Jaguar XK

In recent months, Jaguar has been hitting the headlines for all the wrong rea­sons

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Fans of the outgoing XKR will adore the all-new model, and those who venture out for a test drive with a view to trading in their Mercedes, Porsche, Maserati or BMW are likely to find themselves falling for its obvious charms and depth of ability. Jaguar’s XKR is teetering close to perfection. Here’s hoping it’s the start of great things to come from a beleaguered brand...

In recent months, Jaguar has been hitting the headlines for all the wrong rea­sons. The brand appears to be spending cash faster than it is earning, while parent firm Ford is taking flak over the management of the Coventry manufacturer’s seemingly bottomless moneypit.

What the company urgently needs now is a range of excellent new models to remind the world exactly what it is that’s so great about Jaguar. And here, in the shape of the new XKR, we have precisely that. We’ve already had a ride in a pre-production variant (Issue 918), but now we can deliver a verdict from behind the wheel.

On sale now, priced from £67,495, the new high-performance flagship has plenty to set the pulse racing, from its lightweight aluminium construction to a development of Jag’s existing supercharged 4.2-litre V8 powerplant.

There’s a new F1-style paddleshift for the six-speed auto gearbox, while the styling is by Ian Callum – the man credited with returning Aston Martin to form by creating the DB7 and Vanquish. And his handiwork is clear in the newcomer. Although the standard version oozes class, the pumped-up XKR adds more visual menace to the coupé’s graceful curves.

The sense of occasion continues on the inside, which is classic Jaguar with a twist. Olde-worlde leather trim and deep-pile carpet meet turned aluminium (admittedly a nod to the past, rather than groundbreaking technology), plus touch-screen and voice-activated command systems, along with the steering wheel gear controls. It’s a sharp contrast but, crucially, a pleasing one.

A smattering of XKR logos gets you in the mood as you reach for the starter button (keyless ignition in the XK) and wake the big cat coupé from its slumber. And this is where it starts to get really interesting. The electronic­ally controlled exhaust system imme­diately signals the XKR’s new-found performance, howling into life and settling to a sinister snarl until the engine management calms it down. Slip the auto into Drive and the motor burbles merrily, alerting the senses and spread­ing a smile across your face.

Despite its more focused feel, the familiar Jaguar traits remain. The suspension smothers out any flaws in the tarmac, co­cooning occupants without detaching the driver from the action. CATS (Compu­ter Active Tech­nology Sus­pension), up­rated springs and dampers, plus big Brembo brakes help to ensure control at all times.

Under hard acceleration, the XKR belts towards the horizon with total determination, covering 0-60mph in less than five seconds. It comes at a price – fuel economy struggles to return any more than 22.9mpg.

But it’s somehow worth the cost. The XKR has remar­k­able decorum, riding smoothly and serenely without feeling flustered or soft when you use the full 420bhp and 560Nm of torque. Doing so is particularly satisfying when you employ the paddleshifts. In the Convertible, the acoustic experience is even better, as it develops into a tremendously rich, surround-sound experience.

The rest of the package is also very impressive, although the cabriolet is noticeably less dynamically responsive and direct as a driving machine. But as a poser’s car, it is first rate. Buffeting is kept to a minimum, the heater and air-conditioning both work superbly and, with the hood closed, refinement is as good as any soft-top gets.

Although it isn’t cheap, the XKR is comparatively great value. Such presence, character and performance elsewhere can add £10,000 to the price. A grand tourer par excellence, the Jaguar fulfils its brief – and then some.

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