What is it?
The fastest, and most powerful roadster Jaguar has ever produced - tested here for the first time on UK roads. Yet the funny thing about the Jaguar XKR-S is that it shouldn’t work. Not only is it a car that has its roots firmly in grand touring of the more gentile (if rapid) kind, but it has a soft top. And something that looks quite this hardcore rarely comes with a retractable roof.
Ultimately this is a soft-top version of the XKR-S Coupe that we first tested last year, getting the same 542bhp, 502lb ft from the supercharged 5.0-litre V8. As Jaguar is keen to point out, the all-aluminium XK was designed from the off as a cabriolet as well as a coupe and so it loses little of the tin-top’s rigidity.
As well as the power upgrade, the XKR-S gets uprated suspension (softer at the rear than the coupe), and a modified exhaust as well as better downforce produced by the styling tweaks.
What’s it like?
The misleading thing here is that the XKR-S is not the track-oriented mentalist that the aggressive body addenda hints at. In fact, it’s a much more rounded, and certainly still a road-biased thing.
In practice it does feel firm, but not in an uncomfortable way. In fact, if anything this is one of the rare instances where the convertible rides with a little more suppleness than the coupe equivalent. It manages an impressive blend of full-on, hairy-chested, slightly bonkers performance without too much compromise to the touring ability.
Even refinement is good, though if that’s your main concern you’re unlikely to be considering this model. In fact, the noise that the XKR-S makes is only ever going to be a selling point. It really is on another level to the standard XKR, and being able to drop the roof and get a little more exposure to the angry bark it emits only makes the convertible’s appeal even clearer.
Ultimately, driving the XKR-S is like meeting a psychopath in a well-cut suit. It’s so ludicrously overt in its intentions, yet at the same time it can be really quite civilised.
However, there are some problems, namely the £103,000 price tag, which puts the XKR-S at £18,450 over the standard XKR convertible and a number of other seriously good sports roadsters. And whilst we can only be impressed with the sharper turn-in, more aggressive noise and responses, and more dramatic experience, the non-S still promises such a blissfully well-sorted experience that it’s hard to justify.