Is the Jaguar XKR-S good enough to take on Germany's best?
I was seconds away from boarding my flight to San Diego to drive the Jaguar XKR-S Convertible (more on this shortly) on Sunday when a final check of emails included the press release and photos for the new BMW M6. Which provided plenty of food for thought as I mulled over specs and pricing for both cars on the flight over.
£100K 500hp+ convertibles: BMW or Jag then?
On paper the two square up pretty close; the M6's new-school twin-turbo V8 punches hard with 560hp against the Jag's 550hp and neither will see you much change from £100K (M6 £93,795 coupe, £98,995 cabrio and the XKR-S a burly £97,000 and £103,000 respectively). If it matters the BMW's brutal power delivery shaves a couple of tenths off the Jaguar's 4.4-second 0-62mph time but to all intents and purposes they're closely matched by the numbers.
Experience of the M5 suggests they'll be chalk and cheese to drive though. I hope BMW has engineered a tad more character into the M6, though I fear the new M mantra is more about crushing dominance and shock and awe rather than engagement. We'll see but the market for £100K, 500hp-plus mega GTs shows no signs of slowing down. I'm still stunned by the fact BMW sold 14,000 previous generation M6s too - that seems an astonishing number for such a focused and divisive car.
Down on power but not much else
We'll have to see what the Jag and M6 drive like back to back but the XKR-S is facing a pretty mighty contender. The Jag is a relatively old car, even if its aluminium construction and updated engine are right up there. And whatever quibbles one might have with BMW's current direction the M6 looks the business, inside and out.
I've always found placing the XK and its derivatives a little difficult. Instinctively I'd put it in the SL and 6 Series bracket of grown-up sporting GTs but in R and R-S form and dynamically speakingthe Jag overlaps with certain 911s and nibbles at the heels of Aston Martin too.
Ah yes, the 911. The Jag, even in £78K, 510hp R form, trumps the Porsche on the numbers. But it's not going to be hard to be nudging £100K with a well-specced Carrera S in coupe and cabrio form. Horsepower deficit (for now) or not, the 911 is another brand new German contender from a manufacturer at the top of its game. It'll take more than a bit of raffish charm to make an XKR-S a convincing choice against the 911, new SL and M6 but the XKR-S plays to Jag's strengths and, it was hinted at the press conference, leaves headroom for an even more focused version for chasing GT3s on track.
Burnout officer? What burnout?
The Americans certainly love the Jag anyway, getting lots of enthusiastic attention wherever we went. Not least from a thankfully friendly member of the local Sheriff's department who pulled up mere seconds after I found out how to properly disable the DSC. I'm sure he'd clocked the fresh black lines on the tarmac in front of him and could probably still smell the tyre smoke but admitted he'd have never got near us in his Ford Escape patrol vehicle. "Like we always say though, you can outrun the car but you can't outrun the radio..." Noted.