First Drive: 2012 Jaguar XKR-S

There’s no shortage of performance in the Jaguar lineup. With the XFR sedan, the XKR two-door, and the XJ Super Sport sedan, the British automaker has a trio of 510-hp supercharged brutes that are plenty competent around a track. But what Jaguar doesn’t have is performance with cachet. The R subbrand carries little emotional weight compared with BMW M, Mercedes-Benz AMG, and Audi RS badges.

Enter the XKR-S. It’s Jaguar’s fastest production car ever and churns out 550 hp for a price of $132,875. If that doesn’t grab your attention, take just one look at the sleek sports car slathered in scintillating French racing blue paint.

Tuned for the track
Extracting additional performance from the XKR to create the XKR-S was largely an exercise in calibration rather than swapping hardware. The familiar supercharged 5.0-liter V-8 now makes 550 hp and 502 lb-ft of torque, up 40 hp and 41 lb-ft from the XKR’s output. Engineers have stiffened the front suspension uprights, tweaked the rear suspension geometry, increased spring rates 28 percent up front and 32 percent in back, and dropped the ride height 0.4 inch. The XKR’s adaptive dampers and active rear differential have also been tuned to act more aggressively. The most significant hardware changes come in the form of an active exhaust, a reworked aero package that reduces lift by 26 percent, and Pirelli PZero tires wrapped around new 20-inch aluminum wheels finished in a sinister graphite color.

To enrich the interior, there’s supple stitched leather covering the seats, the dash, and a new steering wheel, and the cabin is trimmed with leather carbon-fiber-like accents and optional dark aluminum inserts. The XKR-S-exclusive sport seats are exceptionally comfortable and feature 16-way adjustability including inflatable side bolsters.

The only obvious omission from the XKR-S’s pedigree is a weight-loss program. The front splitter, rear diffuser, and rear wing are made of carbon fiber, but that decision was driven by aesthetics, not function. Weight remains unchanged from the XKR, at 3968 pounds. For now, the XKR-S is only available as a coupe.

Powerful, punchy, and playful
We already knew that the XKR is a torque monster, so it’s no surprise that the XKR-S produces silly thrust before the pedal is depressed even halfway. The gas pedal’s satisfying responsiveness means a short sprint to triple-digit speeds is always waiting for your command. Jaguar claims 60 mph comes in 4.2 seconds and that a top speed of 186 mph makes the XKR-S the fastest production car in the brand’s history.

A six-speed automatic transmission is the only gearbox offered, but it is a very, very good one. With Jaguar’s rotary gear selector twisted all the way to the right to the sport setting, the transmission will crack off shifts with a hammer-like punch. Initiating Dynamic mode sharpens the throttle response, tightens up the dampers, and opens a set of valves in the exhaust. At full wood, the XKR-S emits a raw, guttural snarl of blats and grunts and the sharp bark at lift-off is chased by intermittent aftershocks of snaps and crackles as the engine revs fall. It’s hardly the seductive symphony of an Italian engine, but this Jag has a presence and aural individuality that makes the heart flutter.

What really gets our pulse pounding, though, is the devilish active differential, which uses an electric motor to progressively lock the rear wheels together. As we hustle through the turns of the Algarve race circuit in Portugal, the diff makes its existence known by dialing in the perfect amount of lockup to keep the car neutral and balanced. Thanks to the rigidity of the chassis, the natural tuning of the throttle pedal, and the supportive seats, you can perfectly read and anticipate the differential’s actions, inviting explorations into controlled oversteer without threatening a smoky spin.

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I just drove it at Pebble Beach and will confirm it is an awesome car. Not your granny's Jaguar. This is a Jag for the under 40-50 set!Seeing it live makes all the difference. I would have never considered it before then. Great interior and exterior. As enjoyable as my Porsche Turbo - maybe more. I was shocked.
This article states that the XKR-S is Jaguar's fastest production car ever. However, there was a faster production car in Jaguar's history - the XJ220. Compare the stats...XKR-S550 hp V80-60 in 4.2 secondsTop Speed - 186 mphXJ220542 hp V60-60 in 3.8 seconds (I've read anywhere from 3.5 to 4.0 seconds, and some claims of 3.8 seconds)Top Speed - 212 mph (220 mph originally claimed)Neither in 0-60 mph time nor top speed was the XKR-S the fastest production Jaguar in the brand's history! The XJ220, though it was an exotic supercar, was still a production car. Jaguar produced around somewhere around 278 to 281 of these cars...but it was still a production car.
I think the car looks great, but it should be about 4/5ths its current size. HATE that color! I'd love to see a comparo with this, and a Maserati GT stradele..whatever they call the sportiest version
Great car, but overdone styling; especially the front end. To me, Jags should be subtle and refined. You know, speak softly but carry a big stck.
It looks like a Hyunday Tiburon
Mmm.. there is something familiar about the Jag's nose! BMW from the headlightsup... a redesigned Ford Taurus'07 grill and below thegrill into the fenders.. 2011Ford Edge. Quite combination. NOT!
LOVE the color! Can't wait til Jaguar finally realizes how bad their headlights look though.I wonder if anyone else feels that way?Having driven the new XK, I have to say that behind the wheel, any ambivalence about styling, or anything for that matter, dissolves into a giant, non-stop grin. The XKs are just stupendous performers in every way. It is almost unbelievable what they have managed to accomplish with the transition from the previous model. It is a very nearly perfect car. Great ride, flawless handling and acceleration, and oh- the sounds!!
I just don't care how fast it goes because it looks like a 3 year old Mitsubishi coupe with a cheap body kit. Absolutely dreadful!

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