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 |  Nov 16 2011, 4:42 PM

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Some used to say that Southern California was just about the only place in the world where it was truly practical to drive a British sports car.

Lack of rain meant Lord Lucas, the celebrated “Prince of Darkness” (an ailment related to the Lucas-brand electrical systems used on British cars) rarely struck, while the temperate climate almost never required the services of near useless heaters and leaky convertible tops. Additionally, dry conditions and twisty canyon  roads just begged for a bit of enthusiastic motoring,  an aspect, which when working well, such machines as Jaguar XK-Es and Austin-Healeys were able to deliver in spades.

Today, British sports cars tend to be a lot more reliable and leak free, as well as considerably faster and even better handling than those machines of yore. Nonetheless, So Cal is still considered to be their spiritual home. As a result, if a company like Jaguar is going to unveil a car with a ridiculous beast of an engine and a convertible top, it makes sense to do it at the Los Angeles Auto Show.

As Jaguar’s global brand director, Adrian Hallmark stated, the XKR-S convertible sacrifices none of the performance of its coupe counterpart and indeed, development mules spent hours and hours being flogged around the Nürburgring. Having sampled the regular XKR ragtop and the XKR-S coupe, we can only wonder the sensation 550 horsepower and 502 lb-ft of torque can do in an open top car that boasts a rigid, lightweight aluminum architecture, retuned suspension and steering, plus an upgraded Adaptive Dynamics system compared with the standard R.

Jag claims the flagship XKR-S convertible can sprint from rest to 60 mph in 4.2 seconds and will go on to  an (electronically limited) top speed of 186 mph. That makes it the fastest open top Jaguar ever built and also one of the most exclusive (Jaguar has said it plans to allocate just 25 examples to the US market for 2012). So if you want one as desperately as we do, better try and get your order in as soon as possible (the coupe version is already sold out).

Besides the ragtop XKR-S, Jaguar also chose Los Angeles as the North American debut for the C-X16 concept, which has been making waves since first being revealed back at the Frankfurt Motor Show in September. Whether or more likely when, a version of this two-seat gas electric hybrid stunner will reach production still remains to be seen, though we probably shouldn’t rule out the possibility of examples sitting in Jaguar showrooms before the second half of this decade begins.

Gallery: Jaguar XKR-S Convertible

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Gallery: Jaguar C-X16 Concept

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