Other cars cloy the appetites they feed, but the XKR-S makes hungry where most it satisfies. —with apologies to Wm. Shakespeare

In less poetic terms, driving the XKR-S left me wanting more, much more, of the most powerful production car ever to wear the Jaguar badge. Honestly, though, this ravenous appetite for more seat time was an unexpectedly pleasant surprise.

When Jaguar first showed the XKR-S I was skeptical of the whole street/track hybrid concept. And I didn’t really like how the wind tunnel had reworked the svelte XKR coupe. The busier surfaces struck me as an aerodynamic engineer’s wet (fluid dynamics) dream and not the reflection of a Jaguar owner’s secret inner self. So why screw up a really good car, I thought, to build a poseur?

Regardless of this hack’s opinion, it is a good time for Jaguar to offer a high-priced ($132,000) version of the XKR. Jaguar’s place on quality surveys is higher than it’s been in most car buyers’ memories, and profits are up under Indian company Tata’s ownership, so why not offer a hyperbolized Jaguar, particularly if the outstanding result is quite unlike anything else on the road?

Essential elements of the S program begin with the corporate 5.0-liter supercharged V8. Rated at 503 hp in the XKR, it received rewritten software and a revised exhaust for S duty, increasing output to 542; even better, peak torque rises from 451 to 502 lb-ft. Zero to 60 mph comes up in a quick 4.2 seconds, about half a second quicker than the XKR, and 100 mph flashes by in less than 9. The six-speed paddle-shift transmission is right out of the XKR, and it’s one of the best around. Upshifts are without delay, and it can skip gears for quicker downshifts. Fitment of bespoke ZR-rated Pirellis, the additional power and the slippery shape allowed Jaguar to raise the top speed from 155 to an impressive 186 mph, makes the XKR-S a new member of the rather exclusive 300 km/h club.

The S sounds impressive, too, emitting a rumbling idle that hasn’t been heard around the Jaguar works since the race shop closed up. Unique to the S model is a new “performance active exhaust,” which uses valves to moderate low-speed decibels and then unleash them with a baritone growl as the revs increase. The system also features a new crossover pipe that eliminates one of the mufflers and reduces backpressure. And to remind the driver why he’s paid around $35,000 more for his S than for a standard XKR, a small duct siphons a delicious measure of that roar into the otherwise well-insulated passenger compartment.

Additional power is always welcome for track days, but whatever competition cred the XKR-S will earn has to come from below the beltline. Beginning with revisions to the wishbone suspension, Jag’s engineers also stiffened the front uprights, increased spring rates by 28 percent in front and 32 percent at the rear, developed an “active” locking differential, wrote new software for the driver-selectable handling aids and fit lightweight 20-inch forged wheels wrapped by Pirelli P Zeros with staggered sizes of 255/35 front and 295/30 rear.

The most striking element of the makeover, Ian Callum’s design, might suggest the surly visage and bulging muscles of an empty-headed male model stalking a fashion runway, but solid science underlies the aggressive attitude for a reduction of overall lift by 26 percent. The nose is markedly different from previous XKs and sports slimmer LED headlamps, a new front bumper, carbon-fiber splitter, lower spoiler and trick vertical slots at the outer edges of the front fenders to channel air along the lower side sills for greater directional stability. Rear lift is kept in check by a new, S-only wing with carbon center section and a carbon venturi structure under the rear bumper.

Other styling touches unique to the S are gloss-black exterior trim, red or gunmetal brake calipers and a range of five paint colors that includes French Racing Blue and Italian Racing Red. British Racing Green? Nope.

By Greg N. Brown
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