What is it?
This is the newly facelifted Jaguar XKR. Amid the hullabaloo over the new Jaguar XFR it’s easy to forget the XK range is being significantly enhanced at the same time.
The Jaguar XKR is still a fine and fresh-looking sports car but it’s now wearing new headlights and some particularly handsome tail-lamps. Other changes include a new front bumper, framed by some natty outboard grilles.
The XKR’s interior has never quite had the same impact as the metalwork, but this has been remedied by some clever upgrades. Most obviously it gets the XF’s cylindrical (and theatrical) gear selector, but there are numerous detail changes too, especially to the materials used, all of which add up to the cabin feeling and looking far more luxurious.
Jaguar’s engineering department has also been busy upping the XK’s technology count. The 4.2-litre V8s have been axed in favour of two all-new direct injection 5.0-litre motors – one a 379bhp naturally aspirated unit, the other a 503bhp supercharged beast that powers the XKR (not to mention the XFR saloon). Both are more potent and more parsimonious with fuel.
The aluminium-bodied XK has also been given the same chassis mods as the XFR saloon. So it has the new continuously variable damping system which (theoretically) responds to driving style and road conditions. The R also gets the new electronic rear diff.
What’s it like?
So far we’ve only had a go in the XKR coupé, and it’s clear that the new supercharged V8 has transformed what was an extremely good GT into an excellent one. And an extremely fast one. A lack of poke certainly wasn’t a glaring deficiency of the old XKR, but the new engine means that it shoots from 0-60mph in just 4.6sec, compared with 4.9sec. The killer blow is that the XKR now fires from 50-70mph in 1.9sec, up against the 2.5sec it took the old one.
If this doesn’t look so impressive on paper, on the road it’s the difference between picking off one overtaking victim and a whole swarm of them. More impressive still is the sheer relentlessness of the acceleration. Maximum torque of 461lb ft is on tap from 2500rpm to 5500rpm, making it hugely tractable. Like the same-engined XF saloon, the XKR is benign when you want it to be and demonically quick when you plant your right foot. Just remember that such antics are going to dent your wallet; even with the new, more economical engine, we struggled to better 20mpg even when holding back.
The outgoing XKR always struck a decent balance between ride and handling, and in doing so always managed to cleave a good line between a boulevardier such as the Merc SL and the more hard-edged Porsche 911. Little has changed.
If anything, it’s got closer to the Porsche in the way it can attack corners. You can push it incredibly hard without any intervention from the new electronics. The new Dynamic mode ups the ante even further, although with it comes sharper throttle response and more aggressive gearchanges that you’ll probably not need most of the time.
The downside is that outright comfort has taken a backwards step. Its ride is supremely composed but you detect a little more thump in the cabin over potholes and expansion joints. It’s probably a price worth paying for the extra agility, however.