Jaguar has been promising for some time that it would use this year’s Geneva auto show to begin celebrating the 50th anniversary of its iconic E-type. Many expected this nod to the company’s heritage would include the announcement of a new small sports car. That is not the vehicle you see here. This is the 2012 XKR-S, and it proves that someone decided to make the XKR very angry. The thing looks as if it’s been raised in the wild. By a pack of badly behaved race cars that have never been to England or heard of the original E-type.
On the subject of heritage, it should be noted that this is not the first time Jag has used these four letters in a row. The company brought a 550-hp XK-RS concept with a supercharged 5.0-liter V-8 to the 2004 Chicago show. And then in 2009, Jaguar built a run of 200 XKR-S models for European customers, giving the cars unique appearance bits but no additional power. The 2012 XKR-S happens to combine traits of both cars: the engine is a hopped-up version of the XKR’s supercharged 5.0-liter, and the car takes aesthetic crazy to new levels.
The 5.0, tuned to produce 550 hp and 502 lb-ft of torque, propels the car to a claimed top speed of 186 mph. Jag projects a 0-to-60-mph time of 4.2 seconds, but we would expect to better that time; a 2010 XKR we tested, with its V-8 producing 510 hp and 461 lb-ft, hit the mark in four seconds flat. The extra power comes courtesy of remapped fuel delivery and additional tuning. Better breathing—and better sounds—come courtesy of an active exhaust system. The XKR-S is the most powerful and quickest series-production road car the company has ever built. The company also points out that the XKR-S will be its first series-production model to join the vaunted 300-kph (186-mph) club. (The low-production and hyper-exotic XJ220, which nearly met the boast of its name in miles per hour, is understandably being left out of this count.)
We believe Jaguar when it says the design of the XKR-S was “aerodynamically driven.” Unique front and rear fascias are evident, the hood is mostly vents and nostrils, and there’s a big fixed rear wing, a first for an XK. Look closely and you’ll notice that the LED headlights are of an entirely new shape compared with those of other XKs. Carbon fiber is used on the front splitter, the center section of the wing, and the rear diffuser, the latter of which cozies up to the four exhaust outlets. The massaging not only provides a unique look among Jags—although maybe not tuned imports—but a claimed 26-percent reduction in lift.
There’s no chrome on this thing, save for the “leaper” emblem that’s been added on the back; everything that might be rendered in the shiny stuff is instead body color or gloss black. Speaking of body colors, there are five options, including Italian Racing Red and French Racing Blue, and they’re intended to “evoke Jaguar’s competition heritage.” (Yes, racing Jags of yore were painted in those national colors and campaigned by people other than Brits. Not all British cars have to be painted BRG.) Inside there’s a red start button, various subtle trim changes, and carbon-look leather for the better-bolstered front seats—which feature 16-way adjustment, memory, and heating. This is still a Jaguar, after all.
But the XKR-S is not just engine and dress-up. Attention has been paid to the chassis, including a 0.4-inch reduction in ride height, a new aluminum steering knuckle, and revised rear-suspension geometry. Front and rear spring rates are stiffened by 28 percent. The Adaptive Damping system gets unique software programming, as does the stability-control system. The car’s lightweight, forged 20-inch wheels are a half-inch wider in the rear than the optional 20s on the XK and XKR. They measure nine inches wide in the front and 10.5 in back, and are wrapped in Pirelli P Zero rubber measuring 255/35 up front and 295/35 at the rear.
While not a particularly fitting tribute to the E-type, the XKR-S has some serious promise. It may offend—or at least not appeal to—Jag purists, but that’s on purpose. Jaguar hopes to create models and spin-offs that attract new customers, while at the same time offering products that satisfy loyal buyers.....