When cars sell in minuscule numbers, is usually because of two reasons. The ones we care about are those that had everything but the kitchen sink thrown at them by the manufacturer and produced in small quantities in the name of exclusivity. Then there are the cars that are only hard to find because they didn’t sell particularly well due to lack of demand, the company going bust or, more typically, they were rubbish.
Of course, there are exceptions. McLaren had to drop F1 production by a third due to a lack of interest - mostly thanks to the sharp recession endured in the early 1990s. The Lexus LFA, which also came hot off the heels of a financial crisis, was hardly a runaway hit either. But this Jaguar XKR-S is a bit more of a retrospective headscratcher. Like the aforementioned supercars, the X150 XKR-S was built in tiny numbers and, as far as we can tell, Jaguar managed to shift every example with little issue. The fact they're now selling for Ford Fiesta ST money is the curious thing.
To start with, there’s a lot more going on than meets the eye. Developed by Special Vehicle Operations (or SVO), the crack team that went on to create the bonkers Project 7 and 8, the XKR-S featured a raft of chassis upgrades to create the most focused version of Jaguar’s grand tourer to date. The suspension was totally reworked with stiffer springs and dampers, while the anti-roll bars were toughened up to keep the 1,665kg kerb weight in check. The ride height was lowered, too, and tweaks to the steering added a little weight to the XKR’s ultra-light feel.
Judging by the reviews at the time, it’s the brakes where Jaguar made the biggest strides. SVO collaborated with brake masters Alcon to develop a new system for the XKR-S, comprising of 400mm discs up front with six-piston callipers, with 350mm discs and four-pot callipers at the rear. One reviewer hailed the upgrade as “a transformation” over the original single-piston callipers, providing a “much more reassuring feel” under foot and, clearly, better braking performance. Another journalist said the XKR-S was so good they’d “be astonished if it didn’t give birth to a future crop of driver-focussed Jags” – which Jaguar duly did.
But unlike the follow-up XKR-S, with its 5.0-litre supercharged V8 and uncapped production numbers, the limited-run 2008 model made do with the same engine as the standard XKR. That means 4.2 litres of supercharged eight-cylinder thunder, with 420hp and 413lb ft of torque, which is managed by a very Jaguar six-speed torque converter automatic gearbox. SVO did, however, up the electronic speed limiter to 174mph. The aero changes supposedly serve a purpose as well, but we’ve not got any numbers to go off here. At least it looks the business, especially with the unique 20-inch forged alloy wheels.
With all of that in mind, it’s even more perplexing that the 2008 XKR-S doesn’t command the premium most limited-run performance specials do – something we all too rarely find ourselves saying at PH. Jaguar made 200 of these, but only 50 of them came to the UK in right-hand drive form, making them rarer than the proverbial hen’s dentures. This one’s up for £23,064 with only 71,000 miles on the clock. Talk about looking a gift horse in the mouth...
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