Supercat on prowl

1 Nov, 2006 (All day)

We reveal top-secret bid to build fastest-ever coupe

Check out the claws on this Big Cat! Auto Express has got the inside line on the most exciting new Jaguar since the XJ220 supercar. It's a sports GT that promises to send the famous British maker into uncharted territory, and is set to become the firm's fastest-ever coupé.

This is the XKR-R, a more powerful version of the range-topping two-door, which will challenge premier league performance cars such as the Aston Martin V8 Vantage and Porsche 911 Turbo.

Our pictures are based on exclusive insider information. Expected to take inspiration from Jaguar's new endurance project, the XKR-R will get a deep front splitter, low side skirts and Venturi-style tunnels at the rear. Mesh grilles, a larger bonnet air intake and brake ducts complete the aggressive nose, while flared wheel­arches and huge 20-inch alloys add further visual punch. The look is finished off by a racing stripe and big rear wing.

But despite its track looks, the XKR-R won't be a stripped-out racer. In the past, Jaguar has produced lightweight versions of its road cars, but the new model will stick to the firm's core themes of accessible power and luxury.

While racing bucket seats and carbon fibre trim will save weight, it's the uprated engine that will make the most difference to performance. Engineers are likely to boost the XKR's 4.2-litre supercharged V8 from 420bhp to more than 500bhp, thanks to a reprogrammed ECU, uprated variable valve timing with an increased rev limit and a free-flowing exhaust. The firm will also change the gearing on the supercharger, forcing it to blow even harder.

With a new six-speed paddle­shift auto, that should mean the 0-60mph sprint is covered in 4.5 seconds, while a top speed in excess of 180mph is possible. Larger brakes and retuned adaptive dampers will also appear.

But talk of the XKR-R is controversial, not least because of Jaguar's financial situation. Officially, projects outside of the programme to replace the S-Type are off-limits.

Parent firm Ford is insistent that Jaguar must make a return on the massive investment in it before the firm is allowed free rein on cars such as the XKR-R. However, internal support for the car is huge, and a development timetable for the newcomer is being openly discussed behind the scenes.

A further factor in the XKR-R's favour is the sale of sister brand Aston Martin. Until now, Jaguar's top sports models haven't been allowed to step on the toes of Aston's products - but with Ford actively looking to shift the firm, Jaguar's path is clear. There's no doubt the XKR-R would be a stunning flagship - all the company needs to do now is build it.

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