2012 Jaguar XKR-S Review

XKR-S is like an E-Type and XJ220 all rolled into one

2012 Jaguar XKR-S Review
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2011 was a rather big year for Jaguar. Not only was this the year they celebrated the 50th anniversary of their much loved E-type, but also the 20th anniversary of their much over-looked XJ220 supercar.

FAST FACTS

1. The XKR-S uses an up-rated supercharged 5.0-liter V8 to produce 550-hp and 502 lb-ft of torque.

2. Other additions include a custom aero kit, a lowered suspension, 20-inch wheels, and larger brakes.

3. Look for a 0-60 mph time of 4.2 seconds.

4. Priced at $132,000 the XKR-S is almost $30K more than the XKR.

For 2012, Jaguar is offering a model that brings both the E-Type and the XJ220 together in one package. The car in question is the XKR-S. Like the E-type, it is a front-engine, rear-wheel drive grand touring sports car. But like its big brother, the XJ220, it has a boosted motor that develops 550-hp and will serve as a halo for the iconic British brand.

The R-S version adds even more, thanks to a new hood, extra openings to feed air to its powerful motor, and a carbon-fiber lower front spoiler which works with the new carbon-fiber rear spoiler to give the car more stability at high speeds.

That supercar look continues when you open the door. Gone are the big sofa seats, replaced now by a set of the best “Performance” seats (Sport seats in Jaguar’s language) we have ever set eyes on, but you have to compromise on comfort when you buy an XKR-S, as the sport seats still have all the adjustments available in all other XK models. In total, you have 16-points of adjustments for this seat, so if you can’t find a comfortable driving position in this, you probably don’t know how to use the door mounted seat control switches properly.

2012 Jaguar XKR-S seats

Apart from the seats, the only visible change inside is a slightly different looking steering wheel. Beyond that, the interior remains the same, which means lots of space and high tech gadgets for people in the front seats, and nothing for those in the rear seats. The XK was never a proper four-seater, and now thanks to those sport seats, there is even less room in the back. Trying to stick anyone in these rear seats would be cruel, so best to use the space to toss in some grocery bags.

GOES FAST, SOUNDS FAST

If you are the sort of person who takes their 5.0-liter, supercharged V8 sports car to go grocery shopping, you should buckle up your fruit, because this Jag can sprint from 0-60 mph in just 4.2 seconds. Not bad for a car that weighs 3,916 lbs., but then 550 hp and 502 lb-ft of torque can move any mass quickly.

We quickly learned that this car prefers to have its tires nicely warmed up before you get the best acceleration times. On cold tires, it slithers and slides its rear end in search of grip, while the traction control works very hard to reign in the power, but not too much to make the experience boring. The R-S is aimed towards driving enthusiasts after all.

When the tires are at their optimal temperature, the car hooks up smoothly and catapults you forward immersed in its glorious sound track. All supercharged Jaguar’s sound good, but nothing they have ever made has ever sounded as good as this R-S. When you open the taps in this car, it sounds more like gunfire than anything automotive.

2012 Jaguar XKR-S race track

Once your mind adapts to the speed and noise of this car, you can start concentrating on the ride quality. Just cruising around on the highway, you’ll find it to be firm, but not harsh. It is certainly a bit firmer than a regular XKR, so you will feel it going over expansion joints on the highway, but it’s never unbearably rough – a trait shared with lesser XKs.

Thanks to its excellent steering feel, which has been given a tighter setting in the R-S version, it is easy to place the car on the road, and given the massive amounts of grip you get from those 295/30/20 (10.5-inch wide) rear tires, you can choose your own line through the corners.

ADDED SPORT, BUT BIG CAT SHOWS ITS GRAND TOURING ROOTS

On twisty back roads, you’ll be encouraged to put the six-speed automatic transmission in “Sport” mode and activate the “Dynamic” mode which lets you swing the back out a little more, while still keeping a keen eye on excessive oversteer. The limited-slip differential feeds the power to both wheels evenly, but on really tight bends, this car is not in its favorite environment. Coming out of a slow corner, it often wastes its power as it struggles to find grip. As entertaining as it is, the car simply feels overwhelmed. The R-S is a big and heavy car, and while its suspension set up is tighter than the normal XKR, it does not bite in as hard into the corners as an Audi R8 would. What this cat prefers are long, high-speed, sweeping corners.

2012 Jaguar XKR-S cornering rear view

If you happen to be heading to the Autobahn with your R-S, we advise that you put the transmission in the “S” position. This sharpens the throttle and lets the driver use the steering-wheel mounted paddle shifters to go up or down through the gears. Since this is still a conventional automatic based system rather than a single or dual-clutch gearbox found in cars like the Audi R8 or Nissan GT-R, the gear changes are not as quick as they should be.

On the plus side, this is still among the quickest shifting automatics around, and it is ultra smooth when you just want to relax and cruise to your destination – something that a Jag buyer is definitely interested in. Cruising is something the R-S does rather well. When you’re not monkeying around, it’s quiet and refined, and you can then truly enjoy its “other” sound system, the Bowers and Wilkins 525-watt stereo with eight-speakers.

2012 Jaguar XKR-S action

THE VERDICT

Our more relaxed drives proved that despite all the hardcore trimmings and its immense capabilities, it’s tough for the XKR-S to escape its routes as a Grand Tourer – but it may perhaps be the grandest of them all, able to dice it up with the best while making minimal sacrifices.

2012 Jaguar XKR-S overhead view

LOVE IT
  • Stunning new looks
  • Awesome sport seats
  • Thrilling performance with a matching sound track
LEAVE IT
  • Tiny back seats
  • 6-speed auto is an automatic, not a dual-clutch system
  • Not the ideal weapon for carving up back roads

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