When Jaguar released the F-Type last year, the writing was on the wall for the ancient XK Coupe and Convertible.
|Engine: 5.0-liter supercharged V8, 550 HP, 502 lb-ft of torque.
Transmission: Six-speed automatic
Fuel economy: 15 MPG city, 22 MPG highway, 14.7 MPG observed
Price: $138,925 after destination charges, $140,200 as tested.
As much as the F-Type and XK differ, they’re both high-powered, stylish performance cars, which is one too many for a smaller volume luxury manufacturer like Jaguar. So, after nearly two decades on the market, the XK will cease production at year’s end.
But Jaguar isn’t letting the XK go quietly into the night. In 2012 the manufacturer began a run of special performance edition RS models that culminates with the bonkers 2014 XKR-S GT coupe. For those who prefer fun in the sun drop-top motoring, there’s good news; Jaguar also produces a convertible version of the beastly XKR-S.
Not Just a Fancy Badge
The most noticeable difference for RS cars over regular models is the new nose. The entire front end is reworked to include thinner headlights, a smaller grille and twin air intakes at the front of the hood. The car sits 10 mm lower to improve aerodynamics and handling.
Jaguar claims to have reduced lift by 26 per cent through various aero tweaks such as a large carbon fiber front splitter and a pair of massive vents bolted to either side of the front bumper. The side sills are wider, a new diffuser is attached in the back and a huge wing with a carbon fiber center section is mounted to the trunk.
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More Power, More Bark
But the best addition for RS models comes under hood. The 5.0-liter Supercharged V8 found in the more pedestrian XK-R model has been reworked to now produce 550 horsepower and 502 lb-ft of torque; an increase of 40 HP and 41 lb-ft of torque over the XK-R. This allows the nearly 4,100 lbs. XKR-S convertible to rocket from 0 to 60 mph in just 4.2 seconds and continue all the way up to a top speed of 186 mph.
SEE ALSO: 2014 Jaguar XK-R Convertible Review
And then there is the sound. Depress the start engine button and the blown V8 explodes into life with a choppy low-pitched rumble that Jaguar has perfected in the past few years. Rev the car in a parking garage and it sounds like it should be lining up for the Daytona 500. On the freeway, a quick stab of the gas pedal unleashes a pissed off V8 growl that pummels unsuspecting motorists as the Jaguar thunders past.
With 500 lb-ft of torque available from 2,500-5,500 rpm not once did the car ever leave us thinking “this Jag could use more power”. The downside to the Jaguar’s opulent power is its love for gasoline. Any potential owner of this British monster should be prepared for hefty fuel bills as despite far more optimistic fuel economy ratings of 15 MPG city and 22 MPG highway, we are averaging a deplorable 14.7 MPG.
Drives like a Proper Grand Tourer
Big power and big weight means the XKR-S needs big brakes. The front rotors measure in at 15-inches and the rear rotors are almost as big at 14.8-inches. The initial bite from the brakes is quick and reliable which is well suited for a car that may be driven enthusiastically. However, since this is a grand touring (GT) car and not a sports car, the brakes are absent of any grabby feel associated with some pure performance orientated vehicles.
But just because the XKR-S is a British muscle car masquerading as a GT doesn’t mean it can’t handle a corner. The stability control, traction control and electronic differential software have all been rewritten to allow drivers to get a little closer to the vehicles limits before intervening. This means the tail can be hung out a bit in corners and some tire slip is permitted, which basically happens during all low speed corners. It makes the RS more engaging to drive than the XK-R and probing the limits a little more reassuring as the safety systems do not need to be turned off.
Speaking of handling, the rear tire is 10 mm wider on the XKR-S compared to the XK-R for improved grip. The steering knuckle has increased camber and castor stiffness to provide better feel. Although all these changes do work well enough to bring a little more feel and precision to the RS, once again it’s not a sports car. It doesn’t handle twisting roads as well as the smaller F-Type roadster, but the RS is much more comfortable to be in and an easier car to live with day in and day out.
Showing its Age
Inside, the RS receives unique 16-way adjustable seats that include side bolster control. We find they offer a good balance between lateral grip and comfort which is import for a car that could be used for long highway trips or back road shenanigans. One of the few options added to our test car is the seudecloth steering wheel that does its best to hide the giant old school wheel, but mostly fails. We’re also not impressed by the buttons on the center console that control items like dynamic mode and traction control as they feel flimsy and cheap. While on the topic of quality, the side mirrors would sometimes fold slightly inward and the center trim piece between the rear seats was removed at some point and now won’t go back on properly.
And then there is the infotainment unit. We’ll avoid going on another rant about this old school system as Jaguar Land Rover does have a new system and this car is about to be discontinued. But for a car that begins at $138,925 after destination charges, or just over $140,000 for a car equipped like this one here, the display graphics seem so out of date and simplistic. Furthermore, we can’t believe there Bluetooth audio streaming is still not included at this price point.
Of course space has never been a strong for the XR-RS. It is bigger than the F-Type and is technically a four-seat car, but with only 27.6-inches of rear legroom that disappears quickly when the front seat is position for human passengers. It’s best to ignore the two buckets back there for anything more than small children or cargo. And having extra cargo space is a good thing since the trunk barely has over seven cubic when the roof is down.
Although this car is well beyond its best before date and has a few suspect quality issues, we’re still going to miss the stylish brute. It has a certain charm that is lacking in most cars today and the final run special editions like the XKR-S convertible only further exaggerate the car’s flashy persona. Hopefully rumors of a new Jaguar GT returning in the next few years are true and more importantly, we hope it doesn’t lose the XK’s rebellious spirit.