Jaguar Bringing 550-hp XKR-S to Geneva
Coventry celebrates the E-Type's 50th birthday in a predictable manner.
As vehicle launches go, this isn't a groundbreaking moment. You can be forgiven for thinking that the XKR-S looks a lot like the previous XKR-S, a model that wasn't sold in America. It does. It also looks a lot like -- depending on your perspective -- a widemouthed fish; an early-2000s Ford Taurus; and Jaguar's own E-Type sports car. The XK is the last old-school holdout in Jaguar's lineup, a model that hasn't yet received the company's new XJ/XF design language. There's no word yet on whether the XKR-S will come to America, but even if it does, it won't sell in great numbers. It's a blip in the company's history, a low-production piece of enthusiast candy.
But let's ignore the fish/Taurus/sales bit for a moment and focus on the E-type. Coventry's iconic XK-E turns 50 years old in 2011. It was unveiled at the 1961 Geneva auto show, and Jaguar plans to celebrate that moment at this year's Geneva show. Once that's over with, we can only hope the company moves on.
A few years ago, I had the good fortune to spend an afternoon with Henrik Fisker, he of the eponymous car company and design firm. At one point, the conversation strayed to Britain, design philosophy, and Jaguar Cars. I'm a tremendous fan of the E-Type -- hell, every car fan on the planet is -- as is Fisker. But he had an interesting comment on the car and what it's done to the marque that birthed it.
"The problem with Jaguar design," Fisker said, "is that the company is scared of its own shadow. And that shadow is the E-Type."
Fisker's point was obvious -- at the time, Jaguar had yet to release either its XF or the new-look XJ, and the company was trying to foist an old-look lineup on the public. Some of these cars, including both the excellent XK and last-generation XJ, were wonderful machines clothed in pretty (if uninspiring) retro bodywork. Unlike Jaguars of old, none of them broke any stylistic ground. All of them owed a heavy debt to 1960s styling languages. Then, as now, Jaguar employed talented designers, but few of them were given free reign with the brand's cars.
A few years later, things are different. The present XJ and XF marked an about-face for the company, one where it abandoned the rearward-think design approach it had embraced since the mid-1970s.
This is a good thing; Jaguar's sales have rebounded, and the company is well on its way to regaining the relevance and emotion its products boasted in the 1960s.
The only car left is the XK. It's pretty, sure, and it drives incredibly well: In addition to the aforementioned 550 hp, the XKR-S's supercharged V-8 produces 502 lb-ft of torque and cranks up to a top speed of 186 mph -- 31 mph faster than the ordinary XKR. Sixty mph comes up in 4.2 seconds. Suspension tweaks and flashy bodywork are part of the package. (The previous XKR-S offered no driveline upgrades, merely suspension, bodywork, and trim changes. Welcome improvement, says us.)
It's also long overdue for a redesign, and it remains the sole remnant of Jaguar's derivative past. Not coincidentally, it also owes a great deal, at least visually, to the E-Type. The next XK is on its way, but it can't arrive too soon. If Jaguar has an ounce of sense in its product-planning and marketing body, it'll use the Geneva show to unveil something really spectacular—a forward-thinking, ground-up XK, perhaps, or a sports car that redefines automotive style in the same manner as the XK-E.
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