Jaguar is celebrating a quarter of a century of its R and R-S high-performance cars with three new model introductions over the next few weeks.
A new XJR sports limousine and the most aggressive XF executive saloon so far, the XFR-S, have just gone on sale in the UK, and will soon be joined by the (very) limited edition XKR-S GT coupe.
The £135,000 GT, created to show what Jaguar is capable of, was originally intended solely for North America, but 10 are now slated for the UK. All are already spoken for.
R is Jaguar’s equivalent of BMW’s M division or AMG from Mercedes-Benz. Jaguar is now actively trying to promote it by extending the number and diversity of models in the range. The three new cars illustrate the different strands that Jaguar will weave together under the R banner in future.
Models badged R will be “the centre of gravity” of the programme: high-performance but still mainstream luxury cars, as typified by the £92,000 XJR.
Those badged R-S will be what Jaguar calls “maximalist”, offering the ultimate in road-car performance which can also be extended to the track. The £80,000 XFR-S shows the direction Jaguar is taking with such models.
Finally there will be R-S GT, being seen for the first time on the XK but almost certain to be extended to other cars where appropriate. These will be extremely exclusive (less than 50 units globally for the XK) and will showcase track-inspired technologies in areas such as materials and aerodynamics.
The XJR, XFR-S and XKR-S GT all use Jaguar’s supercharged 5.0-litre V8 engine, tuned to deliver 545bhp and 680Nm of torque. This is 40bhp and 55Nm more than any previous version of the engine thanks to a new Roots-type twin-vortex supercharger. Bespoke throttle mapping and exhaust systems give each car its own characteristics.
The eight-speed automatic transmision supplied by ZF has been recalibrated for the R range and gets Jaguar’s Quickshift, intelligent torque management and corner recognition systems
so that gear changes are rapid, but happen only when the driver wants them.
The suspension and the electronic driver aids have also been extensively retuned – again, individually to suit each car; the steering hydraulics are different from those of standard Jaguars and the GT has bespoke chassis components and unique racing-developed aerodynamic features.
Just five countries – America, Canada, the UK, Germany and Switzerland – account for 80% of sales of R-branded cars, but the volumes are relatively small. Jaguar thinks it might be able to sell 200 versions of the XFR-S in the US per year and around 120 in the UK, but sales of the XJR will probably be no more than 500 in its lifetime.
The R division was founded in 1988, originally as a competitions department with Tom Walkinshaw Racing. Jaguar won the Le Mans 24 Hours that year with the XJR-9 and went on to race in the European Touring Car Championship before launching its first R-branded road car, based on the XJS.