Draped in a bright hue dubbed by the folks in Coventry, England, as “French Racing Blue,” the 2012 Jaguar XKR-S looks very un-Jaguar-like. That’s not to say it looks bad—just the opposite. With its hood vents and air ducts latched to the sides of the front fascia, it looks more aggressive than anything Jaguar has ever made, and completely at home perched on the pit lane of a racetrack waiting to peel off.
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the XKR-S’ progenitor, the E-Type. The whip Enzo Ferrari famously referred to as “the most beautiful car ever made” hit a never-before-reached 150 mph, thanks to its gloriously swoopy and aerodynamic form. Despite its luxe looks, it was as able as any of its competitors on the tarmac.
The XKR-S should be seen as a celebration of that lineage. Thanks to fuel remapping, the “S” features 40 more horsepower than the XKR, for a total of 550 HP. It can hit 60 mph in 4.2 seconds, and pin the speedo at 186 mph. Toss it into a corner and the front will bite with the ferocity of pricier Euro speedsters. Flogging the lightweight aluminum chassis on the track is fun, no doubt, thanks in large part to Jaguar’s latest Adaptive Dynamics suspension system, which works hard to ensure the car is as fun as it is comfortable. Performance aside, the true pleasure comes from taking the XKR-S onto the regular roads, where it morphs into a comfortable GT.
The interior exemplifies Jag’s new design ethos of futuristic refinement, blending swaths of leather with brushed metal. There’s even a new heated steering wheel equipped with all the buttons needed to control the entertainment system.
The XKR-S is a great combination of standout design and sweat-inducing performance—just like its great-uncle, the E-Type—50 years in the making.