Since the current generation Jaguar XK broke cover in 2006, the model line-up has expanded to offer something for everyone. Whether you’re after a boulevard cruiser, ballistic GT or hardcore track-day warrior, Jaguar has you covered. Tested here is the most hardcore version available, the XKR-S.

What is it?

The XKR-S is Jaguar taking aim at the established sports car crowd, particularly the highly accomplished Porsche 911 GT3, as well as the spicy ‘S’ iteration of its traditional rival, the Aston Martin V8 Vantage. However, unlike the stripped out Porsche, the Jaguar retains all of the luxury accoutrements that make it an outstanding GT and daily driver.

It uses the same supercharged 5.0-litre V8 engine found in the XKR, but power is now up from 503bhp to a huge 542bhp, meaning this big cat will launch to 62mph from a standstill in 4.2 seconds and keep on hauling to 186mph. These are impressive figures for a large GT that’s quiet and (relatively) comfortable when you’re not driving like you’ve sat on a wasp.

The XKR-S wears a large amount of extra bodykit compared to its lesser siblings, including a rear spoiler and jutting front bumper treatment, which gives the normally beautiful XK an odd, downturned face. While it’s true some of the effortless style has been lost, the XKR-S remains a handsome beast that will certainly get you noticed.

What is it like to drive?

Refreshingly lairy. Where fast GT cars from the German manufacturers can feel somewhat sanitised and detached, with little effort to required to drive them at a serious clip, the XKR-S is different. It requires concentration to drive quickly – the tyres scrabble when under high loads and the tail will snap out of line with the merest hint of throttle. Whether you like putting in that sort of effort will depend on the sort of driver you are, but the XKR-S rewards commitment and is genuinely interactive. It also emits one of the most exciting exhaust notes this side of NASCAR, which only goads you on to drive it even harder.

Slow things down, however, and the XKR-S rediscovers its GT roots. In automatic mode the eight-speed gearbox shuffles ratios calmly, and you’re left to enjoy the tranquility of the cabin, with only a slightly firm ride spoiling the relaxation.

What is it like inside?

The interior of the XK was highly praised when it was first launched, as it was a major transformation for the brand. Gone were the heavy slabs of wood and old-world styling, replaced with a much more modern interior. Now, though, the cabin of the XK, which is shared throughout the range, is starting to look a tad dated. The leather-lined dashboard and doors ensure it never feels less than special, but some cheaper switchgear, particularly the indicator stalks, marr the overall impression of ultimate luxury.

Thankfully the toy count is what you’d expect of a high-end GT, with standard equipment including a seven-inch touchscreen sat-nav, leather headlining, keyless ignition, Bi-Xenon headlights, an excellent Bowers & Wilkins stereo and sports seats that are trimmed in the softest leather.

Is it practical?

Being a GT as well as a sports car, the XKR-S comes with a boot more than big enough for two to take a weekend away. The cabin too is spacious, with ample head and legroom. However, taller passengers may not get the lounging space they may have been expecting and the rear seats are too small to be a serious proposition for anything more than occasional use by children.

The XK is an undoubtedly big car – a feeling which isn’t helped by limited rear visibility. Thankfully, a decent driving position means the car is relatively easy to place on the road and a rear-view camera is available on as an optional extra, should you need an extra hand parking.

Should I buy one?

Objectively, the XKR-S is not the most focussed sports car, nor is it the most comfortable or cosseting GT. If you’re looking for a car that is one or the other, you may find the car’s split personality a bit of a disappointment. But, if you’re after a car that feels genuinely special, can take the sting out of the morning commute, then make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up on the right road, the Jaguar XKR-S is absolutely spot on.

Don’t want to buy new? You can browse for a used Jaguar XK in our classifieds here.

The facts

Jaguar XKR-S

List price: £97,465 (£98,390 as tested)
Engine: 5.0-litre, V8, supercharged, petrol
Power: 542bhp
Top speed: 186mph
0-62mph: 4.2 seconds
Fuel economy: 14.9mpg (urban), 33.0mpg (extra-urban) 23.0mpg (combined)
Emissions: 292g/km CO2
Euro NCAP rating: N/A