Would Jaguar have built a car like this before today? Sure, it has used the XKR-S nameplate before (in 2008) but I think it has taken a newfound confidence for Jag to serve up something as overt as this.

Something with a £97,000 price, as much power as the XJ220 (542bhp if you’re asking) and a colour scheme reminiscent of a GT Porsche.

So what exactly is the XKR-S? Well, firstly, it is a series production model rather than a limited-run special. The 39bhp increase over the standard XKR comes from ECU changes and a new exhaust (more of which later); there are no mechanical changes to the internals of the engine. Torque is increased by 41lb ft.

Jaguar claims the more assertive styling (which encompasses changes made across the XK range) is dictated as much by function as form. The front and rear aerodynamic enhancements are apparently required to maintain contact with the ground at the XKR-S’s higher top speed: an electronically governed 186mph.

Changes to the chassis mirror those previewed on the limited-run Edition 75 and amount to 28% stiffer spring rates over the standard XKR's, a new aluminium steering knuckle, reprogrammed damper and differential controls, wider tyres and lighter wheels.

Of the mechanical alterations, what you notice first is the new active exhaust. Compared with the standard XKR, the S is not only louder but also crisper; almost purer and less synthetic. Not everyone will love it – especially anyone who happens to live within three miles of your favourite roads.

To reinforce that, we made a few new Portugese ‘friends’ while filming the video to go with this story. But you can’t argue with the fact that the new soundtrack certainly matches the way the XKR-S looks.

And the way it goes. The standard XKR is hardly lacking propulsion, but the S is noticeably quicker again and freer revving at the top end.

Partly this is because, subjectively, the S feels like it has a more aggressive throttle map – despite Jaguar's claims to have softened it (across all XKs) for the 2012 model year.

Either way, this is a car where you find yourself backing out of the throttle halfway down a straight in an effort to keep speeds broadly moral.

The dynamic changes bring an improved steering response (more weight and less hesitation), making it easier and more satisfying to commit to a corner. Overall, the step-up over the standard R is probably in the region of 20%.

In the spirit of completeness, we should report that we tried two XKR-S Jags and, in this regard, one felt noticeably better. However, in neither did the increased spring rates result in an uncomfortably harsh ride.

Amusing though the XKR-S is, there’s a nagging feeling that it is perhaps trying to be something it is not. For the drama and sheer performance, the XKR-S justifies its near-six-figure price but, in the final reckoning, it remains a large, relatively heavy GT. And as GT cars go, it’s difficult to argue against the XKR, especially at a saving of £20k. Some even say the sweet spot in the XK range is the standard 5.0-litre model.

The truth, I suspect, is that the XKR-S is about attracting a new type of buyer to Jaguar – one who is more extrovert and for whom 379bhp, or even 503bhp, is simply not enough.

Jamie Corstorphine

Jaguar XKR-S

Price £97,000; Engine V8, 5000cc, supercharged, petrol; Power 542bhp at 6500rpm; Torque 502lb ft at 3500rpm; 0-62mph 4.4sec; Top speed 186mph (limited); Gearbox 6-spd automatic; Kerb weight 1753kg; Economy 23.0mpg; CO2 292g/km

Top 5 Sport coupes

First drives

Find an Autocar car review

Driven this week

  • BRZ Front
    First Drive
    28 February 2017
    With its fractionally sharper dynamics, well-appointed interior and keen price, the Subaru BRZ has never made a stronger case for itself
  • 2017 Smart Forfour Brabus Xclusive
    First Drive
    24 February 2017
    In an urban environment, the Smart Forfour Brabus has some appeal. However, on the open road, you soon learn that it's no hot hatchback
  • Range Rover Sport 3.0 V6 Supercharged HSE Dynamic
    First Drive
    24 February 2017
    New supercharged 3.0-litre V6 adds a cheaper petrol option to the Range Rover Sport line-up, but it isn't as likeable as the diesels
  • Abarth 124 Spider
    First Drive
    24 February 2017
    An expensive proposition, yes, but the Abarth 124 Spider thrills and excites enough on UK roads to send its price to the back of your mind
  • Bentley Mulsanne Speed
    First Drive
    23 February 2017
    An enthralling delight on so many levels, and yet disappointing in a few critical areas