2012 JAGUAR XKR-S CONVERTIBLE REVIEW
What's hot: It’s one of the best driver’s GTs on sale – and it’s a convertible.
What's not: The coupe version is the looker.
X-Factor: Speed, sound and exclusivity – only four will make it down under.
Vehicle Style: 2+2 Luxury Convertible
Price: $364,000 plus on-roads
Fuel Economy (claimed): 12.3 l/100km
Fuel Economy (tested): 18.0 l/100km around town. Significantly more on track.
Photos: Jan Glovac.
Few would complain that the Jaguar XKR Convertible is underpowered. But it seems someone forgot to tell Jaguar. The British marque has now boosted the supercharged V8 under its bonnet to create a drop-top version of its stunning XKR-S Coupe.
Rear-wheel-drive. Four hundred and four kilowatts. Paddle-shift transmission. Certainly the recipe for a fine machine. But convertibles are usually heavier, slower and aimed at cruising boulevards rather than lap records on the 'Ring.
Not this one. The question in fact becomes: could the XKR-S Convertible actually be better than the Coupe? We've spent a week behind the wheel - in the only one yet to land in Australia - to find out.
Quality: A delicious mix of soft, rich black and red hide with contrasting stitching lines the XKR-S Convertible’s interior.
The dashtop is covered in black leather; the steering wheel in sports suede, and, elsewhere, beautifully-finished piano black surfaces and chrome garnishes.
The rest of the interior is pure XK, with perhaps the only negative being a touch screen that’s difficult to read in bright sunlight.
The bodywork too is absolutely first class, with a fit and finish that reflects the $364,000 price tag. (Even the aerodynamic aids integrate beautifully.)
Comfort: With 16-way electrically adjustable seats, it’s difficult to imagine anyone not finding a comfortable driving position. Even better is the adjustable bolstering for when you feel like attacking a winding road.
The plus-two seating is a bit of a laugh though - only small children will fit in the rear, but a booster-seat won’t. Best then that these seats be viewed as extra storage.
Equipment: Well, it is a Jaguar, and a luxury GT, so expect a lot. Heated seats (and yes, even the steering wheel) are controlled via the touch screen, with climate controls a button-and-dial combo underneath.
Ahead of the driver, a full-colour display screen sits between the speedo and tacho, showing time, gear selected and trip information.
There’s cruise control, sat-nav, Bluetooth, and a stonkin’ 1200W Bowers and Wilkins sound system. In the centre console is an iPod cable, but Bluetooth streaming is missing – a sin in 2012.
The roof is electrically operated, and can be deployed at up to 25km/h – taking 18 seconds to silently erect or stow.
Storage: Aside from the bag-holders, ahem, rear seats, there’s a smallish boot of 200 litres with the roof down, growing to 313 litres with the top up. It will fit a set of golf clubs. Just.
ON THE ROAD
Driveability: Let’s get to the crux of it: the XKR-S convertible loses nothing to the coupe for driveability.
Packing 404kW and a stupendous 680Nm, the supercharged V8 propels the big cat to 100km/h in the same 4.4 seconds that the coupe takes, while returning the same economy.
There’s torque absolutely everywhere and in any gear. The XKR-S is an absolute hammer.
The ZF six-speed is silky smooth in full automatic, or rapid-fire quick if you choose to use the paddles in sports mode.
Normally turning a coupe into a convertible adds plenty of weight, but the XKR-S’s body is so stiff that the convertible only gains 43kg.
This means that turn-in feels the same, as does the weight transfer during directional changes. For handling, the coupe and convertible are as good as indistinguishable.
But where the XKR-S Convertible wins is aurally. Press the Dynamic Mode button – which opens a flap in the exhausts – and, with no roof to impede the sound from that heavenly forced-induction 5.0 litre V8, your ears fill with a glorious, deep, Gatling-gun rhythm.
And downshifting from third to second at 100km/h produces a wickedly-loud crackle and snap on the overrun.
It’s the way it all comes together that makes this car so appealing. Want to take it easy? Leave it in full auto and enjoy the ride. Want to attack a track?
Choose Dynamic Mode and shift yourself. With that torquey, punchy engine (and zero lag thanks to its blower) the XKR-S is a hoot to drive no matter what you’re doing.
And, if you want to keep the safety net when you’re pushing the envelope, the TracDSC mode allows for a certain amount of slip – it doesn’t clamp down too hard but also won’t let you get too far sideways. A perfect balance for spirited driving.
Refinement: There are no rough edges anywhere. The XKR-S is as mellow as you care to drive, and the Adaptive Dynamics suspension gives it a ride that will keep everyone complaint-free.
With the roof in place, the cabin is hushed and free of creaks and rattles. On coarse-chip highways the big 20-inchers make a bit of a rumble, but not distractingly so.
Suspension: This is where the XKR-S truly shines. After having driven it at the Nurburgring, and now on local roads, I reckon Jaguar's suspension engineers have got it right.
The rear damper top mounts are stiffer than in the hardtop XKR-S (proving the rigidity in the convertible body) and springs front and back are 28 percent stiffer than the standard XKR.
But there’s no thump or crash, just instant response, bucket-loads of grip and surprising agility for such a heavy car (despite an aluminium body, it weighs 1795kg)
In tightening-radius corners, the back will come around with a lift of the throttle. Or, you can bury the shoe and simply slide your way around. Brilliant.
Braking: A peek through the wheels shows 380mm front discs and 376mm rears, with twin-piston callipers.
And, despite our testing on track, we couldn’t get the brakes to fade – just a slight softening of the pedal as pad temperatures rose (which at times gets to as much as 650 degrees C).
ANCAP rating: Not tested.
Safety features: Dual front and front-side airbags, pre-tensioning seatbelts, IsoFix child seat points in rear, active front headrests, ABS, brake assist, traction control, two-step DSC stability control, and pedestrian safety deployable airbagged bonnet.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Service costs: Servicing costs vary according to vehicle usage.
HOW IT COMPARES | VALUE FOR MONEY:
Maserati GranCabrio Sport MC ($338,000) – It has Italian flair in buckets and also sounds brilliant, but is down on both power and torque compared to the Jaguar. It may have a Ferrari-derived engine but it’s slower.
Aston Martin Virage Volante ($407,300) – Better looking than the Jag, but slower, and feels a lot heavier. Interior quality is a match, maybe even better (now we’re really splitting hairs), but it’s also $40,000 more expensive. That buys a lot of fuel.
Note: all prices are Manufacturer's List Price and do not include dealer delivery or on-road costs.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
The XKR-S is the most powerful and quickest open-topped Jag ever made. Adding that ‘S’ to the badging adds over $100k to the sticker price of the XKR Convertible, but it outshines it nearly everywhere.
Currently Jaguar’s flagship sports model, the XKR-S is simply stunning.
Given the choice between the Coupe and the Convertible, it’d be the drop-top every time. If only for that noise. The fact that the Convertible drives just as well as the Coupe is the icing on the cake.
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