Testdrive It is the most extroverted and sporting Jaguar to hit showrooms in decades. Kartikeya Singhee on the XKR-S Coupe

Jaguar has always tried to combine grace, space and pace into one superlative package with models such as the SS100, the E-type and the XK. However with the XKR-S coupé, it seems Jaguar has gotten its formula a bit skewed.

From no angle is the XKR-S a subtle car, especially not the front. While it's based on the XK, the pursuit of pace has lead to extensive modifications. Optimising the aerodynamics meant adding air inlets on the bumper, a new upside-down grille and a carbon-fibre splitter to reroute the air flow under the car, and slots on the bonnet to help cool the engine. Bigger side skirts give the impression that the car is hugging the ground. At the rear are more carbon-fibre bits, such as the wing on the boot-lid and the diffuser underneath. The end result is a reduction in aerodynamic lift by 26 per cent with no increase in drag. In fact, the XKR-S looks more like a racing car than an elegant grand tourer.

On the inside, though, are all the creature comforts you'd expect from a Jaguar. The sporty, frame-hugging seats are well-padded and lined with imitation carbon-fibre, and offer 16-way power adjustment. There is two-zone climate control, a 525W Bowers & Wilkins audio system and a reversing camera. Clearly there have been no Lamborghini Superleggera-style cutbacks to save weight, and the unchanged 1.73-tonne kerb weight proves as much.

The XKR-S with 542bhp, is the most powerful production car from Jaguar yet. It trumps the standard XKR by 40bhp and its 300kph top speed is faster by 50kph. The 0-100 time is down by almost half a second to 4.4sec, and that's despite the weight remaining the same.

What sets the mood in the XKR-S is the exhaust note, which is a deep, throaty rumble that resonates in the cabin, egging you to go faster. But it isn't all about making your hair stand on end — the new exhaust is also responsible for unleashing many of the extra horses on the XKR-S by reducing back-pressure and adding a manic edge to the way the revs build. The remapped ECU also gives sharper responses and quicker gear shifts.

Driving the XKR-S fast is an experience. It makes you breathe faster, leaves your hands clammy and your knees shaking just a little. The XKR-S puts you on the edge, especially in Dynamic mode. The power and torque from the perfectly square AJ V8 motor are spread across the rev range, but there is so much of it on tap and such is the connection between the throttle pedal and the engine that no matter what speed you're at or in which gear, even a light tap on the throttle results in a neat shove in the back. Mash the throttle hard and the engine revs angrily to the 6,500rpm mark.

You can tell that Jaguar expects this machine to be driven hard and fast. Not only is the ‘Trac' DSC mode especially lenient, it also disengages completely much quicker. And from there on, driving the XKR-S is like trying to tame a wild cat. Whether you are just getting going or coming around a corner, step on the throttle with a bit of enthusiasm and the 69.3kgm of torque on tap from 2,500rpm will overcome the grip available to the rear wheels with little effort.

Using the power responsibly requires measured inputs from your right foot. To ease the work load, you could just set the DSC to ‘Trac' mode and let the electronics take care of the details while enjoying all the fun the rear-driver offers. To make the XKR-S lighter on its feet an extensive overhaul of the suspension was carried out, including lowering the ride height, increasing the spring rates, beefing up the uprights and lightening the components.

The XKR-S also uses forged 20-inch wheels which are lighter and wrapped with stickier rubber. Nothing has been overlooked; the electronic rear differential and the DSC have been recalibrated to allow for a sportier driving experience. The lenient ‘Trac' DSC system allows drivers to indulge in lurid drifts without ESP intervention, and it even has a launch mode. It is immediately apparent that Jaguar's efforts to make the XKR-S more “pointy” have worked. The light steering commands changes of direction with such quickness and immediacy that if it weren't for the supportive seats you'd get knocked around like a sack of potatoes. The revised suspension has a firmness that seems very businesslike without being brutal.

The XKR-S is a bold Jaguar and it reflects the confidence and ability of the company. It is the most extroverted and sporting Jaguar to hit showrooms in decades. It is not a traditional tourer but if it is fun you want, then the XKR-S is one of the best around.