Jaguar XK

An exclusive first ride of Jaguar's XKR reveals a superb engine and handling

Overall Auto Express Rating

5.0 out of 5

There's no doubt that Jaguar’s new 420bhp V8-engined XKR is an incredibly exciting machine. As our exclusive first ride quickly proved, its engine and handling are superb, and it looks absolutely fantastic. We’ll have to reserve full judgement until we carry out a proper road test later this year, but on the basis of this breathtaking experience, rivals should be afraid of the latest Big Cat.

Auto Express has done it again! Jaguar’s storming new XKR has been unleashed on the UK’s roads – and we were the first in line to grab a ride.

Our exclusive with this one-off, bright yellow demonstrator brings you an up-close experience of the stunning supercharged coupé, in advance of its showroom debut later this year. Follow-ing in the tyre tracks of the recently launched XK, the R will go head-to-head with premier league performance cars, including the Aston Martin Vantage, BMW’s M6 and Mercedes’ SL55 AMG.

With more power and sharper handling, it’s better equipped than ever to beat them, too, as our high-speed blast on the hill climb course at the Goodwood Festival of Speed in West Sussex proved. Chauffeured by Jaguar’s chief engineer, Mike Cross, our special model wears similar bonnet louvres to the original XKR.

The new-generation machine also gets aluminium mesh air vents, a revised rear bumper with space for the quad tailpipes, plus a choice of 19-inch and 20-inch alloys. The changes may not seem dramatic compared to the ‘base’ XK but, in the flesh, less is more – and the Big Cat strikes a spectacular balance between aggression and elegance.

Inside, an alloy finish for the dash, figure-hugging sports seats and XKR badging complete the visual changes. But underneath the skin, engineers have really been to town. The supercharged 4.2-litre V8 unit pumps out 420bhp and 597Nm of torque – 20bhp and 44Nm more than the previous car. Combined with a 1,665kg kerbweight – 70kg less than its predecessor – this is enough to propel the flagship from 0-60mph in 4.9 seconds, and 50-75mph in 2.5 seconds. Meanwhile, the top speed is electronically limited to 155mph.

Sitting in the passenger seat, two things immediately impress: the relentless force of the acceleration and the noise. Thanks to a tweaked version of the XK’s six-speed automatic transmission, gearshifts are even faster, taking only 600 milliseconds. And with steering wheel-mounted paddles, Jaguar promises that the driver will feel plug-ged directly into the experience.

Enhancing this sense is the firm’s Active Exhaust system, which features special valves in the tailpipes which open under hard acceleration. They’ve been tuned to allow the V8 engine’s roar to enter the cabin rather than being drowned out by the whine of the supercharger. And with a thunderous, hard-edged rumble, it sounds fantastic!

The XKR also boasts exceptional handling, with uprated springs, revised active dampers and the addition ofa suspension brace at the rear. An improved two-stage traction control system – which allows progressively more wheelslip – helps the big coupé to dive into corners. As a result, the car feels amazingly taut and grips hard.

Even from the passenger seat, it’s clear Jaguar has created a special machine. Not only is it quick in a straight line, but it handles as well as any of its rivals. In Mike Cross’s hands, the pace is truly spectacular. And while we can’t wait until our own test drive, one thing is already very clear – the XKR might be yellow, but it’s far from mellow.

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