From the carbon-fiber splitter at its chin to the carbon wing insert perched atop its tail, the 2012 Jaguar XKR-S convertible unmistakably declares itself special and desirable. Then it goes out of its way to back up that statement with levels of performance never known from a Jaguar convertible.
Just how special and desirable is the XKR-S convertible? Consider that only twenty-five examples are coming to the United States, and Jaguar says that even at $138,000, all were spoken for soon after the car made its debut last November at the Los Angeles Auto Show.
But don't worry, because there will be a plethora of XKR-S convertibles in 2013, when fully 100 examples will be offered. Twenty-five orders have been taken so far, Jaguar says.
Even without presenting the very newest automotive shape or the most absolutely stunning dynamics, the XKR-S convertible will get your heart thumping. Particularly in French racing blue, one of six colors offered, it will also make your eyeballs pop. And the luscious interior will have you dragging your fingertips across the blue stitching and piping on the wonderful leather upholstery.
Compared to the companion XKR-S coupe, which was introduced in March of 2011, the convertible has numerous revisions. For example, the retuned Adaptive Dynamics continuously variable damping system is recalibrated, because with about 90 pounds' greater weight, the convertible has different breakaway characteristics. Besides the rear wing, the convertible has new sills as well.
Powertrain produces and manages brutality
With all its special features and badges, the XKR-S convertible will surely catch the eye of the neighbors who thought their XK or even their XKR convertible was special. When they go for a ride, they'll also note that the R-S is the fastest and most powerful Jaguar convertible ever.
The supercharged 32-valve 5.0-liter V-8 tosses out 550 hp, up from 510 hp in the XKR, and 502 lb-ft of torque. Such earnestness from the powerplant causes the convertible to leap from 0 to 60 mph in 4.2 seconds, and top speed is limited to 186 mph (300 kph), the same as the R-S coupe.
Jaguar technical director Andy Lowis said the objective was to create a car that's capable of being relaxed and comfortable on its way to the Nuerburgring, then achieving a sub-eight-minute lap on the Nordschleife course on stock Pirelli P-Zero tires, and finally being driven back home. (Jaguar has maintained a Nuerburgring test center since 2003.) The Ringside capability, Lowis said, translates to real-world capability, such as a satisfying drive on "a wet, dumpy road in Wales."
Our test included racing flat out with the convertible top down, covering several thousand feet of runway at a United States Navy airbase. We had reached 165 mph, and the six-speed automatic had only shifted into fifth gear when we crossed the finish line. During the run, the Category Five wind rush over the car was complemented by the furious roar from the twin-outlet, dual exhausts, in which an active valve opens at high RPM, adding some timpani to the crescendo. This must be how it sounded when the Lord extended his hand to create the firmament.
Yet with the side windows raised, we wouldn't have needed to worry about our toupe blowing off and becoming FOD -- foreign-object debris -- that would harm the engine of an F-18 Hornet .
With the soft top up -- one touch of a button is required, followed by whistling a few bars of Yankee Doodle -- we cruised down the highway, finding that the XKR-S convertible's cockpit offers the placidity of a glovemaker's workshop. The ride, while on the firm side, is nevertheless comfortable enough for a car with extra-wide, ultra-low-profile tires mounted on 20-inch forged aluminum wheels. And the steering is sharp without being all action hero about things, which adds to the fantastic level of refinement the car delivers.
Competitors match performance, lack refinement, or vice versa
A few things might make you hesitate about dropping $138,000 on the XKR-S convertible. For one, we suspect that somewhere in tiny letters that we merely missed, the touch-screen display might have been labeled "Philco." Another thing is that the transmission has six ratios when eight are the current vogue. Maybe it's just a vogue: the six-speed worked fine, and the XKR-S convertible escapes being subject to the gas guzzler penalty even without the additional ratios. Someone may complain about the lack of a dual-clutch gearbox, but Jaguar can always point to sub-eight-minute laps at the Nuerburgring.
Another point: among front-engine, rear-drive competitors, for less, surely, you can get the 2013 Corvette 427 Convertible Collector Edition (still to be priced), which at least matches, if not betters, the Jag's key performance figures (and will always be cheaper to own). On the other hand, the Jag will always see the Maserati GranCabrio Convertible in the rearview mirror!
Because it's exquisite, rare, and fast, the XKR-S convertible could instigate a quite lively colloquy between the left half of your brain and the right, with your panicked banker trying to mediate. Ultimately, all three participants will acknowledge the car's refinement and beauty balanced against its brutal potency.
2012 Jaguar XKR-S Convertible
Engine: 32-valve DOHC supercharged V-8
Displacement: 5.0 liters (305 cu in)
Power: 550 hp @ 6000 rpm
Torque: 502 lb-ft at 2500 rpm
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
Steering: Hydraulically assisted
Suspension, Front: Control arms, coil springs
Suspension, Rear: Multilink, coil springs
Brakes: Vented discs, ABS
Tires: Pirelli PZero
Tire size F, R: 255/35YR-20, 295/30YR-20
L x W x H: 188.7 x 74.5 x 52.0 in
Wheelbase: 108.3 in
Track F/R: 61.4/63.3 in
Weight: 4079 lb
0-60 MPH: 4.2 sec
Top Speed: 186 mph
EPA Mileage: 15/22 mpg