Jaguar XKR Coupe: Fabulous big cat is a joy to drive

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Steve Sharpe test drives Jaguar’s new XK coupe and finds that this new updated version is better than ever

ALONG with siblings the XF and the XJ, Jaguar’s new version of the XK sports coupé made its debut at the New York Auto Show last year.

The company, now owned along with Land Rover by Indian manufacturer Tata, made substantial changes and improvements across the range to bring performance, refinement and economy, they say, to new levels.

They also had a dabble with the external look to give it a bit of a freshen up.

There’s a new top-of-the-range model, the XKR-S, which is the company’s most powerful production car ever, capable of 186mph and 0-60mph in 4.2 seconds.

Revisions to the other three versions available include slimmer headlights now with LED signal functions and running lights, a larger grille and new bumper.

At the back, the boot lid has been revised with the famous leaping Jaguar motif, bringing it into line with the rest of the company’s products.

To say that this coupe commands attention is like saying there’s been a bit of moisture in the air recently.

And it’s not hard to see why it demands universal attention – it’s a stunning car inside and out. It has to be one of the finest looking cars on the road.

It’s perfectly proportioned and actually much bigger than it seems.

With a muscular rear end and a wide, low stance, the big coupe looks every inch the sports car.

At first sight my wife said she “thought it was an Aston Martin or something” (we’d just seen Skyfall though).

The revised front section looks strong and sleek and the rear hatchback slopes gradually into the rear section, with its famous leaping Jaguar emblem.

Just in case there’s any doubt this is a performance car, there are four exhaust pipes peeping out to remind you.

Inside, too, is steeped in pure style.

Like its siblings in the big cat range, the gear-change knob rises silently from the centre console when the push-button ignition is started, and is twisted smoothly to select gear.

The revvy engine starts with a roar that’s guaranteed to have the neighbours peering from behind the curtains. The rev counter whips around and it sounds like you’ve floored the accelerator even when you’ve not gone anywhere near the pedal.

The inside, like the outside, is big and bold. The low driving positions means you’re enveloped by the interior.

The finish is luxurious, with quality materials all around, and the layout is user friendly and crystal clear.

Although there is plenty of legroom the steering wheel is positioned towards the driver, which means that there’s no reaching to turn the wheel at all, adding to the feeling of control.

Headroom is a little more limited, though, thanks to that sloping coupe roof

There are umpteen positions for the driving seat too, with electronic settings that remember a particular driver’s favoured position.

At this money you would want a lot of kit as standard and you won’t be disappointed.

Everything is controlled by a big, touchscreen satnav media system and there’s equipment like automatic lights and wipers, leather heated and cooled seats, heated steering wheel, a booming six-CD system, satnav, Bluetooth and much more.

But it’s how the Jag performs on the road that provides the icing on the cake.

The top of the range XKR S will hit 62mph from a standing start in around 4.2 seconds. The XKR sports version I drove hits the same speed four tenths of a second slower. That’s quick.

In actual driving, it means that when you slam your foot on the accelerator you are catapulted forward like a missile.

Four point six seconds is not a large amount of time to go from stationary to more than 60 miles an hour.

There’s a beautiful muted roar from the five-litre supercharged engine as the car charges forward. It’s hard not to smile at the madness of it.

But it’s not just a blast from a standing start. The XKR has incredible power right through the gears. The automatic gearbox is quick to respond and at any revs there’s a virtually instantaneous reaction.

There’s a sports setting too for even greater performance.

But the Jag needs to be able to control that raw power and it does so with consumate ease.

The steering is weighted exactly perfectly, not too light but not too firm.

It handles like a much smaller car, sticking to the road when cornering with very little lean at all, and is always eager to accelerate half way round bends.

The XK R has stiffer suspension than the XK but it still provides a comfortable ride. In fact it’s really at home cruising along on the motorway. With all that power overtaking is effortless, but at a steady speed the engine noise disappears and, with very little wind noise and just a degree of noise coming through the tyres, it’s a luxurious place to travel distances.

The seats are big and, with any number of electronic controls to adjust the position, extremely comfortable.

A stunning car with performance to match has to have its faults but these are few.

The XK is touted as a four-seater but those two rear seats are really only suitable for small children or shopping.

With the front seats pushed back to accommodate a normal sized front passenger, there’s rear leg room to slide a sheet of A4 down, and the bucket shape of the rear seats make it a pretty uncomfortable place to travel.

There’s a decent amount of space in the shallow boot area, though.

There’s also the small matter of the price – to buy and to run.

All four versions share the same 5-litre V8 engine and start from just over £65,000 for the XK heading up towards the eye-watering £100,000 mark for the R S version.

But even if you are among the elite who could afford such an amount the XK’s fuel figures of between 22mpg and 25mpg means that you are going to have to shell out heaps to run it as well.

Those figures are going to drop horribly in real terms, too, if you drive the Jag like you would want to.

And although the emissions figures have been cut, there’s still a hefty road tax to shell out.

But the XKR’s not the kind of car to worry about practicality. It’s a stunning piece of machinery – a joy to drive and a delight to see.

Jaguar is on the up once again. Porsche, Mercedes and BMW should take note.

Jaguar XKR Coupe

Engine: 5-litre supercharged petrol

Transmission: six-speed auto

0-62: 4.6 secs

Top speed: 155mph

Economy: 23mpg

Price: £78,930