Jaguar has about the richest motor sporting heritage in the business, but is busy adding modern strands to it, such as making sure that its famous wheelman-cum-chassis development chief, Mike Cross, has something spectacular to wow the crowds – and depress the opposition – at the annual Goodwood Festival.
This year’s was a special XKR, painted lime green and riding on satanic-black 21-inch alloys. It was unfailingly spectacular on all three days, and it was my pleasure to ride with Cross on Sunday, after he’s had two days to get his eye in.
As well as the paint job, the car has a useful power hike over the new 5.0 litre XKR, so that it pumps out around 530bhp and 520-530 lb ft of torque It has a slightly naughty exhaust (quiet enough until you use full power, when it rasps as loudly as something Italian at twice the price) plus the tweaky suspension of last year’s special XKRS, along with infinitely adaptive Bilstein dampers from the latest model. Crossy’s unearthly skills are well documented, but this time I swear he hit new heights. We smoked and oversteered at 70-plus through the double-apex right-hander off the start, crowd roaring its approval. We rocketed past Goodwood House and under the pedestrian bridge at 110-115, accelerating until the last minute into to the treacherous Molecombe, a blind reverse-camber left-hander.
At the last minute, Mike hit the brakes for a second, then gave it throttle early, and had the car sliding perfectly on line. It felt stable, not brave. He could have stopped the slide, but kept it going with power for the crowd, whose applause was visible rather than audible.
Lairy? I should say. But it also says plenty about the controllability of Jaguars in skilled hands. And which potential owner doesn’t think, given the right conditions and car, that he or she couldn’t learn to do the same.