If you’ve been gagging for a bit of high speed, roof-down action, then we’ve got great news — the automotive sex symbol that is the Jaguar XKR-S has just gone topless. It’s a more seductive proposition the coupe, but can it give its lid-sporting cousin a run for its money where raw speed and handling are concerned?
To find out, we fastened our hair-pieces with extra-strength double-sided tape, dropped the top and set about putting this £103,000, 186mph grand tourer through its paces.
Many manufacturers, when building a convertible, simply lop the roof off a coupe and hope for the best. They add strengthening materials to compensate for the loss off a rigidity, send their cars out into the big wide world, and pray furiously that their new creations don’t twist themselves to pieces when going round a corner.
Jaguar’s approach in creating the XKR-S Convertible is slightly more sophisticated. The car is based on the company’s versatile XK platform, which was designed to accommodate both coupe and convertible body styles from the outset. As a result, when the company circumcised the roof, it was able to do so, it says, without compromising structural integrity.
There are some changes, obviously. That retractable soft top (and the motors used to move it about) are heavier than the aluminium lid in the coupe. Total weight increases by 47kg, but that’s
a relatively tiny increase in the grand scheme of things (the Audi R8 Spyder weighs around 100Kg more than the R8 coupe.)
The Jaguar XKR-S comes with four seats, but we’d classify it as a two-seater. It’s possible for a single adult to sit side-saddle across the two rear seats (in great agony) and you might be able to squeeze two small children into that space, but the child protection agency might classify this as abuse. Realisitically, the rear pews are best used for dumping a small bag on those occasions when you can’t be bothered to open the boot.
When you need to carry a larger load than your trophy mister or mistress, the boot will serve you well. It provides 330 litres of space, which is a bit more than you get in a supermini such as as the Volkswagen Polo. It’s enough for a week’s worth of shopping, a couple of small to medium-sized suitcases or a large champagne hamper for those filthy weekends away.
Front seat passengers will find the cabin is a relatively pleasant place to hang out. The seats are infinitely adjustable, comfortable and supportive. There are lots of places to stash your mobile phone and other gadgets, ample space in the glove compartment for more than just gloves, plus door bins that are large enough to accommodate a couple of bottles of water, keys, and a hearty supply of confectionery for those long trips.
Performance & handling
Jaguar claims the XKR-S convertible offers much the same performance and handling as the coupe model, and we’re inclined to agree. Both cars use Jaguar’s mammoth 5-litre supercharged V8 engine. Power is boosted from 500bhp (as seen in the standard XKR) to 542bhp thanks to a clever new exhaust system.
The most important feature of this exhaust is the fact it’s missing a piece. Jaguar has removed one of the resonators that helped keep the exhaust from destroying the ear drums of passers by and replaced it with an X-shaped section that helps reduce the amount of pressure flowing back into the engine. The end result is an engine that breathes more freely, an exhaust that sounds, at high revs, as if it’s angry with the entire planet, and staggering performance.
0-60mph occurs in a blistering 4.2 seconds and the car will continue accelerating until it hits a terminal velocity of 186mph. We know this because we achieved it. We had the pleasure of taking the XKR-S Convertible on a top speed run (with the top down, obviously) on the runway of an active military airbase, where it reached its claimed top speed with zero drama. Actually, that’s a lie — there was plenty of drama, but only from the car’s excited occupants.
On the road, the XKR-S feels even quicker. Plant the throttle and it’ll unleash a torrent of torque and power that will see you devour vast stretches of road in the blink of an eye. Overtaking slow, or even fast traffic is like shooting large fish in a tiny barrel. Push your right foot as far as it’ll go and the XKR-S will make a mockery of the laws of physics. Trying not to giggle like an excited teenager in the midst of this staggering, on-demand pace is an exercise in futility.
The car’s handling felt properly sorted, too. It acquitted itself well on twistier sections of road, providing lots of steering feedback, and confidence-inspiring levels of grip with little or no sign of the dreaded scuttle shake that plagues lesser convertibles. Jaguar reckons it’ll lap the Nurburgring in a similar time to the coupe, which is no small achievement.
It’s not all peaches and cream, though. The car’s 7-speed automatic gearbox is occasionally lethargic and unresponsive compared to the twin-clutch systems on rival cars. We fluffed more than a few gear changes — even with the paddle shifters, which are meant to be idiot proof. None of this really matters, however. Missing gear changes is almost irrelevant as the car has access to so much torquqe — 680Nm to be precise — that it’ll accelerate like a surfer in a tsunami no matter what gear you’re in.
Economy & environment
Petrol station owners will grow intimately familiar with the Jaguar XKR-S, as it’s a very thirsty car. That huge engine gulps down fuel at a rate of 23mpg on the combined cycle, and dips just below 15mpg if driven around town. These numbers, it should be noted, are attainable only if you are miserly in your use of the throttle. If you drive the XKR-S Convertible with the ferocity it deserves, you’ll need a second mortgage to keep its fuel tank full.
Emissions aren’t much to write home about, either. Except if that letter is to explain how poor the emissions are. The car spits CO2 at a rate of 292g/km, which is noticeably more than a Porsche 911 (242g/km) but considerably less than similarly powerful V12 brutes such as the Aston Martin DBS Volante (388g/km).
Equipment & value
The XKR-S Convertible has a relatively good, if unspectacular, range of equipment. All versions come with a 7-inch touchscreen display, through which the majority of the car’s cabin functions — dual-zone climate controls, entertainment and navigation included — can be accessed.
The XKR-S’s cabin tech is identical to that of the current XK, which hasn’t seen a significant upgrade in some time now. As a result, it’s no longer cutting edge and sorely lacking in connected functionality (there’s no real-time traffic information, no Internet radio etc.). That said, it has all the gadgets you’d expect in a car of this ilk. Adaptive cruise control comes in handy on long journeys, and the automatic headlights that move with the steering wheel are useful when creeping around back streets at night. The highlight of the XKR-S’s cabin tech is a quite wonderful Bowers & Wilkins audio system, which is amongst the very best we’ve seen in any drop top sports car.
Jaguar hasn’t ever put an XKR-S through a Euro NCAP crash test, so there’s no way of telling how many of your limbs will fall off in the event of an accident. However it’s worth noting Jaguar’s XF saloon falls shy of the maximum 5 star rating. We don’t hold much hope the faster, lighter, XKR-S model is much safer.
As thrills go, the XKR-S Convertible is far from cheap. However those who splash out on this gorgeous grand tourer will be repayed a thousands times. The car goes like electrified stink, provides a genuinely enjoyable driving experience, and looks utterly fantastic.
Cars such as the Porsche 911 deliver similar thrills using more efficient engines, but the XKR-S Convertible’s marriage of nuanced handling and sheer brute force is so intoxicating, you’ll find it impossible to walk away from — even after you’ve reached your destination. If you’re looking for a chic sporting GT with a truly naughty side, you need look no further.
Model tested: Jaguar XKR-S Convertible
Engine: 5.0-litre supercharged V8
Acceleration: 0-62 in 4.2 seconds
Top speed: 186mph
Emissions: 292g/km CO2