XKR 174
  • The runway ahead stretches to the horizon. I grasp the XKR's steering wheel and accelerate. The tyres grip the asphalt and, thanks in part to its lightweight aluminium chassis, the XKR leaps from 0 to 60mph in 4.6 seconds; 50-70mph flies by in less than two.

  • Past 70mph, the enhanced aerodynamics of this XKR's Speed Pack take effect. The pack extends the top speed of the already potent XKR from a limited 155mph to a limited 174mph, without compromising its driving refinement or its sumptuous interior. Aerodynamic changes, including larger front and rear spoilers, decrease front and rear lift by up to 30 per cent over the standard XK, without increasing drag.

  • Through 100mph, the continuously variable Adaptive Dynamics system firms up the dampers to 75 per cent stiffness, then puts them in a high-speed setting for added stability. The Active Differential Control, which aids agility in the turns, also bolsters the XKR’s straight-line poise. But the ride remains refined.

  • The speed keeps rising. 120mph, 140mph, 160mph. Almost as fast as you can say it. Until the speedometer needle finally stops sweeping. 174mph! The steering feels firm and confident, as does the poise of the chassis as the suspension trims out the high-speed washboard of the runway below us. Only the blur of the tree line to our left leaves us aware of our speed. The sensation is simply dream-like.

  • We know that, when we brake, the Speed Pack’s bright red aluminium callipers will grip the XKR's vented discs with 120 times the force of our foot - the braking equivalent of a 1770bhp engine. But we can enjoy 174mph for a few seconds more. The car feels so comfortable at these speeds, and the acceleration of the XKR is so great, that we’re left with plenty of runway to spare.

  • Back in 1953, it was very different. Jaguar test driver Norman Dewis drove an XK120 to 172mph at Jabbeke in Belgium, making it the fastest production car in the world at the time. His driver’s seat was removed, leaving him on the car’s floor in sweltering heat as a Perspex bubble – worth an extra five miles per hour – was screwed over his head. "It wasn’t comfortable," he says. "The steering was light, and the car weaved. There were no air vents, so I got hotter and hotter. My face was like a tomato."

  • All we had to do to beat his benchmark was settle into the cosseting leather of the Jaguar ‘R’ sports seats, press the pulsing Start button and turn the JaguarDrive Selector to ‘D’. We even kept the air conditioning on.

  • Photography by Alex P

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