The Truth About Cars » XK http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Sat, 13 Sep 2014 13:51:12 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.2 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » XK http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com Review: 2012 Jaguar XKR-S http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/03/review-2012-jaguar-xkr-s/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/03/review-2012-jaguar-xkr-s/#comments Thu, 15 Mar 2012 16:02:41 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=434160 At 7 years old, the XK isn’t a kitten anymore – but with a rumored 3 years until the next redesign, what’s a luxury marque to do? Make special editions, of course. On the surface, the XKR-S looks like a baby-boomer dressed like a teenager, or as the Brits put it: mutton dressed as lamb. […]

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At 7 years old, the XK isn’t a kitten anymore – but with a rumored 3 years until the next redesign, what’s a luxury marque to do? Make special editions, of course. On the surface, the XKR-S looks like a baby-boomer dressed like a teenager, or as the Brits put it: mutton dressed as lamb.

Click here to view the embedded video.

The XKR (reviewed last year) looks like sex, in a discrete, black-tie/coquettish sort of way. The XKR-S ditches subtle for brash; hood scoops, large hood vents, enlarged grille, carbon fiber splitter, carbon fiber spoiler, blacked-out trim (chrome is a $4,000 option), and bespoke 20-inch alloy wheels with 255-width Pirelli rubber up front and 295s out back are all part of this exclusive package (only 100 will be sent to America). There’s also a straked diffuser with dual exhausts, special badging and some crazy-looking vents at the leading edge of the front wheel well to improve brake cooling. Oh, and the front bumper seems to have been designed to look like a frown. Moderation is a Jaguar virtue and thankfully the R-S’s chassis is lowered by a scant 0.38 inches meaning we had no problems with steep driveways and speed bumps. So is it all-show-and-no-go? Far from it. All the aero tweaks put together reduce lift by 26%  and make the lift more even fore/aft than in the XKR.

Under the hood growls a lightly modified 5.0L supercharged V8 from the XKR. The quad-cam engine features direct injection, continuously variable valve timing, and a thoroughly modern twin-vortex Roots-type supercharger with twin air-to-water intercoolers tucked under the plastic vanity cover. Should you wish to accessorize your engine bay, Jaguar will swap that cover for one in carbon fiber for a cool $2,000. While the XKR, XFR and XJ Supersport have to make do with only 510HP/461lb-ft from this engine, the “-S” (and $34,000) buys an extra 40 ponies and 41lb-ft. You also get a revised exhaust, a tweaked 6-speed ZF automatic, sportier programming for the active suspension and electronic differential and a host of suspension changes, including fully machined steering knuckles (that increase caster and camber stiffness), increased steering effort, improved steering feedback, and 28% stiffer spring rates.

Back to those 550 horses. The only Porsche in this rarefied club is the Panamera Turbo S, while the only Aston is the One-77. BMW’s M5 and M6 put out 560, and from the bow-tie brand, only the Corvette ZR1 and Camaro ZL1 are more powerful.

The exterior and engine may have been reworked, but on the inside the “-S” boils down to some trim, some modified seats and a 190MPH speedo. In a strange twist, our tester was fitted with the “London Tan” interior, a standard color combo available on the lesser XKR. The XKR-S exclusive interiors are the better choice and feature “carbon fiber effect” leather trim, and bold-colored stitching and piping. The sport seats (optional on XKR) are designed to accommodate a 5-point harness, but aside from the fact they are standard and the “R-S” logos on the tiller and dash, you’d be hard pressed to tell the XKR-S and XKR apart inside. Speaking of not being able to tell the difference, the sport-grip-free steering wheel from the base XK and XF makes an encore in the XKR-S. While it’s not a bad tiller, it doesn’t feel as nice as new XJ’s wheel and the lack of ergonomic thumb grips keeps the XKR-S from feeling as sporty as the BMW and Mercedes competition.

While I’m complaining about the interior, let’s talk infotainment. 2012 has brought essentially no changes to the system shared with the Jaguar XF. The system is simple to use and well laid out but the lag between pressing a “button” and the system responding is long and screen changes are glacial. I appreciate minimalist design in theory, but in practice, putting controls like heated seats and a heated steering wheel in a sluggish system make them more aggravating than trying to stab the right button in a cluttered button bank. While some voice command systems have received harsh commentary from me in the past, I think even a lackluster system is better than none at all as we had to park the XKR-S to enter a navigation destination.

Like the XF, iPod and iPhone integration is well done, easy to use and allows essentially full access to your iDevices. While Mercedes’ COMAND is similarly ancient, Merc does allow voice entry of addresses. I’d like to compare the Jag system to BMW’s newest iDrive, but that’d be like comparing a Palm Pilot to an iPhone. Also on my complaint list is a sound system tuned so bright that even with the treble turned all the way down the Bowers & Wilkins system sounded unbalanced. I didn’t recall this problem in the XKR we drove last year with the same system, so it could be a problem unique to our tester.

Tech quibbles aside; the XKR-S’ raison d’être is not to Tweet or Facebook while commuting. The XKR-S was built for three things: going fast, screaming like a banshee and making passengers wet themselves. If I were a betting man, I’d say it was also designed with the recently announced 560HP M6 in its crosshairs. While the choice of an automatic may seem strange in a sports car, real-world drivability is greatly improved by having a torque converter. If you don’t believe me, just try to drive a Mercedes AMG with a “Speedshift” transmission in stop-and-go traffic up a steep hill. The XKR-S is a willing partner in the mountains, delivering rev-matched downshifts at the flick of a paddle accompanied by exhaust pops and a loud roar sure to spook any cyclists that may be in the middle of your lane. Should that startled tandem tumble, massive steel-and-aluminum monobloc calipers in your choice of red or black paired with upgraded pads and massive 15-inch vented front and 14.8 vented rear rotors stop the XKR-S in record time. Every time.

Jaguar tells us the XKR-S was tuned on the Nürburgring and runs a 7:50 lap in convertible form. Let’s put that in perspective. Over a 17.8 mile long course, an XKR-S will only run a few seconds behind a Ford GT, Lamborghini Gallardo, Lamborghini Murcielago, Ferrari 599 or a Porsche 911 GT3 RS. This shapely lump of hand-stitched leather posted a time faster than the previous generation M5, Ferrari F430, Panamera Turbo, Corvette Z06 and a wide variety of Aston Martins. With numbers like that it should come as no surprise that grip is excellent and limits are high. Aiding in your fun is a re-tuned stability nanny that has a track mode with higher limits than the XKR and a full-off mode should you dare. Yet, it’s not the grip that amused while flinging the XKR-S around the coastal mountains of Northern California, it was the acceleration which can only be described as savage. OK, maybe eye-popping. Possibly brutal. Definitely insane. Putting numbers to these adjectives, we clocked a 3.8 second run to 60 with massive wheel spin, smoke and severe intervention by the electronic differential and traction control software, but most importantly: no roll-out. Because that’s how we roll. Compared to the XKR we tested last year, this is a significant 0.7-0.8 second improvement.

While the XKR-S doesn’t claim to have launch control, we discovered the traction control systems and e-diff work best when you just nail the go-pedal from a stop rather than try to control wheel-spin on your own. Not worrying about lifting to maximize acceleration also allows you to enjoy the raucous noise bellowing out of the tailpipes. By the time the thrill of an automatic with DSG-like gear changes wore off and we did decide to lift, we were at 140 having blown well past the 12-second flat quarter-mile at 122MPH. Numbers like these are pointless without comparison. While the Panamera Turbo S may clock 3.6 second runs to 60 according to the auto-rags, those tests are often conducted with a roll-out. Besides, the XKR-S’s 122MPH 1/4 mile bests the 118 we clocked with a privately owned Panamera we were lent for a few hours.

While I hate to be speculative in any review, the XKR-S’s introduction just months before the new M6 begs at least an arm-chair comparison. A full M6 review will be posted when we can con one out of the Germans. For the rest of you, let’s start with the numbers. The new M6 may deliver 10 more horsepower than the XKR-S, but it is down 2lb-ft of torque compared with the Jag at peak. The curves indicate that BMW is putting some serious boost into their 4.4L V8 with peak power coming on a 6,000RPM and staying strong to 7,000 while peak torque happens at a very low 1,500RPM all the way to 5,750. Jag’s 5.0L engine created its maximum power from 6,000-6,500 RPM and peak torque from 2,500-5,500RPM. The XKR-S fights BMW’s broader bands with zero lag from its supercharger and a 260lb lower curb weight. Of course both Jaguar and BMW are known to quote conservative power figures, so this battle will continue on the track. The M6 will sport BMW’s 7-speed double clutch gearbox known for its fast changes, but I don’t expect it to be any smoother than the model used in the previous generation M5 making the XKR-s the better daily driver. Both the XKR-S and the M6 are similarly balanced in terms of weight, but the Jag wears skinnier rubber up front (255 vs the M6′s standard 265 width tires) and is slightly heavier in the nose, despite the lower curb weight. As a result I expect 0-60 runs will be very close with much of the variation down to the road surface and the final tire choice on the BMW.

 

Without a doubt, the XKR-S is a significant evolution of the standard car. Folksy Briticisms about mutton and lamb don’t apply here; the XKR-S is a predator, much like its feline namesake, and while the “space” part of William Lyons’ famous maxim may be missing, it makes up for it with “grace” and “pace” – lots and lots of it.

Jaguar provided the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gas for this review

Specifications as tested

0-10: 0.65 Seconds

0-20: 1.14 Seconds

0-30: 1.18 Seconds

0-40: 2.61 Seconds

0-50: 3.24 Seconds

0-60: 3.83 Seconds

0-70: 4.98 Seconds

0-80: 6.06 Seconds

0-90: 7.12 Seconds

0-100: 8.42 Seconds

0-110: 10.17 Seconds

0-120: 11.84 Seconds

1/4 mile: 12.0 @ 122 MPH

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Interview: Jaguar Chief Designer Ian Callum http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/01/interview-jaguar-chief-designer-ian-callum/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/01/interview-jaguar-chief-designer-ian-callum/#comments Mon, 04 Jan 2010 16:03:25 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=340606 Few aspects of the automobile are as examined, analyzed and obsessed upon as styling. Ask most people about cars and they won’t talk about engine displacement or suspension setup; it’s the physical presence of cars that captures interest and sparks passion. For a niche luxury brand like Jaguar, which  survives on the margins of major […]

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Callum, center, at the GM Heritage Center (copyright: TTAC)

Few aspects of the automobile are as examined, analyzed and obsessed upon as styling. Ask most people about cars and they won’t talk about engine displacement or suspension setup; it’s the physical presence of cars that captures interest and sparks passion. For a niche luxury brand like Jaguar, which  survives on the margins of major markets without the backing of a full-line automaker, the art and science of auto styling is of supreme importance. Unable to match its rivals in the technological arms race of the upper-echelon luxury segment, Jaguar’s relevance is perhaps more tied to its ability to create compelling designs than any other modern brand. Were this the only challenge facing Jaguar’s chief designer Ian Callum, his job would be one of the most interesting in the business. Thanks to Jaguar’s nearly 40-year stylistic stasis however, Callum’s tenure is nothing less than one of the most significant in the history of automotive design.

Callum’s brief begins with a deceptively simple question: what is a Jaguar? The lack of easy answers indicates the enormity of the challenge. Is the brand a last bastion of old-world throwback luxury, as evidenced by an XJ flagship which went without a significant restyle for nearly 40 years? Is it a purveyor of retro-styled, also-ran sports sedans like the recently departed S-Type? Or is it a quasi-volume, entry-luxury brand, destined to do battle with the Buicks of the world with such models as the late, unlamented X-Type? Or is Jaguar a low-volume sportscar maker, battling with Aston Martin for the hearts and minds of Anglophile speed freaks?

callum3Ask the average consumer, and you might receive any one of those answers. Indeed, the Ford managers which guided Jaguar’s fate for nearly 20 years seem to have run with each of these visions at one time or another. Had Jaguar been blessed with a deep development budget, lending its every model with the kind of technological halo enjoyed by brands like Mercedes and Lexus, it might have gotten away with such a diffuse identity. Stylistically though, there’s little middle ground between a classic XJ (let alone its mini-me, the X-Type) and a modern XK. Creating a modern, relevant Jaguar brand had to start with a single decision.

In light of the new models introduced under Callum’s supervision, the sleek new XK, XF and XJ, the remaking of Jaguar might seem as simple as moving the brand away from a decades-long overindulgence in heritage and retro. But, explains Callum with a hint of a smile, Jaguar isn’t torn between heritage and modernity for the simple reason that they are one and the same. “Most people of the world see Jaguars as traditional looking cars,” he admits, “and the XJ was certainly part of that. But what people have forgotten is how radical that design was when it first came out. Jaguar had always made sleek, sexy sportscars, but even the Mk II owners thought it was ‘too much’ for a Jaguar sedan.”

For Callum, everything comes back to 1968 and the release of the XJ. That year a 13-year old Callum submitted his first-ever car design to Jaguar, inspired by the XJ. But where Sir William Lyons’ timeless design gave Callum an icon to strive towards, Jaguar fell victim to the XJ’s brand-eclipsing success. “The sixties was where it stopped,” says Callum of Jaguar’s Lyons-era styling heyday. “I always ask myself ‘what would Sir William have done?’”callum4

But don’t confuse Callum’s mission to recapture the spirit of Jaguar’s golden moment with anything retro. “When Lyons was designing cars, heritage would only have referred to racing,” he explains. Jaguar is fundamentally “a sexy car company,” which meant rebirth required “throwing away the rulebook.” The only rules for designing Jaguars are proportions, he says. Purity of line and a sense of length were the only givens in designing the new XK, XF and XJ.

This open-ended opportunity to imagine where Jaguar would be if it had stayed on the cutting edge of design for the last 40 years required immense discipline. “Cars are dictated by generic dimensions,” says Callum. “Good design is about pushing the boundaries of physics and legislation, going for a milimeter every day.”

Appropriately, Callum’s first Jaguar was the XK sportscar. With echoes of Callum’s most influential design, the Aston-Martin DB7, the XK marked a distinct shift from his previous Jaguar concepts, the curvaceous R-Coupe and segment-busting R-D6. From there, a far greater challenge came in the form of the XF, Callum’s first sedan for Jaguar. “XF was a hurdle,” he admits.

“We can’t do an E class and a CLS,” he says, referring to Mercedes’ approach to luxury market segmentation. A true CLS-style four-door coupe “was too much of a package compromise, so we had to get both.”  The result was a car that convincingly translated the XK’s aesthetic to the four-door format, and created a blueprint for the car that would bring Callum’s experience with Jaguar full circle: the first major restyling of the XJ since 1968.

According to Callum,the new XJ started with the profile of a mk. 1 XJ coupe (a body style he says he’d love to reimagine as a modern Jaguar). Like the original, the new XJ’s design had to be low and long, anchored by the coupe-inspired stretched side window profile. The interior would exhibit the kind of “cheekiness and indulgence” Sir William appreciated. “He might have found it too assertive or overly bold,” concedes Callum, “but you have to put it into context. You have to stand out in today’s world. It’s an agressive, assertive world.”

And in this world, Jaguar won’t be able to sit still, a reality Callum embraces with gusto. “if someone came along and said we’re going to make my XJ for the next 40 years, I’d be pissed,” he says with a grin. “We have to keep changing.” Although there is a sense that the core of Jaguar’s rebirth is complete with the new XJ, Callum can barely restrain his enthusiasm for new models that may or may not be under development. Besides mentioning his desire to create a new XJ Coupe, Callum refuses to deny that an XF wagon might be under development. He even admits that, as a trustee of the independent Jaguar Heritage Trust, he has heard- and approves of- rumblings that modernized C- and D-Type Jags might be developed outside of the Jaguar brand.Jaguar XJ (TTAC/Alex Dykes)

But ask Callum what car he’d most like to design, and he’ll tell you that “for purely selfish reasons,” nothing would make him happier than to design a mid-engine supercar. He’s a huge fan of Chevrolet’s Stingray concept, freely admitting that he wishes he’d designed it. Which might come as a bit of a surprise until Callum reveals himself to be an incurable American car fanatic, with a ’32 Ford and ’57 Chevy in his personal collection. During a three-hour visit to GM’s Heritage Center, Callum positively swooned over everything from Chevy Nomads to the Buick Y-Job, and it was impossible to not see parallels between GM’s attempt to reverse a decades-long malaise and Callum’s personal challenge at Jaguar. Both firms reached a zenith of style and prestige in the late sixties that overshadow everything they have accomplished since, and both are desperate to recapture that lost magic.

Whether Jaguar’s masters approve a mid-engine supercar project remains to be seen, but Callum is convinced that Jaguar “has a right” to play in the rareified air of the supercar market. “Not every company has the right to be there,” he says, “but for Jaguar it’s a natural evolution.” Having revived Jaguar’s natural evolution after 40 years in the deep freeze, Callum knows what he’s talking about. The only question left is whether the magic of the late 1960s is a portable phenomenon: something that can be reanimated outside of its specific historical moment. As Callum wanders through the relics of GM’s glorious past, you can almost see him capturing the elements of that magical period, and translating them to the modern context of plastic grilles and shared-architecture hardpoints. If these, and the thousand other mundanities which separate us from the lost glory of the late sixties can be overcome, Callum’s the guy to do it.

Jaguar XJ (TTAC/Alex Dykes)

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