I’ve just spent two days taking in intense back-to-back technical briefings at Jaguar and Land Rover covering three different new models and a myriad of individual variants. My mind is, quiet genuinely, reeling.
But I think I should first shine a light on Jaguar’s new XKR-S. It could easily be dismissed as an extreme styling special, but, having been talked through the project by the engineers responsible, I reckon this car is going to make more of an impact than anyone has suspected.
When you see the XKRS in the flesh, it’s very striking indeed and, arguably, the most visually aggressive Jaguar yet. There are a couple of cheeky references to the Nissan GT-R, in the way the grille is framed by the nose cone’s ‘jowls’ and the square-cut tail spoiler. And I can’t help but associate the ‘French Racing Blue’ colour scheme with Audi’s original RS2.
As Jaguar design chief Ian Callum says of the car, “There’s still a misunderstanding about Jaguars, that they’re old men’s cars. We’re going to shout a lot louder about Jaguar. We don’t shout loud enough about our technology.”
As he says, the real action is under the skin. The supercharged V8 has been given another boost, so it now delivers 542bhp and 502lb ft (up 8 per cent and 9 per cent, respectively, over the old XKR-S). Even better, a full 80 per cent of the torque arrives under 2500rpm. Let’s put those figures into perspective. This Jag now has 10 per cent more power and five per cent more torque than a Porsche 911 Turbo.
It also benefits from uprated torque convertor, a new (fruitier) exhaust with less back pressure and new calibration for the engine, transmission, active diff and stability systems. It sits 10mm lower, has stiffer spring rates front (by 29 per cent) and rear (by 32 per cent) and fresh geometry for the rear suspension.
But what I found most significant about this car was the fact that the front suspension has been substantially re-designed. Benchmarking the steering accuracy of the Nissan GT-R, Jaguar engineers decided they needed to substantially stiffen the front suspension assembly.
Powering into a bend puts huge side forces on the front suspension legs and any deflection and distortion feeds back to the steering wheel as mushy feel and, ultimately, understeer. So Jag’s engineers designed a new super-stiff ‘knuckle’, the cast aluminium upright that holds the front hub at its base and provides a location for the upper wishbones at its top end.
It’s possible this hidden, but significant change, will transform the XKR-S from impressive to exceptional.
The raw figures are very impressive, with the XKR-S sprinting to 100mph in just 8.7secs, not far behind the current 911 GT3RS. The 0-60mph leap is knocked out in just 4.7secs. The top speed is limited to 186mph, but given its full electronic head, the XKR-S would not be far short of 200mph. In the next couple of weeks, the company hopes to do a lap of the ‘Ring in under 8 minutes.
In truth, these are close to genuine supercar figures. The reason they’re not even closer has to be the XKR-S’s porky 1753kg kerb weight. OK, I can believe that the structure is super-stiff, but it’s also way too heavy. The 911 GT3RS was tested by Autocar at a real-world 1415kg.
Even so, I’m going to place a bet. If Autocar’s finest wheelmen come away from a proper drive in the XKR-S and are anything less than very, very, impressed, I’ll buy a cravat in British Racing Green.