DRIVEN: JAGUAR XKR-S CONVERTIBLE
PH goes round the block ... and round the block again in Jag's XKR-S Convertible Nurburgring mule
Jaguar XKR-S Convertible.So new it's only had its official world premiere a couple of hours before. And yet here, in LA, is a matt black development mule complete with the full roll cage and race seats required for 'Ring shakedown sessions. It's a bit of a contrast to the glitzy white example on the showstand but the real deal and I'm being allowed to drive it.
Ah yes, those Nurburgring lap times. One of the biggest shocks of the LA show is the new-found American fixation with that notorious/infamous/legendary (pick the cliché of your choosing) slice of German tarmac out there in the Eifel forests. The Yanks have gone mad for it, to the extent that you almost expect a stars and stripes to be flying from the flagpole of the iconic hilltop castle beside the track.
And it seems chopping the roof off the XKR-S hasn't slowed it down much, the recently recorded 7:51 for the coupe just seven seconds faster than the soft-top. Chatting with Jaguar chassis and development man David Pook it's clear why too - the Convertible only weighs another 42kg and was designed from the outset as a cabrio with the sills already stiff enough for the required structural rigidity with or without a roof. Which is how the Convertible can run the same spring rates and suspension settings as the coupe without shuddering itself to pieces.
A distinct lack of corners and purely urban test route presents few opportunities for really getting under the skin of what the XKR-S is capable of, but a conveniently placed tunnel just half a mile into the route provides a chance to test one important attribute, namely how good it sounds.
It takes some V8 to stand out in the US but, suffice to say, the XKR-S cabrio is Jag enough for the job. Chopping the roof off may have neutered the lines somewhat, but as I drop to first and permit myself a generous flex of my foot as we enter the underpass the reflected sound is, quite simply, gorgeous. It's loud, properly loud, and the crackle on the overrun brings a big grin to my face. Travis, who's probably had to endure this a dozen times already today, is probably rolling his eyes behind his big Cali-spec shades but I don't care.
It's fair to say that the test route isn't exactly ideal for exploring much at all about the XKR-S's abilities, but it's nice to get out of the show and Travis and I chat cars as we rumble around the block. He's a man of sophisticated tastes, an Austin Healey 100/6 among his fleet. The tactic works a treat and he suddenly breaks off the conversation, swears under his breath and looks over his shoulder. "Damn, I got distracted, we were meant to turn way back there," he says. "Looks like you're going to get a longer drive than anyone else!"
A full assessment of the car's talents will have to wait for another time but the hot Jag impresses with its usability. Indeed, if they hadn't made such a fuss about those 'Ring laps you could easily write it off as another pose-y cab built exactly for the kind of straight-line showing off in which we've just been indulging.
A hundred grand is fierce money for a Jaguar XK, but there's a real sense of confidence around Jaguar and, out here, there's no embarrassment in such extravagance. Emotionally the coupe will always be the more purist choice but, by the numbers at least, there's very little in it and for the ability to enjoy a more intimate relationship with the fabulous noise it makes the XKR-S Convertible makes a case for itself. And, yes, we'll have it in matt black with a roll cage please.