Review - Driving the most powerful Jag ever made

16/04/2013 - 10:34 | ,  ,   | Anjan Ravi

Jaguar XKR-S wallpaperNote: We conduct our acceleration tests on closed roads and take the highest of safety precautions while doing so. In the real world, we’re believers in obeying traffic rules, especially the speed limit and the seat belt and we urge our readers to do only that.

The road ahead is clear and the temperature is ideal. So is the tarmac. Two clicks on the touchscreen and the aircon of the XKR-S is switched OFF. I don’t need that, what I do need are all the horses the 5-liter supercharged V8 engine has. Plus, I don’t want to hear the aircon’s fan over the quad-exhausts.

Another long press on a button near the gear knob puts the most powerful Jaguar ever made into Dynamic mode. The traction control can stay on, I’m not going to switch that OFF when I know there are 542 ponies being fed solely to those rear wheels.

Deep breath and left index finger on the Start/Stop button. You can hear the battery assisting 8 cylinders arranged in a ‘V’ to move up and down, but you can hear this only for  a second. That’s when 97 octane fuel takes over and the world springs to life. All of a sudden my cold has been cured.

Jaguar XKR-S rear
This the view you will mostly have

I personally think referring to powerful cars as ‘monsters’ is a bit cliché. But an exception has to be made as that is the only way one can describe the Jaguar XKR-S, especially after hearing it. It’s like walking into a cave with a giant stick and poking a dozen tigers and waking them up. The noise that they make while you’re running for dear life is the aural thrill the XKR-S posses. I stop the engine and start it once again to satisfy the 7-year old child in me.

The gear knob is in Sport mode and the paddles give access to six speeds. Rev the engine slightly to 2.5k and release the brakes......30,60,80,100. In 4.4 seconds. I can hear the 5 liter supercharged engine screaming its head off, pulling you forward like its on a death mission.

170km/h and I flick the paddle without knowing which gear I’m getting into. A blind person can now mistake the Jag for a Ferrari thanks to the sheer roar coming from both, the front and the rear. The XKR-S is at 200km/h and there is still no trail off in power. 220 comes instantly and keep your right foot the way it is and you’ll be rewarded with 240 in the blink of an eye. Unfortunately our closed road is not long enough and I jab the brakes, after being satisfied with the 252km/h I just saw. Otherwise, Jaguar tell me 300km/h is the top speed of the XKR-S.

Why are we doing this test? 

Jaguar XKR-S side profile
The XKR-S is stunning from all angles

Now, you might think this is a bit pointless. A maniac Jaguar sportscar on Mumbai roads is not something you get to see very often. And there are very good reasons for that. Its expensive, its not economical, it doesn’t suit our road conditions...There are a million reasons I can find not to drive the XKR-S on our roads. But there are three good reasons why I should.

This is the most powerful Jaguar ever made*. Jaguar is owned by us Indians. So, as absurd as it may sound, technically, the XKR-S is the most powerful ‘Indian’ car there is!

Next, this XKR-S has the iconic 5 liter supercharged V8 engine. I’m a huge fan of this engine and it has been on my To-do list for a long time.

Finally, within the next few months, Jaguar will launch their F-Type in India. The F-Type being a sportscar will sit beneath the XK lineup. When I do get my hands on it, which I’m determined to, it’ll be nice to think about how different the F-Type is from the XK series.

Jaguar XKR-S GT front three quarters*Ironically, the day I got this car was the day Jaguar announced the XKR-S GT. But the GT still has the same engine with the same power and it’s only a few weight saving bits that reduce its 0-100km/h time. And more importantly, only 30 GT’s are being made for now with none destined for India. So the XKR-S can still boast of the title as the most powerful Jag ever made.


The Lay of the Land : Underneath, its got a 5-liter supercharged V8 'moore' (Motor)

Due apologies for that title but that’s something we would like our American readers to read. What we would also like our American readers to read is that this V8 produces 542bhp of power at 6500rpm while churning 680Nm between 2500 to 5500rpm.

So, 5-liter supercharged V8 engine at the front. 6 speed gearbox with a Sport mode and paddle shifts to control the engine. Power goes to the rear wheels.

Jaguar XKR-S engine bay
The heart and soul of the XKR-S

Now for a history lesson. This engine is part of the Jaguar AJV8 engine family that was incepted back in 1996 to replace the Jaguar straight six and the V12 engines. It has powered many a car, not to mention from different brands. Aston Martin started using this in their V8 Vantage (4.3-liter) since 2005. Then in 2008, Aston made a new design to it increasing the capacity to 4.7-liter and as a result increasing the power and torque as well.

This particular 5-liter engine was introduced in 2009 on an all new engine block, about a year after Jaguar was purchased by an Indian company called Tata Motors. Immediately it became a massive hit. It had the technology going for it: Spray guided direct injection, continuously variable intake and exhaust camshaft timing, a sixth gen twin vortex supercharger and a Denso Gen 1.6 Engine Management System. There are nearly 10 Jaguar Land Rover variants that make use of this engine in varying states of tune.

Jaguar XKR-S supercharger
Anything with the word 'Super' in it has to be good. Right?

And all for good reason. When it comes to the best engine I’ve ever seen in a car, this 5-liter easily takes the crown. BMW may have twin turbo-ed the M5 making it produce as much power and torque as this, but it doesn’t even come close to the Jag. The responsiveness of this V8 is in a completely different league. There is some amount of hooliganism to this engine that supercars must have. The new M5 feels a bit restrained when compared. The Lamborghini sourced 5.2 V10 in the R8 feels as though it has been detuned to offer lower noise, lower power and acceleration when compared to the Jag.

Jaguar XKR-S hood
You don't need to honk or flash your lights, people give way automatically!

The XKR-S thanks to this engine is extremely responsive and very quick. Most of the time, you can’t even hear the supercharger, making you believe that you’re in a good old, big naturally aspirated motor. But that’s still the second reason for owning one, the first being the emotional attachment any petrolhead would grow to have for this engine on this car.

It’s an XKR plus what you say? 

The normal XKR is powered by the same 5 liter engine albeit producing 503bhp of power and 625Nm of torque. As a result, 0-100km/h is a ‘slow’ and excruciating 4.8 seconds while you’ll have to do with 280km/h as your top speed. That is bad when you live in Dubai and the cop car happens to be the 300km/h plus Lamborghini Aventador.

Jaguar XKR-S bumperJaguar XKR-S tail light

[Left - Note the twin nacelle bumper and carbon fiber splitter. Right - Carbon fiber spoiler adds to the list]

The XKR-S, as a result of its higher state of tune is quicker and faster, thus boasting of the most powerful Jag ever made title. However, there are some other differences that set it apart from the mundane XKR.

The wheels for example, are 20-inch forged alloy wheels which are lighter in weight than those found on the the XKR. It even gets revised springs, revised dampers and a fully machined front knuckle. The XKR-S nearly touches the ground thanks to its 10mm ride height reduction.

Jaguar XKR-S brake calliper
Red brake callipers for the most powerful Jag ever made

To handle the extra power, the XKR-S gets Jaguar’s High Performance Braking system which are signaled by the red brake callipers. An advanced Active Diff ensures that your craving of hooliganism is well fed. And to please your ears, an Active Exhaust with quad tail pipes sit at the back. These accompany the Carbon fiber diffuser and the huge rear wing which is also swathed in Carbon fiber. And to keep your fetish for the material strong, there is a carbon fiber splitter at the front as well. Inside, there are plenty of leather bits made to look like carbon fiber.

In order to scare the person in front of you in giving way, he’ll be able to see the twin nacelle front bumper with side air intakes. And get it in this angry supercar blue color (aptly named as French Racing Blue) and give way he will.

How does it sound? 

Jaguar XKR-S exhaust pipe
Sound from the exhaust is sublime

More than the power, this 5-liter engine is all about noise. At idle, the gurgling sound gives you the pre-drive excitement. Imagine a giant gargling mouth wash if you may.

The deep throaty V8 sound continues to about 3000rpm. It was from there on that the XKR-S surprised me. From here till its redline, you will mistake this Jag for a F430, for that is how it sounds. And I’m not talking about exhaust noise, I mean the noise from the thing that sits in front of you. It’s genuinely exciting to drive the XKR-S on an open road.

What is it like inside? 

Jaguar XKR-S interior
For a supercar, the interior is pretty user friendly

You can definitely describe the interiors as luxurious and minimalist. The steering wheel sports a similar design to that of the XF. Even the instrument cluster (apart from the 300km/h upper limit) reminds you of the XF.

The gear lever rises from the central tunnel when the ignition is switched ON. Just behind it are the essential buttons for Dynamic mode and traction control. Above the gear lever is a 7-inch touchscreen through which you can control your navigation (which is pathetic on all Jags) and the Bowlers&Wilkins stereo system.

Jaguar XKR-S seatsJaguar XKR-S steering wheel

[Left - Sports seats uncomfortable for city. Right - Steering looks like the XF's and is easy to use]

There are sport seats up in front which make you feel part of the chassis of the car while the small rear bench can only be used for non-living things.

You would be crazy to take the XKR-S for your shopping. But if you did, you’ll find the reasonably large boot (in supercar terms) very accommodating at 313 liters.

Jaguar XKR-S frameless doorJaguar XKR-S boot

[Left - Frameless doors complete the looks. Right - Pretty decent boot for a supercar]

Handling, brakes and the other fun stuff supercar drivers like to do

The brakes are just excellent. Press the pedal and the car stops, as simple as that. If it doesn’t, trust the airbags, which are in plenty for an interior this size, to save you. The grip from the Pirelli PZero’s is terrific as well.

Now for the handling, I’m ashamed to say that I wasn’t able to drive it through a nice winding road and revel in the rear wheel drive. So take my review with a dash of...Sugar?

Jaguar XKR-S carbon fiber spoilerJaguar XKR-S badging

[Above - It is the most powerful car Jaguar has ever made, badging is pretty discreet for that]

The steering feel is fantastic and the car is eager to turn in to the corner and it takes very little time to figure out how much steering you need for a corner. As for the handling, the XKR-S stays pretty much flat throughout any bend thanks to its Active dampers.

Can you drive it in the city? 

You can, if you’re very careful of the speed-breakers. Otherwise, the XKR-S is a very painful thing to drive in the city thanks to its suspension which makes you feel every single undulation on the road. The sports seats don’t help in cushioning you.

It certainly gets tiring driving it in the city and there is a very simple reason for that.. It wasn’t built to go through Mumbai city roads. This is more for a track and it clearly shows.

After driving it in city speeds for about half hour, I touched the bonnet and it was a bit more than warm. After driving it flat out and taking it to 252km/h the bonnet was cold! Even the engine then is more for the track or a nice empty road.

Why I would buy it 

Jaguar XKR-S front view
Stunning XKR-S is an emotional buy

The XKR-S has a terrible ride. It’s not economical and affordable and it has a very low ground clearance to boot as well. But there are things like the 5-liter supercharged engine, the exhaust, the great looks of the car that pitch in its favor. This car is like a dinosaur, but if someone were to take it away from you, you wouldn’t let them.

But the best part is in saying that the car you’re driving has got a ‘5-liter supercharged V8 engine’! It feels magical to say it, over and over again.

The competition

Jaguar XKR-S side ventJaguar XKR-S front grille

[Left - Side vent with 'Jaguar' written in it standard in all Jags these days. Right - R-S badging at the front grille]

The XKR-S comes to about 1.7 crores on road Mumbai. At this price point, there is little to choose from. You can find an everyday usable supercar in the Audi R8 V10.

Or you could by yourself some British in the Aston Martin V8 Vantage. Though I haven’t driven it to tell you how it is, (yet), I’ve heard the 4.7-liter V8 sing and it is a delight. And last but not the least, its an Aston Martin. So Aston vs Jag, that’s a tough call. For me, it would be the Aston though.

Would you like to know the fuel efficiency?

Jaguar XKR-S hood decalJaguar XKR-S decals

[Above - XKR-S decals for the added oomph]

You really want to know? Surprisingly, the XKR-S manages 3km/l considering it was launched and taken to speeds in excess of 230km/h multiple times. That is about how much the R8 would also. The RS5 has a 4.2-liter V8 and that averages at about the same. So all in all, decent fuel efficiency from the XKR-S. Although 97 octane fuel will prove to be expensive in filling up the 85 liter tank.

What I Liked 

  • The 5-liter supercharged V8 engine
  • The exhaust bark
  • The 5-liter supercharged V8 engine..
  • and the 5-liter supercharged V8 engine

What I Disliked

  • Terrible ride quality on city roads
  • Navigation system is next to useless as there wasn’t any for the Indian roads

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