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Jaguar XKR Speed review (2010 onwards)
What - Jaguar XKR Speed
Where - Goodwood, UK
Date - June 2010
Price - £79,000 (£79,500 with Black Pack, as tested)
Available - Now
Key rivals - Mercedes SL, Porsche 911, BMW M6, Aston Martin V8 Vantage, Maserati GranTurismo
Summary - New Speed Pack and Black Pack gives the Jaguar XKR a visual shot of adrenaline, accompanied by a new 174mph top speed.
We like - XKR power, performance and ride-handling balance, fab noise, very fast, very comfortable car
We don't like - the looks won't be for everyone, interior could do with a more comprehensive update
The Jaguar XKR coupé isn't exactly lacking in the machismo department - what with the 510hp 5.0-litre supercharged V8, the bonnet vents, the side vents, and the woofly, thumping, crackling exhaust.
But just in case you were thinking the XKR does look a little limp-wristed, Jaguar now has a solution: the Speed Pack, comprising extra chrome, sill extensions, a meaner looking aerodynamically stabilising front splitter and a bigger rear wing.
It needs to be aero-optimised, because alongside the exterior enhancements the Speed Pack also recalibrates the electronic limiter. So instead of hitting the artificial wall at 155, you can now knock on the door of 174mph.
And that's still limited. You'll need to take a trip to Germany to try it out, but we have no doubt the XKR can serve up those kinds of numbers - after all, essentially the same engine has propelled a totally derestricted XFR to 225mph.
Driving the XKR Speed in the UK sadly forced us to exercise a greater amount of restraint. But trust us - this car is not about to leave you disappointed in the performance department.
And if the Speed still isn't hard enough, fear not. It too can be upgraded with an optional Black Pack, darkening the exterior shiny bits and adding an exclusive set of 20-inch gloss black alloys wheels.
You can even have some Porsche 911 GT3-aping 'XKR' side-graphics; a little superficial but a nice precursor to the properly hardcore XKR 75 - a limited edition coming later this year with more power and tighter dynamics.
Not that there's much wrong with the regular XKR lump under the Speed's pouting front valance. 510hp is enough to propel this 1,762kg Jag from 0-62mph in just 4.8 seconds.
This is a fabulously muscular car, the engine feeling at once lazy yet unerringly powerful. Near silence at a cruise speaks of Jaguar's cosseting heritage, while the thunder unleashed when you stamp on the throttle is matched by ferocious velocity.
The XKR will pin you back into seat with severe determination if you're so inclined - the superb six-speed automatic gearbox providing snappy shifts and pleasingly paddle-driven manual responses.
There's loads of fun to be had here with the exhaust on downshifts, since if you time it right you not only get a smoothing blip, but the XKR will gurgle and crackle and pop with mischievous intent, anticipating the next heavy accelerator application.
Ask for the downshift too soon, however, and the Jag will wait and delivery as soon as it is able; we can't decide whether this very clever or very annoying - it can be quite a lengthy pause.
Ride and Handling
Jaguar does ride and handling like no other car manufacturer - we drove both the XF and the latest XJ on the same day as the XKR Speed, and they all share the same distinct chassis DNA.
The XKR is remarkable because with its continuously variable damping system it can achieve searing cross country pace that never needs to feel uncomfortable - absorbing the lumps and bumps of British tarmac while still delivering reassuringly taut cornering control.
This helps disguise its speed - useful if you want to make progress without upsetting the other half, but occasionally shocking when you glance to find unexpectedly large numbers on the speedo.
Regardless, the XKR is never dull. There's too much joy to be had in the purity and delicacy of its responses - you could even argue the steering is a smidgin too light - and the evocative sound of its engine.
The standard chassis settings are so well suited to UK roads that 'Dynamic' is almost superfluous - too firm, too abrupt, it corrupts some of the big coupé's fluency, and regardless of mode the stability control remains rather heavy handed.
If the back wheels start to slip it clamps down with rigid authority, momentarily cutting forward momentum, and lacking the easy going sophistication of some systems.
But when you're dealing with 461lb ft of torque maybe it's best to err on the side of caution. Even when the car is fitted with a fancy Active Differential Control. This also helps increase highspeed stability - no doubt handy at 174mph.
We did occasionally finding ourselves wishing the brakes were more incisive - painting the calipers red hasn't boosted the power or the feel - a symptom of the XKR's huge ground covering momentum.
The Speed Pack sees the side vents and rear diffuser also turned to body-colour - but if you want to spruce up the interior you'll need that Black Pack, too, adding a choice of charcoal hides with contrast stitching, and three optional veneers.
The XKR's cabin has always done the job, but Jaguar has recently upped the visual drama with the adoption of the pulsing starter button and rotary drive selector that emerges from the centre console as soon as you activate the ignition.
The paddleshifters feel a touch on the cheap side, which is a shame; rivals such as Porsche use proper metal, not plastic - Jaguar take note. And rear legroom appears to be a figment of the designers' imagination.
But the Bowers and Wilkins audio system is tremendous, and the general quality feels well up to the mark. The overall interior look perhaps lacks imagination, yet the control layout and comfort levels can't be denied.
Economy and Safety
Let's face it, a 5.0-litre supercharged V8 is never going to go down well with the Green Party. But given that this engine is 23 percent more powerful - with 12 percent more torque - than the engine it replaces, things could certainly be worse.
Officially it returns 23.0mpg combined, with 292g/km CO2 emissions. So you'll be forking over a fair amount in tax. Still, it accelerates from 50-70mph in just 1.9 seconds - do that a few times and you'll forgive and forget.
Safety kit comprises the just four airbags but a comprehensive suite of electronic aids - most of which you can totally disable if you desire. There's also a valet mode to prevent the hired help from stuffing the car into the scenery.
Additionally, the Jaguar XK is a friend to pedestrians, with its pyrotechnic pop-up bonnet saving them from heavy contact with the engine block should they wander into your path.
The MSN Cars Verdict
Time to talk cash. A regular XKR coupé will presently set you back £75,500. Adding the Speed Pack costs a further £3,500, while the Black Pack upgrade (only available with Speed) costs a further £500.
All things considered, we reckon an extra £4k isn't bad value for money on this kind of motor vehicle. But it's certainly not an essential purchase, since it hardly impacts the XKR's performance here in the UK.
And after all, the Jaguar XKR is a seriously fine automobile as standard. More soul than the German opposition, better and certainly less intimidating to drive than a much more costly Aston.
If you want to make it look hard as nails as well, then by all means go for these enhancements. Just don't forget the imminent XKR 75, reputed to be an all-round fiercer animal.
|Need to know|
|Engines petrol||5.0 supercharged|
|Torque lb ft||461|
|0-62 mph secs||4.8|
|Top speed mph||174|
|CO2 g/km / Tax %||292/35|
|Ratings out of five|
|Ride and handling||*****|
|MSN Cars verdict||****|
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