Wednesday, August 24, 2011

2012 Jaguar XKR-S Review - Forbes

It’s hard to write about a 550 hp luxury performance coupe without resorting to clichés. In fact, it may be impossible, so I beg your indulgence now. It’s also hard to design and build a 550 hp luxury performance coupe without indulging in a few clichés, but the 2012 Jaguar XKR-S comes very close. With a base price of $132,00 ($132,875 as tested with a $875 destination charge), the XKR-S packs plenty of punch, including Jaguar Platinum coverage with free scheduled maintenance, roadside assistance and new vehicle limited warranty for 4 years/50,000 miles and EPA fuel economy estimates of 15 mpg city/22 mpg highway.
2011 represents the 50th anniversary of the iconic Jaguar E-type, and Jaguar would like us to see the XKR-S as the natural successor to that car’s rich legacy. I recently had the opportunity to drive a 1965 XKE Roadster around the streets of Pebble Beach (I know, rough life). I had to remove my right shoe in order to fit my foot between the brake pedal and the transmission tunnel, and my left knee was jammed between the steering wheel and the door every time I released the clutch. Still, the XKE was awesome to drive, and even with 4″ wide tires, performed beautifully on the curves. The 2012 XKR-S forces no major compromises on the driver — and does a great job of maintaining a real sense of class and fun that hearkens back to its ancestor in all the best ways.

The exterior of the XKR-S is breathtaking in its own fashion. Low and swooping, the XKR-S tops out at 52.1″ tall, which doesn’t sound that low until you stand next to it. The front end is elegantly expressive, with a small horizontal grille opening and a low carbon fiber splitter. Functional hood vents serve as a reminder of the potent engine that lurks beneath the lightweight aluminum hood. Out back, there’s a carbon fiber wing that attaches to the hatchback trunk. Four big round polished steel exhaust pipes poke out beneath the rear fascia. The entire effect is contemporary, elegant and completely vicious, in a good way.

Inside, luxury and sportiness abound. I have to admit that I had a little bit of trouble bending my 6’2″ frame to get behind the wheel — probably more due to my lack of flexibility than anything else. Once ensconced in the driver’s seat, I took careful notice of my surroundings. Familiar Jaguar luxury surrounded me, complete with a leather headliner, sport front seats with 16-way power adjustment and carbon patterned leather. The pop-up JaguarDrive Selector and red pulsing Start button beckoned me to stop admiring, and start driving.

Depressing the brake pedal and touching the Start button results in some lovely growly engine sounds. Race the engine, and the supercharged 5.0-liter V8 engine snarls with challenge. Without getting too bogged down in the statistics, the powerful engine is tuned to deliver 550 hp and 502 lb-ft of torque to the rear wheels through a 6-speed automatic transmission with steering wheel mounted paddle shifters that help blip through the gears in Sport mode. Jaguar claims that the XKR-S can pounce from 0-60 in 4.2 seconds, and it sure feels that way behind the wheel. Peak torque is available from 2,500 rpm all the way up to 5,500 rpm, which means that you can mash down on the accelerator almost any time and get a very satisfying response.

XKR-S benefits from some substantial suspension upgrades that result in very precise steering feel at all speeds. Adaptive damping and an active differential add to the precision. The vehicle’s controls allow you to select suspension settings, and there’s a competition mode that stiffens everything up nicely. I spent most of my time behind the wheel with the competition mode selected, and I never found the stiffer suspension performance fatiguing or harsh.

I didn’t get to test the XKR-S on the track, only on public roads, so I can’t report on its competition dynamics at speed. What I can say is that this is a vehicle for a grown up driver with great self-control, because all that potential is quite tempting. I would have a hard time holding on to my license if I owned an XKR-S.

The really amazing aspect of XKR-S’s performance isn’t actually its great agility or its breathtaking speed. The amazing performance capability comes at low speeds and in heavy traffic. Many high-powered engines surge and strain at walking speeds, making bumper-to-bumper traffic a nightmare. XKR-S is positively serene in all driving conditions, and seems just as happy to crawl along with the herd as it is to leap with the predators.

If you’re thinking of buying a 2012 Jaguar XKR-S, there are several other vehicles to consider in the price range. The Germans do a great job with the front engine/rear drive performance coupe, from the BMW 650i to the Mercedes-Benz CL63. Maserati’s GranTurismo challenges Jaguar on style points, while Ferrari’s new FF loses that battle in a landslide. Bentley’s Continental GT brings British heritage to the table, but approaches the performance coupe from a completely different angle.

The Jaguar XKR-S is a stunning vehicle, with performance and luxury to match its appearance. Time will tell whether or not it will have the impact and enduring appeal of the E-type. Given the choice of which vehicle to drive on a daily basis, I wouldn’t hesitate to choose the modern edition, and I’d gladly drive the wheels off of it. My XKR-S would be an excellent candidate for restoration in 50 years.

Source: 2012 Jaguar XKR-S Review - The Spirit of the E-Type Lives On

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