Jaguar's test facility is gigantic. Covering 2,000 square miles, it borders Snowdonia National Park, which sweeps alongside the rivers and craggy mountainsides of Wales.
These roads are purpose-built for fine-tuning cars. There are cambers, compressions and crests preserved within every road surface ever invented. Throw in unpredictable weather, kamikaze sheep and Jaguar's ace chassis engineer Mike Cross, and you begin to understand why the new 2009 Jaguar XKR-S is so brilliant.
But right now, Cross doesn't want to talk about the Jaguar. He's more interested in the Maserati Gran Turismo S we drove a couple days ago.
"How does it ride?" he asks us.
"What's the gearbox like?"
Later we discover Jaguar has a Maserati Gran Turismo S on order. The team is clearly taking the Italian competitor very seriously indeed. So how does the XKR-S stack up?
A Rare Jaguar Limited to just 200 units and available only in Europe, the 2009 Jaguar XKR-S has the Maserati beat in the exclusivity department, although at roughly $111,000 it's significantly less expensive than its $135,000 Italian rival.
The $18,000 premium over the standard XKR adds lightweight forged 20-inch wheels; upgraded brakes from Alcon, a racing specialist; suspension revisions; unique styling tweaks; and interior upgrades borrowed from the earlier Portfolio edition with soft-grain leather and a Bowers & Wilkins stereo.
There are no changes to the supercharged 4.2-liter V8, so it makes the same 420 horsepower and 413 pound-feet of torque as the standard XKR. Jaguar says the XKR-S is capable of zero to 60 mph in just 4.9 seconds, while the car's top speed has been raised from 155 mph to 174 mph.
Not Quicker, but Quick Enough So the XKR-S is really an XKR equipped with an optional sports pack and while the wheels and aero mods will remain unique, you'll be able to spec the same brakes and suspension upgrades on a regular R.
There's really no need for an engine upgrade in the XKR-S anyway. It's still capable of melting the huge 295/30R20 rear tires with ease. Squeeze the accelerator a little more and the six-speed auto kicks down quickly, intensifying the supercharger's otherwise unobtrusive whine. From there it's a one-dimensional charge to the redline and it feels good every time.
An active exhaust system gives the XKR-S an appropriately rich sound, but it can't quite match the Maserati's more expressive normally aspirated V8. More important, the XKR-S is more than 200 pounds lighter and has more engine torque than its Italian rival. Slingshot out of hairpins and the Jag has an excess of power where the Maserati takes time to gather speed.
A Proper Automatic Like the engine, the XKR-S's six-speed automatic transmission remains unchanged. It's a good call. The clumsier in-town progress of the Maserati's single-clutch automated manual is at odds with the refinement customers expect. The Jag's torque converter blurs the transitions between gear ratios more effectively and still offers shift paddles (attached to the steering wheel, not fixed on the column), and the smooth gearchanges are still quick enough when the mood takes you.
Unlike the Gran Turismo S, however, a pull on a paddle doesn't lock the XKR-S into manual mode. It will still kick down, still change up at the redline and quickly revert to auto mode if you stop making paddle inputs. It's an automatic, not an automated manual.
Getting Your Money's Worth If it weren't for the revised suspension and upgraded brakes, the XKR-S would be a far more questionable purchase. New springs, stiffer antiroll bars, retuned dampers and a quicker steering ratio work with a recalibrated version of Jaguar's Computer Active Technology Suspension (CATS) to give the XKR-S its unique feel.
When you turn into a corner, you can feel the weightier steering effort, a by-product of changes to the front suspension's steering geometry. The steering is still fingertip light, but the quicker reactions give clearer feedback from the front end. When you travel over broken tarmac in the Maserati, you find it's pretty unyielding. Yet while the XKR-S is unmistakably stiffer, it remains supple. Wind the car out over these tricky Welsh roads and it becomes sensational. The standard car's slightly lolloping on-limit behavior is gone, as the R-S feels far better tied down over crests and more composed through compressions.
The more robust brake system is a noticeable improvement as well. Up front there are 15.7-inch rotors with six-piston calipers, while the rear end gets 13.8-inch discs with four-piston calipers. As good as the standard car's pedal feels, the XKR-S is even better, with a firmer pedal with a progressive bite and no apparent brake fade.
There's such highly detailed communication from the front end that you stop braking hard into corners and start working the tire grip more aggressively. You feel the weight build on the outside front tire, feel the light smudge of the rubber nudging into very mild understeer, then choose either to back off and ride it out or push through for oversteer.
With all the traction control systems off, you can go as hard as you want without ever questioning what's going on below. This experience bests the Maserati in both intuitive involvement and refinement.
Not Quite the Ultimate Jaguar, but Close We did notice one obvious flaw: the 2009 Jaguar XKR-S does without a limited-slip differential. Floor it out of a hairpin and one tire bonfires.
Mike Cross points out that this is very rarely an issue on the road. But he also describes the XKR-S as "a road car you can take to the track." And what's the fun of a powerful rear-driver on track without a limited-slip diff?
We suspect that the folks at Jaguar are counting on the fact that those who are willing to fork over the extra cash for the XKR-S won't be too concerned. And they're probably right.
As much fun as this XK is to flog hard, it's the badges, both the growler on the front and the "XKR-S" plate on the back, that'll sell it. Too bad really, as it's one of the most engaging coupes in its class when the road gets twisty. Jaguar has no reason to fear its Maserati rival, because the XKR-S holds its own just fine.
Edmunds attended a manufacturer-sponsored event, to which selected members of the press were invited, to facilitate this report.
2009 Jaguar XK Overview Edmunds experts have compiled a robust series of ratings and reviews for the 2009 Jaguar XK and all model years in our database. Our rich content includes expert reviews and recommendations for the 2009 XK featuring deep dives into trim levels and features, performance, mpg, safety, interior, and driving. Edmunds also offers expert ratings, road test and performance data, long-term road tests, first-drive reviews, video reviews and more.
Our Review Process This review was written by a member of Edmunds' editorial team of expert car reviewers. Our team drives every car you can buy. We put the vehicles through rigorous testing, evaluating how they drive and comparing them in detail to their competitors.
We're also regular people like you, so we pay attention to all the different ways people use their cars every day. We want to know if there's enough room for our families and our weekend gear and whether or not our favorite drink fits in the cupholder. Our editors want to help you make the best decision on a car that fits your life.
Consumer ratings and reviews are also available for the 2009 Jaguar XK and all its trim types. Overall, Edmunds users rate the 2009 XK 4.8 on a scale of 1 to 5 stars. Edmunds consumer reviews allow users to sift through aggregated consumer reviews to understand what other drivers are saying about any vehicle in our database. Detailed rating breakdowns (including performance, comfort, value, interior, exterior design, build quality, and reliability) are available as well to provide shoppers with a comprehensive understanding of why customers like the 2009 XK.
Review This is my 3rd Jaguar & so far I really like it. Eventhough the design is a bit aged, it's still a head-turner. It's hard to tell the difference between years anyway. It's fairly comfortable for long trips, gas mileage is decent using premium fuel. I get 26.8 mpg at a constant 70 mph. Reliability has been great so far.
Edmunds Value Edmunds has deep data on over 6 million new, used, and certified pre-owned vehicles, including rich, trim-level features and specs information like: MSRP, average price paid, warranty information (basic, drivetrain, and maintenance), features (upholstery, bluetooth, navigation, heated seating, cooled seating, cruise control, parking assistance, keyless ignition, satellite radio, folding rears seats ,run flat tires, wheel type, tire size, wheel tire, sunroof, etc.), vehicle specifications (engine cylinder count, drivetrain, engine power, engine torque, engine displacement, transmission), fuel economy (city, highway, combined, fuel capacity, range), vehicle dimensions (length, width, seating capacity, cargo space), car safety, true cost to own. Edmunds also provides tools to allow shopper to compare vehicles to similar models of their choosing by warranty, interior features, exterior features, specifications, fuel economy, vehicle dimensions, consumer rating, edmunds rating, and color
Available Trims: Base, XKR, XKR-S, XKR175 75th Anniversary Limited Ed.
Exterior Colors: Ebony, Ultimate Black, Lunar Grey Metallic, Carnelian Red Metallic, Caviar, Claret Metallic, Indigo Blue Metallic, Italian Racing Red Metallic, Polaris White, Rhodium Silver Metallic, Ultimate Black Metallic