In the animal kingdom, Jaguars are a rare breed almost to the point of extinction. For that matter, people confuse them with Leopards and black Jaguars with Panthers. Well, in the automotive world the British “cat” is far from extinct and for 2012 has redefined the kitty kingdom with a new high-performance XKR-S Coupe and Convertible. The latest member of the family is undoubtedly the most authoritative and the quickest production vehicle Jaguar has ever built. To prove their case as to why this rendition of the XKR is so fierce, the team allowed me to personally speed test the beast.
Welcome to El Centro Naval Air Base, 1.5 hours outside of San Diego where Tom Cruise’s Top Gun was filmed. During the winter months this facility becomes home to the legendary Blue Angels, the Navy’s flight demonstration squadron. Jaguar chose the world-famous location because of its two runways that allow for extended speed evaluations. The east/west runway is 9,500 feet long and handles 96% of the traffic, which would be either red, white or blue XKR-S Coupes and Convertibles on this day. The goal was to see who could reach or breach the car’s 186 mph top speed!
The XKR-S is so eloquent and so tamed, but so fierce when you get on it. After initially experiencing the vehicle at the Nürburgring (Nordschleife) last June, I felt primed to walk away from El Centro victorious. Especially with only a small, select group invited to join the festivities. Both the XKR-S Coupe & Convertible feature Jaguar’s 5-liter AJ-V8 with 550 horsepower and 502 pound-feet of torque. That’s an 8% and 9% respective increase from the performance of the XKR. It darts from 0 to 60 mph in 4.2 seconds and shifts power through an automatic 6-speed transmission with steering wheel embedded shifters. An active differential — developed in-house — is utilized for high-speed cornering performance. An all aluminum body, chassis and engine; a wider and lower bumper intake; and a massive rear wing and carbon fiber diffuser combo add additional performance enhancements to the XKR-S. Engineered To Order (ETO), Jaguar’s bespoke customization wing, was consigned to outfit the special edition during its 3-year limited production run.
So now we have the ingredients for a successful performance. The wind was blowing strong and the air was a bit chilly. Jaguar feels that the convertible will deliver the same performance as the coupe; so I chose a convertible for my one and only run. To maximize acceleration I put the vehicle in Sport mode and engaged the checkered flag aka Trac DSC on the 3-mode Jaguar Drive Control. Trac DSC mode gives the driver a bit more control while still offering access to the vehicle’s safety systems. Basically, it delivers more performance, the dampers are firmer, it reduces steering assistance (which is a bit on the light side) and the downstream exhaust valve is always open which gives the XKR-S exhaust notes a voice of reason. Next I pressed the brake with the left foot and revved the engine to 1500 rpm before releasing the brake and letting her fly (like popping the clutch). When we reached the braking point, the XKR-S had only hit 170 mph while Jaguar’s Global Head of Communications, Frank Klass, came close to 178 mph. A seasoned driver by trade, Frank’s trick was keeping the vehicle in 5th gear and not letting it shift into overdrive. Why didn’t I think of that?
After the run we drove back to San Diego experiencing mountainous roads and desert terrain. It’s amazing because the XKR-S now was riding like an everyday people mover. Most upper tier sports cars are still lots of work to operate during daily driving. This is where the Jag will achieve 15 mpg city and 22 mpg highway. During a quick downfall, the vehicle’s auto windshield wipers worked intermittently at speeds associated with the amount of rain. The cockpit is leather adorned with a powerful Bowers & Wilkins audio system and a touchscreen multi-media interface. In addition, the cloth top, which opens and closes in 18 seconds, does a great job of suppressing outside noises.
So why did Jaguar have a need for the XKR-S when they have a 510 horsepower XKR and will not make money on the project with so few cars? Well, they state it’s more than a car from Jaguar and is a brand ambassador. They want to deliver and showcase the vehicle as a symbol of the revitalization of the brand, and to manifest new emotions and life from their customers.
With six colors available, the Coupe will retail for $132,000 and the Convertible will run $138,000. For 2012 all 100 coupes and 25 Convertibles are sold out. A balance of 100 Coupes and 100 Convertibles are planned for the 2013 model year and in 2014 100 Coupes and 75 Convertibles will be available. So maybe this breed of performance cats will become just as extinct as the Jaguars in the wild!