late, great founder would, I reckon, have got out of the XKR-S, taken in its lines and given it the thumbs up.

Why? Because Jaguar's sports cars, right from the original XK120, through the Le Mans winning C and D Types and through to the iconic E-Type were all about being as fast and beautiful as anything Aston or Ferrari could knock out, and for a fraction of the price. This roadgoing missile and the old E have a mission statement in common.

The XKR-S, to get it out of the way, is almost unspeakably fast. Thanks to a supercharged five litre V8 and a uprated exhaust system at its disposal it has no less than 542bhp at its disposal, meaning that in terms of big cats only the old XJ220 supercar can outsprint it. More importantly, it offers more grunt than the Ferrari California and the Aston Martin DBS for a lower price. Which is a very Jag thing to do.

It also pulls off that other crucial Jaguar accomplishment - it looks good, although I'd argue not quite as svelte as the cheaper and less powerful XKR the S is based on. The XKR-S, in its bid to look bolder and more aggressive, loses a little of the elegance of its slower siblings. Different strokes and all that, though.

In fact, the biggest bugbear about the absolute gem of an engine that Jaguar's created for the hottest XK ever is a surprisingly simple one; that the company, quite simply, has fitted it to the wrong car.

The XKR-S is a wonderful showcase for what the company, finally freed from the limits of ex-owner Ford's finances and the needs to play second fiddle to Aston Martin, can do, but with two doors, tiny back seats and a £103,000 pricetag it's left looking a little indulgent. Especially next to the likes of the BMW M5, a car that'll offer even more grunt and a similar prestige in a more practical package. This engine belongs under the bonnet of the XJ saloon, and when and if the company get around to it (please, pretty please) they'll create a performance car package to die for. Until then, however, the XK will do just fine.

Don't worry, however, if you reckon a 542bhp Jaguar costing upwards of £100,000 is bordering on irrelevant in today's recession-ridden times, because the company does the real world just as well as the surreal one. Tune in next time to find out why...

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