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Monday 28th June 2010


DRIVEN: JAGUAR XKR 75

PH goes for a ride - and drive - with Mike Cross in Jaguar's 75th birthday special


"Track capable". That's how Jaguar's ride and handling legend Mike Cross describes the new XKR 75, the massaged XK that's been specially created to celebrate the marque's 75th anniversary.


Jaguar owners aren't natural track day goers, you see. But this is effectively Jaguar's performance flagship, so it's quite likely to be put through its paces on a circuit on the odd occasion, and will certainly get driven with enthusiasm on the road.

Track capable is certainly what this XKR feels like as Cross fairly flings it across the Warwickshire countryside. But although XKR 75 owners will - probably - make the odd trip to the Nürburgring or Silverstone the Fastest XKR, like every other Jaguar, has to be a road car first and foremost.

"Jaguars have to be relaxing and cosseting as well as fun," says Mike. "Take the XFR I'm running at the moment. Most of the time I use it for the daily grind of commuting to and from work, and when you're stuck in traffic or you're tired it's nice to have something comfortable and undemanding. But when you want to go for it you can. This XKR is like that, but with an extra focus on the performance."


He's not wrong. Everything is just that little bit sharper, faster, harder than in the regular car. You'd hardly call a 503bhp supercharged XK 'regular', mind, but the 75 special edition gives you, well, just that little bit more.

This is achieved by tweaking power by 20bhp up to 523bhp, while torque jumps from 461lb ft to 483lb ft. Jaguar has also raised the speed limiter to 174mph, and cut the 0-60mph sprint from 4.6secs to 4.4secs. But the headline figure is 0-100mph in a stunning 8.9secs.

The front springs are 28 per cent stiffer, the rear springs 32 per cent stiffer and there's a revised rear suspension upright for increased camber stiffness. The adaptive damper control software has also been tweaked and ride height reduced by 15mm at the front and 10mm at the rear. To help stability at the new-found higher top speeds, the Active Differential Control now reduces steering sensitivity at very high speeds.


They're all small changes but they do add up to quite a noticeable difference. This is still a big, heavy weight GT of course; it's never going to be as agile as a Lotus Elise, but it is sportier - edgier - than any Jaguar I've driven.

Pitch it into a corner and, provided you haven't arrived with far too much speed (which is quite likely given the utterly given the utterly relentless acceleration), and the XKR 75 will turn in with a surprising alacrity.

Once you're into a corner there's more grip, too, thanks to the bigger tyres - and that's something you can feel even from the passenger seat. Another thing I notice from the passenger seat is just how much traction there is, as Cross pretty much gives it the beans out of almost every corner (commendably, one of the first things he did when he got in the car was to switch ESP fully off).


"We've deliberately kept the back end soft," he says with a little grin. "It helps the ride, but more importantly," he says as he squeezes more or less full power out of a hairpin corner, "it gives the car great traction".

The XKR's pace and poise over bumpy, ridged country roads is little short of astounding: this is getting genuinely close to supercar territory. Although the way the XKR absorbs bumps, bounces, and road ripples is, as we've come to expect from Jaguar these days, more akin to the behaviour of a big Lotus than it is to that of a more traditional supercar, despite the frankly massive, steamroller section 20-inch tyres.


Equally as polished is Mike's driving. His work behind the wheel is smooth, unflustered and very, very fast. When the man responsible for the dynamics of Jaguars drives like this, it's easy to understand why they handle as they do. For a car geek like myself it's quite a treat to be driven by a chap of such obviously epic talent, and I could happily sit in the passenger seat all day. But I do want to drive the car as well, and after half an hour or so Mike suggests we swap over.

Not wanting to relieve Jaguar of an £85,500 car (that's £10k more than the regular XKR), nor of its vehicle development chief, by crashing I take it easy at first. Besides, for some reason the previously traffic-free roads are suddenly filled with an endless string of bin lorries, OAPs and general dawdlers. Just as Mike said it would be, however, the XKR 75 is more than happy to bimble along, with only a slightly more nuggety ride than you might get in a standard XKR to remind you of the car's extra performance edge.


Eventually we manage to find some more empty roads and I get the opportunity to stretch the XKR's legs a little. And boy does it have legs. This is one of those cars where you might occasionally struggle with the brakes. Not because of any insufficiency in that department, but simply because it piles on speed so quickly that you are more than likely to arrive at a corners several tens of miles per hour quicker than you expected.

You may have also inadvertently been distracted by the booming gargle of a new active exhaust, which makes the XKR 75 sound mightily fruity. You'll also be treated to an occasional over-run crackle, as the ZF six-speed auto blips the engine for you as you move down the gears via the wheel-mounted paddle shift.


Even if you do arrive at a corner too fast, the XKR 75 proves itself to be a forgiving tool, with deep reserves of grip and traction. Just like the ordinary XKR really, but with a little more to give.

That kind of sums up the XKR 75. The differences between it and the regular car are small - low single digits if you want to put it into percentage terms - but they add up to make a reasonably significant difference. This car isn't what the Aston DBS is to the regular DB9 - it's too sophisticated and subtle for that. But it is heading in that direction.

For the moment the XKR 75 is a strictly limited edition model (there will only be 75 of 'em and there are no official plans for a mainstream XKR with the 75's tweaks.


But will we see some of the elements of this XKR on future production models? Cross is coy on this subject, telling us merely that he can't tell us. But between you, me and this computer screen the look on Mike's face suggests that some of the XKR 75 will find its way into mainststream XKs sooner or later. Probably sooner.

Author: Riggers