In the last six months it feels as if we've driven more Jaguars than in the last six years. It's not that we're showing them preferential treatment, simply that the company has produced a disproportionate number of quality machines and released them in a relatively short period.
The 11/13 cover featured our Jaguar XFR project car we built in association with GSR Autosport and Vorsteiner, creating a very appealing package that was the equal of the BMW M5 we compared it to. We followed that with our comparison test of the F-Type V8s against the new Corvette Stingray, a story that graced the cover of the 2/14 issue. I'm still ashamed to admit I narrowly preferred the Vette, which is an astonishing package for the price, but the Jag wasn't far off, providing plenty of smiles per mile.
In the 4/14 issue we compared the XFR-S against the Audi RS7 and Mercedes E63 AMG. This was an incredibly stern test for all three vehicles and each excelled in different areas, making it almost impossible to pick a winner. My heart might have gone with the Jag, since it was sensational to drive, but the group went for the E63 and, unusually, I acquiesced...
This month we got our hands on the fantastically rare XKR-S GT. As we explain, it's one of only 25 cars built for the North American market, and that brought its own stresses. We were the last publication invited to drive it before the car went to a new owner, so no pressure then!
I have to admit, I find driving such exotic machinery nerve-wracking and generally don't enjoy the experience until I take stock and relax. I'm far more likely to crash while worrying about all the consequences than simply getting on with the task. However, the knowledge that the carbon splitter requires five hours and thousands of dollars to replace was a constant concern when maneuvering.
Once over the first-night nerves, the Jaguar was a delight to drive. Number one treat was the exhaust note that encouraged me to find a route home that involved multiple tunnels. However, the amazing carbon-ceramic brakes were a close second. Not that I went around stomping on them, but it was incredibly reassuring to know you could stop on a postage stamp, seemingly from any speed.
The GT ticked every box. The handling was possibly better than any Jag to date, the steering was perfectly weighted, the seats superbly supportive and comfortable, the ride compliant... In fact, I have to admit, I don't understand why the base model XK isn't this good. I know it's aimed at a different, older driver, but it would surely attract more customers if it used similar ride, handling, sound, steering, etc.
Perhaps my only reservation was the enormous rear wing. It was too extroverted for the character of the car, and I noticed people didn't react to the XKR-S GT in the same way they would to, say, a similar Aston Martin. I think other road users had to be slightly intimidated by the size of that wing, which also cut the roof off cars behind, obscuring the lights on police cars, for example.
I realize it adds lots of downforce and makes a real statement, but the GT needed to be more sophisticated to let people know how good this car is. Fit a larger lip spoiler on the trunk maybe and call it a day. I'll sacrifice 100 lb of downforce for something I'm more comfortable to drive.
Unsurprisingly, the car attracted a great deal of interest when parked, and it got overwhelmingly positive comments. Most people were happy to see Jaguar build such a ballsy car and were genuinely delighted to see the company making such a confident return after many feared it might have disappeared altogether.
This isn't the end of Jaguar's resurgence and we'll open the next chapter in our First Drive review of the new F-Type R Coupe in the next issue. With a power increase, stiffer body and oodles of style, it might even eclipse the XKR-S GT...
I know I mention it every month, but don't forget to join our online community. We passed one million Facebook friends at the start of the year, so you really can share your comments with a large part of the Euro community.
We also regularly update europeancarmag.com which is where you can find our exclusive stories and videos, such as the footage from our XKR-S GT vs RX-7 drag race. It was the first time we incorporated a helicam into our arsenal, so this video has a new look for us. Look out for more news, features, events and videos each month.