Jaguar’s new lease of life

Ryan Borroff
IT might have been disappointing but it came as no surprise that there was no chance for me to test the maximum speed of Jaguar’s fastest XKR yet, even at Goodwood’s race track.

Jaguar’s latest optional Speed Pack really turns up the heat. Underneath it’s the usual Jaguar XKR with its 503bhp supercharged V8 but now the volume is turned up to eleven. Top speed is elevated to 174mph – after some clever tweaking with the engine control unit (ECU) – from the usual restricted 155mph. The result is an XKR that is even more extreme to drive and look at plus it puts the car firmly in supercar territory.

Ok, it’s a £3.5k price hike to turn your fantastically British and quite beautiful Jaguar XKR into this, a possibly less beautiful but definitely more dramatic supercar version. This one is tricked out in bright red body paint, matching 20-inch black alloy wheels and bright red brake calipers. Though you can also specify the car in white, or with a stealthy black paint job to match the wheels.

My car was also enhanced by the Black Pack – a £4k styling option for the XKR that sees all of the car’s grilles and gills turn dark with even the chrome window surrounds in black – the result is that the muscular beauty of the standard XKR is transformed into something far more menacing, particularly if the body is painted in black.

The car does feel spectacularly fast. It also makes a quite deliciously industrial noise – rather than a “soundtrack” – like 100 blacksmiths hammering pig iron. There’s something fantastically locomotive about driving it, as if you’re driving a car that has to be both respected and kept on a tight leash. Its 0-60mph time of 4.6 secs is certainly quick and the acceleration is relentless.

I love the way the car feels. There’s something magically old-school about this Jag. Somehow it feels like I’m driving in an earlier decade before people engineered the personality out of cars. At Goodwood Jaguar lays on a performance demonstration – a slalom through some road cones at speed and braking – to show us hacks how the XKR differs from the standard XK. The differences are immediately obvious; brakes and steering are way better on the XKR and there was much less “sway” in hard cornering. So of the XKR’s advantages over the standard car, I’m convinced, but what about the price hike for the Speed Pack?

God only knows where you can easily drive the car at anywhere above 155mph and on to 174mph, but should you find somewhere and you do take the car to such a speed, I’ve no doubt that the noise will be thunderous and you’ll only want to listen to the engine. But that’s not the point. One can’t help thinking that this is the XK that Jaguar’s engineers always wanted to make, so it will undoubtedly be the one that a lot of people are going to want to drive.