Like Mercedes and BMW, Jaguar has a strong tradition of producing stylish drop-tops that mix huge performance with head-turning looks and cosseting luxury. Its back catalogue includes legendary cars such as the XK120, E-Type and XJ-S, so the XKR-S Convertible has a lot to live up to.
There’s no denying the new Jaguar has all the right ingredients to be mentioned in the same breath as those illustrious predecessors. Based on the already rapid XKR, the flagship S features a more powerful 542bhp supercharged 5.0-litre V8, stiffer springs and dampers, tweaked steering and lighter alloy wheels. It’s also been given a significant visual makeover.
The most obvious change is the bold aerodynamic bodykit, which is made up of large turning vanes on the front bumper, extended side sills and a huge tailgate wing. It’s designed to make the Jag more stable at speed, but it looks like an afterthought and spoils the otherwise graceful, elegant lines.
Inside, the changes are less obvious. There’s a pair of chunky, high-backed seats, plus a sprinkling of XKR-S badges, but otherwise it’s the same as a normal XK. That means lots of standard kit and plenty of soft leather. Yet these additions can’t disguise a dated design and cramped dimensions. Those in the front get less room than in the BMW and Merc, while the rear seats are barely big enough for small kids. It’s best to think of them as extra capacity to complement the boot, which shrinks to 200 litres with the roof stowed.
When it’s raised, the fabric hood gives the cabin the same snug feel as the coupé. However, you’ll want to have the powered roof down as much as possible, as it gets you even closer to the intoxicating soundtrack of the Jaguar’s supercharged engine. At idle, it burbles menacingly, while at high revs it erupts into a spine-tingling blare that’s reminiscent of WWII fighter plane. Better still, the XK has the bite to match its bark.
Although it’s hobbled by an old-fashioned six-speed automatic gearbox and has no launch control, the Jaguar demolished the 0-60mph sprint in only 4.5 seconds. Its in-gear acceleration is equally electrifying, allowing you to blast past slow traffic in an instant. Yet despite its ferocious performance, the XKR-S isn’t intimidating to drive at all.
The well weighted steering is direct and precise, which helps the Jaguar dive into corners with enthusiasm, while its beautifully balanced chassis allows you to subtly adjust the car’s line using the throttle. Engage the Dynamic setting and the adaptive dampers firm up, the throttle response sharpens and the gearshifts become more aggressive.
The XKR-S isn’t as poised or grippy as the SL63, but this doesn’t detract from the engaging driving experience and the less focused suspension gives a smoother ride, helping make the Jag a comfortable cruiser.
It looks good for the XKR-S, but there’s one stumbling block: its £103,430 price, which is £18,500 more than the standard XKR. Will this cost it in the final reckoning?