Jaguar XKR-S convertible - First Drive

Meet the hundred grand Jag: a truly multi-sensory experience

Price: £103,430
Engine: 5.0-litre supercharged V8 petrol
Transmission: Six-speed automatic
Power: 550PS
Torque: 680Nm
Performance: 186mph, 0-60 in 4.2 seconds, 23.0mpg, CO:292g/km

Jaguar's XKR-S caused a bit of a stir when it arrived last year. With 550 horsepower of the German PS variety under the bonnet, it offered a significant edge over the already generous 385 of the standard XK and the 510 of the supercharged XKR. It turned in an impressive top speed of 186mph, and even that, it transpired, was an artificially limited figure. Given a free rein, the XKR-S would be faster still. And if the XKR-S was quicker than any Jaguar before – the exotic limited production XJ220 apart – it entered new pricing territory as well. A standard XK costs £65,430, and an XKR will set you back £78,930 but in closed coupé form the XKR-S costs £97,430. The differences between the cars are not just a question of horsepower; the XKR and XKR-S get better brakes than the standard car, as well as an active differential that improves traction, but we're still talking about a fairly steep price gradient.

Now Jaguar has extended the XK range further with a convertible version of the XKR-S, and the chopping of the roof brings with it a further increase in price, to £103,430. The advent of the hundred grand Jag hasn't really provoked much of a reaction but nor should it, because modern representatives of the brand are excellent cars and Jaguar's (mainly German rivals) routinely breach the six-figure barrier with sometimes not very special cars, and nobody bats an eyelid.

If the breaking of an important pricing ceiling hasn't caused the sky to fall in, what results does removing the roof from an XKR-S bring with it? Well people decide to go without a car roof for all sorts of reasons. Early cars didn't have a roof as they were primitive things, and in any case, because they were built on sturdy chassis, they didn't need a roof to make the bodywork stiff enough anyway. Today, most car-buyers go for a convertible because they want to breathe in fresh air and feel the wind in their hair and the sun on their backs - but that's not why well-heeled Jaguar buyers will be forking out a premium of about £6,000 to order their XKR-S without a roof.

The main reason for buying one of these jobs is that it sounds simply wonderful, and opening up the roof allows you to hear its glorious thrumming, popping, fizzling V8 engine a lot better. That's it. In all other respects, the XKR-S is the same super-appealing package as the closed coupé model, with the same great handling, wonderful looks and cosy, sporty interior.

One curiosity; Jaguar used to be big on traditional British Racing Green as a body colour, but when I went to the launch of the closed XKR-S coupé last year, all of the cars were in French Racing Blue, and my convertible test car was in a shade called Italian Racing Red, although it was a bit darker than the famous rosso corsa traditionally used to paint competition vehicles from Ferrari, Alfa and the rest. I do hope that all its success isn't causing Jaguar to forget its solid, sensible British Midlands roots. But that's a worry for another day; the XJR-S convertible is wonderful, and will look marvellous in whatever colour you choose. Not only that - it's well worth the money, too.