Rocket man

Rocket man

James V Vincent, managing director at Royal Armouries International, drives the Jaguar XKR convertible.

All you want for Christmas? You’d better believe it… a supercharged version of the standard XK. When BQ handed over the keys from Appleyard Jaguar I was immediately struck by its out-and-out beauty. If Leeds Royal Armouries did cars, this would certainly be on display.

Perhaps I could swing it for the James Bond version with the rocket launchers? The interior, too, is absolutely breathtaking with yards of leather and all the gadgets and controls coming easily to hand.

I really enjoyed the touch screen that allowed me to control everything – including the mightily impressive sound system – with the tap of a finger. The XKR really sets itself apart from other cars both in its appearance and manner.

But a car like this is meant for speed and when the supercharger kicks in, the power hikes and you quite simply feel like you’re floating along in a road version of a high-tech rocket – unexpectedly smooth with seamless delivery of power and imperceptible gear changes.

It was an absolute pleasure to drive. It eats up the road and, travelling up the A1M to Newcastle, the slightest blip of the accelerator brought in the thrilling sound of the supercharger and the “we have lift off” acceleration.

I couldn’t help wondering just what is this engine really capable of and speculated if a quick jaunt to Germany and a blast down the autobahns might be possible. Maybe next time. Perhaps. With the arrival of the undeniably fantastic new XF and XJ model range, there’s a tendency to forget the importance of what to me remains the quintessential Jaguar model – the XK.

It has, after all, been the touchstone for so much of the cross-range development work that has come downstream of it. OK, so you get two fewer usable seats, but to my mind it’s still more of a head turner than the newcomers and remains the poster boy for Jaguar’s sporting personality.

It’s a little lighter, a little louder under hard throttle, and more responsive – throttle, steering, brakes – than even the XFR. In cold figures, the power/weight ratio jumps from the XFR’s 270bhp/ton to 291bhp/ton and the 4.6sec 0-62mph time shaves a tenth from the saloon’s performance.

It shares the amazing new 5-litre supercharged V8 (503bhp at 6000-6500rpm, 461lb ft at 2500-5500rpm) with the XK and the exterior and cabin have been treated to a similar R-style makeover. I know there is a new version of the XK on the drawing board, but I’m delighted that the early pictures and information I’ve received show that it will be tweaked, sharpened and improved rather than completely rewritten.

Good news for lovers of this iconic British sportscar.

The model driven was the XKR 5.0 S/C Convertible OTR £84,550 with the XK range starting from £65,000. Supplied by Appleyard Jaguar, Bradford, 01274 514 400