If there’s one brand that can match Porsche for high-performance heritage, it’s Jaguar. For more than 70 years, this company has been delivering classy coupés that mix scorching speed, sports car agility and relaxing long-distance refinement.
The latest in this long line of memorable models is the recently revised XKR. With its muscular supercharged V8 engine, uprated chassis and great-value price, the pretty coupé presents a very strong challenge to the legendary 911 Carrera S.
Further improving the Jag’s chances of success is the new XKR Dynamic Pack fitted to our car. It costs an extra £6,130, and adds even lower and stiffer suspension, steering tweaks and revised Adaptive Dynamics, plus the electronic limiter is removed, raising top speed to 174mph.
On the outside, the XFR is distinguished by its bonnet vents and large rear spoiler, while the Dynamic Pack adds extended side skirts and polished 20-inch Vulcan alloys.
Inside, the XKR is more cramped than the Porsche. It’s not uncomfortable, but there’s less head and shoulder room for front seat passengers, while the individual rear seats are only suitable for children. But a hatchback opening gives easy access to the 330-litre boot.
Cabin quality is up to scratch, thanks to top-notch materials and excellent fit and finish. What’s more, there’s plenty of equipment, with sat-nav, a heated steering wheel and Bluetooth all fitted as standard.
Yet it’s what’s under the bonnet that will get keen drivers excited. A supercharger helps the 5.0-litre V8 deliver a thumping 503bhp, which is 108bhp more than the Porsche. But as it lacks hi-tech launch control, the Jag wasn’t able to match the 911’s blistering 0-60mph time of 3.7 seconds – it needed a further seven tenths to complete the sprint.
However, once up and running, the XKR provides mid-range punch that the Carrera simply can’t match. With a whopping 625Nm of torque at only 2,500rpm, the Jag pulverised the Porsche for in-gear acceleration. Unfortunately, the XKR’s big advantage is wiped out when you get to a corner. Despite upgraded front suspension, a 10mm lower ride height and tweaked adaptive dampers, the Dynamic Pack Jaguar can’t match the 911 Carrera S’s peerless agility, grip and driver involvement.
Engaging Dynamic mode sharpens the throttle and further stiffens the dampers, while exhaust baffles open to deliver a spine-tingling V8 bark. But there’s little feedback through the steering, and this saps your confidence on twisty back roads. And in anything other than bone-dry conditions, the Jaguar’s rear wheels can spin suddenly while you’re accelerating, even with the traction control system engaged.
It’s not all bad, though. The brakes are powerful and progressive, while the six-speed automatic gearbox is more predictable than the Porsche’s and delivers smooth shifts. And although the ride is firm, the quiet cabin and effortless performance make the XKR an excellent long-distance cruiser.
Factor in its great-value £78,550 price tag, performance potential and long list of kit, and the Jaguar is far from outclassed.
Chart position: 2WHY: Jaguar is on a roll with new Indian owner Tata pulling the strings. The XKR is powerful enough to keep the 911 honest and will test its GT credentials.