Grace with pace is what Jaguar is all about. Their saloon cars whisk large businessmen around the country in comfort and peace, whilst the XK8 offers a similar level of refinement 2+2 style. For those with more petrol in their veins the more sporty XKR offers 400bhp from its supercharged 4.2 litre, silky smooth V8.
The immense power and grace of the XKR satisfies most buyers. Every marque has its fans who want that little bit more of course. Many of those punters end up at Racing Green Cars. With a large catalogue of modifications available from RGC, there are numerous options for owners seeking to personalise their Jags.
The Ultimate Personalisation
Showcasing their wares is their XKR 400 demonstrator. Based on the previous version of the XKR - with the 370bhp 4.0 V8 - this car has been treated to an incredible £36,000 worth of modifications.
Slipping behind the wheel, the first thing that strikes you is the immense size of this beast. Weighing in at around 1800kg, this is one mightily fat cat. Manoeuvering the car around the car park requires the skill of a super tanker skipper, but immediately the smoothness and refinement of the controls mask the hard work being done for you.
Purring out onto the roads and Racing Green's performance exhaust conversion tantalises as the revs rise. The auto box changes up way too early and you're left gliding around the roads in a leather lined torpedo. A flick of the girly switch on the transmission tunnel helps - an RGC option reducing the assistance on the power steering from totally anaethatised to a level where communication is once again restored with the road. That's helped by the revised steering rack courtesy of ZF.
It's all Torque
Underneath the bonnet stretching out in front is Jaguar's lovely V8. Whilst the brand new XKR's now feature a 4.2 litre V8, this is the four litre. In standard form it's good for 370bhp - essential to haul that bulk around. Racing Green Cars rechip this however to give an extra 35bhp and more importantly an extra 22% more torque with improved throttle response. Coupled with the sports exhaust that takes it well into 400bhp territory.
Nailing the pedal to the floor wakes the sleeping giant and the XKR is urged forwards before the auto 'box flicks up a gear. It's quick, but not startling and not sports car exciting. That auto box might save a few calories in arm movements but it's wasting all the power under the bonnet.
Using Jaguar's 'J' gate, you can slip the long lever around to the left and manually select the gears, keeping that V8 revving in a range where it can do some good. It certainly makes you aware of what power is available. It's not great though - dropping down a gear as you head into a bend involves slipping the long chrome lever back in a manner that I feels like you're just signalling to the engine room. I half expected bells to ring and the echo of "Aye aye Captain". It's good enough for retaining a little more control over what's going on, but still feels like you're on the bridge of a channel ferry.
Cue the Racelogic Speedshift gear change system. Discrete buttons mounted behind the wheel give you fingertip control over the gearbox. The ECU controlling the system overrides certain features of the standard box giving the car a whole new character. This is a Jaguar that will now pounce rather than ponder.
Flying across the Derbyshire Dales, the XKR 400 really came into its own. Holding that glorious V8 in the power band gives you the abililty to balance the car on the throttle in a manner impossible with the slush box in lazy mode. At 40mph in second the car is ideally set up for launching past numpty Norman in his Nissan. Easing the large accelerator pedal to the floor the car accelerates so smoothly yet with such pace. Revving to around 6,000rpm, you need to hit the up-change button in time for the box to change before the rev limiter is found, as like so many semi-auto systems the box takes half a second to think about it.
With the roof off you can also hear the glorious sports exhaust (another Racing Green item). Almost Ferrari like in nature, the howl isn't high pitched like Ferrari's choristers, it's more like eight burley baritone Yorkshiremen in full chorus at the behest of your right foot. It makes that fabulous Jaguar engine snarl.
Progress up and down the five speed box is tracked by an indicator on the dash showing you what gear you're in. Swapping between second and third as I revelled in the Derbyshire sunshine, I hussled the XKR across country like a cheeky little sportscar but at greater speed. The stupendous weight of the car was equally well hidden by the simply fantastic braking system. It ain't cheap at almost £3,500 but talk about effective. Ten pot calipers grip grooved vented discs at the front whilst the rear discs are checked with six pot calipers. Standing on the oversized brake pedal brings the Jaguar to a halt without any drama other than the relocation of your internal organs.
"It's just so capable and yet so refined"
Travelling at high speeds across the twisting roads gave the suspension a good work out too. Huge 19 inch wheels fitted with 285/35 tyres are placed firmly on the road thanks to a revised suspension setup which lowers the car by 25mm, giving it a much more sporting stance. It allows cornering at improbable speeds with the limiting factor being the fact that you slide out of the slippery leather seats way before you reach any limits of traction.
All together it results in a car that can be driven enthusiastically and in a manner that belies the size of the car. You can't escape the fact that it is a big car though. Passing fellow motorists on those B roads requires a firm grip of the wheel and intense concentration as you guide the XKR past.
I couldn't help but go chase Porsches, launch the car away from traffic lights (full traction control too) and generally behave like a kid with a new toy when I had this car. - a quality I've not experienced to date.
The one area I wasn't so sure about was the styling, Racing Green also offer a lot of variations from subtle to extreme and this car is at the latter end of that scale, as it is intended to show as many of their products as possible. A roll bar has replaced the rear seats, the body is adorned with one of their body kits including valences, spoilers and mesh grilles as appropriate. The look is completed with nineteen inch wheels complete with spinners which are anything but subtle.
Every time I returned to the car I had a smile on my face. Was I privileged enough to be driving a unique car or were people assuming that I was something to do with the porn industry? Some of the items definitely improve the look of the basic car so I would recommend a selective ticking of boxes on the order form.
This car does demonstrate exceedingly well what can be done to the standard XKR to provide even more thrills to the petrolhead, whilst not losing the basic essence of Jaguar - grace with pace. For XK8/XKR owners the enhancements supplied by Racing Green Cars work on two levels. Firstly they let you personalise your car in a manner not possible with the standard Jaguar options list. Secondly and more importantly for anyone travelling long distances they give you the option to indulge in some very spirited driving when the mood suits you, yet letting you return to gliding along in the standard graceful Jaguar manner for the rest of the time. I absolutely loved it.