Technology is addictive stuff, because when it works beautifully, you just want to repeat the experience.
It’s not everyday you get to drive a supercar. So yes, I had fun.
Take the distinctive transmission button inside the Jaguar XKR-S. Push the `Start’ button and the silvery dial glides upward, like some kind of Smeg designer oven control. It’s just a tiny detail, but the way it works so effortlessly is a massive hint that the XKR is all about the technology of explosive, efficient and utterly ruthless speed.
HOW FAST DOES IT GO MISTER?
Have you ever ridden a modern Superbike, something like a Yamaha R1, Honda Fireblade, Ducati 1098 maybe? The XKR-S has that same immediate, gut-pulling punch of acceleration.
The spec sheet says 0-60 in 4.2 seconds, with a top speed of 186mph, with that kick-ass 550bhp performance delivered from a 5-litre V8. That plain description doesn’t really tell the story however. This is a car which can be transformed within a second, from a pleasantly burbling automatic around town, into a brawling street racer.
Nope, it isn’t a great rear view for parking. But hey, there’s a rear camera.
Just a flick on the paddle shift, or a simple jab at the throttle with your foot – it’s away on you. Full noise from those four exhausts, cabin full of V8 music, traction control keeping those enormous tyres stuck to the Tarmac.
The XKR-S overwhelms your senses. You just shut up and drive. Every idea you had about what made a car `fast’ vanishes, about as quickly as petrol through the injection system.
IS THE XKR-S A RACE CAR FOR THE PUBLIC ROAD?
Certainly there are race car touches. The brakes are big red calipers, mounted on discs the size of Thor’s shield. The XKR-S sits low to the ground, there’s a serious looking carbon spoiler on the rear of the car and vents in the bonnet to feed a fresh gulp of air to the fuel injectors at speed.
No messing about brakes. They work beautifully.
But the XKR-S has a genuinely luxurious interior, which is a million miles from the stripped-out, sparse brutality of a real racer. Touch the chrome seat adjustment buttons on the door and make everything fit you like a glove. Play with the music system. Make a phone call.
Try the reversing camera out, or freeze-dry your hair, Van Damme style, with the climate control.
The XKR-S does all things you expect. It’s got all the luxury lifestyle toys. It does live and breathe for Paddock Hill, not Primrose Hill.
CRAZY FAST, SUPER SAFE
Yes, it’s easy to end up going way too fast in the XKR-S, but if you do arrive at say a T-junction on a country road and need to scrub off about 60mph in 70 feet, this car can do it. No drama, no tyre smoke, just fearsome stopping power when you need it.
Interior is a mix of functional trackday features and business class luxury.
The car also handles with a totally focussed, but understated ability. The steering and suspension gives you all the feedback you need, so you push on just a little bit more on each corner. It doesn’t get twitchy, or `whiteline’ over ridges on the road, it just keeps everything feeling 100% spot-on.
Technology you see. Adaptive Dynamics they call it at Jaguar, which means the suspension varies its settings the harder you drive. It knows you want to press on, then firms everything up before you can say `pass me that C-spanner.’
If you can’t afford a private lake of unleaded petrol for your £97,000 Jaguar XKR-S supercar, then please leave this page for the Kia Picanto review on Mumsnet.
I guess I should mention the Smooth FM 6-speed automatic gearbox, which lets you play sweet soul music with that V8 engine. Naturally you can set cruise control if you need to save your licence on a deserted section of the M74 one night.
The sound from those four pipes is something unique.
The XKR-S has a pedestrian sensor program for town driving, which is probably a good idea, as once you’re inside the XKR-S you really are set low to the ground and the view of the front end is a bit limited.
It’s got auto locking, plus a proximity ignition key with valet mode, so your Downton Abbey staff can buff up the leather interior sections without the car shouting `Help, poor people are stealing me!’
The central 7-inch screen on the dashboard lets you set up your sat nav, connect an iPod/MP3 and vary the mood lighting inside the car. I’ll be honest, it took a good ten minutes to relax in the XKR-S, it just feels like a coil-sprung, hard-as-nails kick-boxer, waiting to get into a cage fight.
So yeah, press `shuffle’ on the Eagles Greatest Hits and turn the mood lighting to deep indigo. Whatever gets you through the day…
IF I WON THE LOTTERY, WOULD I BUY ONE?
This wild, heavy breathing muscle car is just too much for the public road. Everyone stares at you, wondering if you might be Mario Ballotelli about to dish out free cash. Drivers in company BMWs hammer the throttle, just to make you nail the Jag and get past them – they feel they need to see, and hear, all that expensive engineering in action.
I just couldn’t be bothered. I’d hire the XKR-S for a trackday, then drive home in an XF, or a Merc S350S diesel maybe. Anonymous and happy, with a points-free licence too, hopefully.
But if you are a premiership footballer, hip Swedish DJ, or member of the Russian oil and gas mafia, then the XKR-S will announce to the world that you indeed fabulously wealthy, and a magnet for every gold-digging sex pest on reality TV.
Seat buttons are a joy to use. Intuitive, solid feel.
The XKR-S is, like a Rolex, a statement of wealth and power, yet it’s also an utterly immersive, overpowering experience. It is something a driver could love, admire and enjoy using. It demands your total concentration and frankly, not many modern cars do, they’re too easy to drive.
I liked feeling nervous, edgy even, as I drove the XKR-S. The boys at Jaguar have built a car that reminds the rich they are mortal, on every 120mph corner. For that, they deserve a round of applause.