THERE was a moment — like all the best moments in a lifetime of motoring it was unplanned and unrehearsed
Motoring review by Nigel Wigmore
THERE was a moment — like all the best moments in a lifetime of motoring it was unplanned and unrehearsed — when out of the motorway mist hoved the lumbering shape of an aged Lamborghini.
This Lambo, battering along in the outside lane, was no new flash one but a silver Countach, the one with a V12 engine like a wardrobe tacked flat on its back.
As it passed this week’s drive, the Jaguar XKR-S Convertible, the Lambo’s driver glanced across. It was an appreciative look: the Jaguar XK in French Racing Blue livery is the epitome of the ultra-fast, modern, road-going sports car.
During the next few miles, we swopped exhaust notes in what can only be described as a boys-will-be-boys moment. Silly, I know, but I shall always remember the Lambo blasting off into the sunset towards Bristol while we turned off to catch the Cheltenham road.
Driving a car like the Jaguar XKR-S can affect you this way: it has the awesome performance of a superbike on four wheels and is, in common parlance, a right belter of a car. It can top 155 mph, rips from a standing start to 62 mph in 4.6 seconds, and roars like a big cat on demand. I had to ask myself: does life get any better than this?
Some years ago, in Chipping Campden, I went to the launch of the new Jaguar XK. Then I drove a black convertible and marvelled at its speed and agility. But what struck me most about the new XK was that it was refreshingly uncomplicated and easy to drive.
There is no pretension about the XKR-S, though to look at it you might think it was bound to display the neurosis of any self-respecting thoroughbred. But no, I felt immediately at home behind the wheel of this car: everything about it makes it a terrific car to drive and spend time with.
There is a simple six-speed automatic gearbox selection, and if you really want to get involved in driving the XKR-S — which you do, believe me — then there are paddle gears to play with.
There is also a Sport mode, which makes the car go even faster and produces what I heard once described as “sweaty-palm” performance. The convertible “action”, that is putting the hood up and down, is also simple and effective at the push of the proverbial one button. With the hood down, the car really comes into its own.
No wonder then that worldwide this latest incarnation of the XK is a best-seller. Its antecedents are firmly there if you wish to delve into them. The Jaguar XK120 was the “first entirely new car produced by Jaguar after the Second World War” and was “the first car to feature Jaguar’s own in-house designed engine, the famous XK straight-six power unit”, according to Nigel Thorley’s Jaguar: All The Cars.
These early XKs are the stuff of my dreams and if I could own any classic the XK150 would be the one. This first incarnation ran from 1948 to 1961 and produced some absolute beauties, many of which appear to still exist today.The other great Jaguar sports car, of course, was the E-type, produced from 1961 to 1974: another Jaguar that has become a brilliant and enduring classic. There was a bit of a wobble, to my mind, when Jaguar produced the XK8 in 1996 but everything came good with the new lightweight XK that began life in 2006 after wowing everyone at the 2005 Frankfurt Motor Show. The new Jaguar XK, designed by Ian Callum, has been a great success and the Jaguar XKR-S has been recently added to the model range.
Of course there is a price to pay for this kind of motoring. And it is a price way out of the range of most of us: the Jaguar XKR-S Convertible I have been driving this week costs £103,430. Just about everything on it, you will be glad to know, is included as standard equipment, but even after parting with your hundred grand, you could benefit from Adaptive Front Lighting and Reverse Park Camera, £440 and £410 respectively, should you wish.
Oddly enough, I do not think that a car like this is about the money: many rich people would presumably wish to travel in more sedate fashion. But if you like cars and love a sports car with a beautiful 5.0-litre V8 supercharged petrol engine, then no more is asked of you than your appreciation for such a fine motor car as the Jaguar XKR-S.