First Drive: 2012 Jaguar XKR-S

Comfortable on the road, composed on the track
Even with this most hardened XK, the Jag brand keepers are crowing about “duality,” or the car’s ability to offer both credible performance and refined luxury. That persona is certainly apparent throughout the Jaguar range, but we wonder how many times that formula can be photocopied before at least one of those attributes begins to lose some fidelity. Impressively, the XKR-S largely lives up to the claims in that it’s comfortable on the road and poised on the track. On the perfect tarmac of the racetrack, the XKR-S is flat in corners and planted over elevation changes. Keeping things civil on the road requires staying out of Dynamic mode, but even then the R-S is light on its feet. Our only complaint is that occasionally -- sometimes even in Dynamic mode -- the rear-end damping is soft in mid-speed impacts.

Jaguar’s Adaptive Dynamics dampers use sensors to measure each wheel’s velocity relative to the body 500 times per second while the computer can order valving adjustments as often as 100 times per second. Activating the XKR-S’s Dynamic mode prioritizes a firmer ride, yet the car retains an autonomous authority over the precise damping character based on the driver’s aggression with the steering wheel, throttle, and shift paddles. It all works exceptionally well, transparently reflecting the driver’s attitude in the car’s responses. It’s a transition that we experience over and over again on the roads surrounding the Algarve circuit as we slow our pace for narrow, desolate villages and then tear up another phenomenal two-lane hill-climb. However, we’re also control freaks and would love the ability to override the artificial intelligence and lock the dampers, the differential, and the transmission into their most belligerent settings. We’d call it Race mode.

The XKR-S’s chief shortcoming is a large, nasty dead spot in the center of the steering. While we’re quite fond of the steering in the XF and XJ sedans, the flat on-center response of the R-S is a problem that’s found across the entire XK range. We suspect that the variable-ratio steering rack is the cause of the ambiguity, plaguing the first few degrees of steering. It’s also the most significant reason that the XKR-S isn’t quite as confidence-inspiring as a Porsche 911 or BMW M3 on a foreign twisty mountain road. Swapping the variable-ratio hardware for a fixed-ratio rack that’s quicker than what you currently get just off-center would likely deliver the immediacy that we crave.

A name to remember
Jaguar’s XKR-S boasts a brilliant powertrain backed by a versatile suspension. It doesn’t carry the same hardened performance edge of a 911or M3, but it sits at the pleasant intersection of legitimate track credibility and Jaguar brand character. As a worthy addition to the great European performance subbrands, here’s to hoping that the R-S tag makes its way to more Jaguars.

TheDecorGirl
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.
pcrs1981
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.
maseratiguy
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
dubfun
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.
ochristensen
It looks like a Hyunday Tiburon
BigBlock45
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!
artysan
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!!
tkb01029
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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