The rants and raves of Top Gear's most famous son...
Jaguar XFR review (2009 onwards)
Summary - 510hp from an all-new supercharged, direct-injection V8 engine gives Jaguar's XFR the power to challenge the German heavyweights
We like – Performance, discreetly aggressive looks, brilliant gearbox, comfy interior, V8 noise, it’s a Jaguar
We don’t like – Fuel consumption, speed limits, ride harsh unless you’re really on it, cabin feels cheap in places
Test track exercise or not, having dialled in a full turn of steering lock flooring the throttle in a 510hp rear-driven car on a wet surface still seems rash. Normally this would result in a) an electronically strangled limp from the line or b) promptly facing the direction from which you've just come. Not in the new Jaguar XFR.
New supercharged V8 roars, fancy differential deploys exactly the right amount of power to keep traction at the rear wheels and the Jag leaps out of the simulated junction as if the track is bone dry without even a degree of opposite lock required. It's all wrong. But mighty impressive.
Yup, it's quite a piece of kit this new mega-Jag. Admittedly, the timing is disastrous. You can only feel for Jaguar, future apparently now secure and its fabulous new XF selling strongly and finally overturning the brand's undeserved old-man image. Insiders simply shrug and say they'll just keep on making the best cars they can.
They're true to their promise too. As it stands the XF has been a genuine hit, selling nearly 9,000 in the UK alone and significantly boosting Jaguar's market share. This new performance flagship introduces an all-new range of engines and signals Jaguar's intent to beat BMW M, Mercedes AMG and Audi Quattro GmbH at their own game.
Blame the Germans. Until recently 500hp was for high rollers only but now it's the minimum stake if you want to be considered a contender. With 510hp and 461lb ft of torque this direct-injection 5.0-litre V8 certainly delivers on the power, new chassis tech under the banner Adaptive Dynamics tasked with putting it down onto the road.
You can have the V8 in 385hp normally aspirated form too. But this supercharged model is the big news, the XF now equipped with the firepower to take on the BMW M5, Mercedes CLS63 AMG and even chase the seriously deranged Audi RS6. Soon it'll have added competition in the form of the Porsche Panamera too.
It is astonishingly rapid. Oh my god, was I really going that fast rapid. Time in a Spanish jail cell rapid, in the case of two of our journalistic colleagues a couple of days earlier. Forget the 4.9-second benchmark 0-62mph time too - the fact it'll storm from 50-70mph in just 1.9 seconds is of far greater significance.
On paper the 517hp Mercedes CLS63 AMG and 507hp BMW M5 appear closely matched. But in reality these naturally aspirated rivals - especially the peaky M5 - can't match the Jag's huge spread of instantly accessible supercharged grunt. Then you notice the Jag undercuts the BMW by five grand and the CLS63 by an incredible £13,500...
Ride and handling
Jaguar can't match rivals' budget or manpower. But it fights back with typical British ingenuity. Select Dynamic Mode from the JaguarDrive Control system and the dampers momentarily tense beyond their normal working parameters to give you a seat of the pants sensation of the new setting.
Ride comfort does suffer but on-limit control is impressive. And if you override the super-slick six-speed automatic gearbox and demand a redline downshift while braking the computer will calculate how quickly the car is slowing and where the revs will be by the time the gear is actually selected. The result? No danger of the 'computer says no' frustration as the gearbox refuses to shift down.
Demand multiple gearchanges while braking and the shifts are 'stacked' so when you actually arrive at the corner you're in the correct gear. It's clever stuff, thoughtfully engineered into the software by people who actually understand what keen drivers want out of their cars and complementing the manually selectable modes adjusting throttle response, gearbox shifts and suchlike.
There's more cleverness with the new Active Differential Control. Similar to the Audi S4's Sport Differential, ADC works on a trailing throttle as well as under power, neutralising understeer, maintaining control in rapid direction changes and delivering every ounce of that formidable power. In short the XFR is as fun as it is fast, which is to say hugely.
Dragging Jaguar kicking and screaming from the comfortable wood'n'cream leather rut into which it had settled, the XF's interior design has been justly praised. This range topper gets all the goodies too, most of them including the 'R' branding just to press the message home.
The every-which-way seats electrically slide, tilt, squeeze and cosset to your heart's content and there's touchscreen nav and Jaguar's neat, pop-up rotary gear selector too. Fit and finish are good and it's a very comfortable cabin but the silver-painted plastics and flimsy gearshift paddles are low rent compared with equivalent Mercs and BMWs.
Economy and safety
Jaguar can boast all it likes of the new engine's much improved efficiency relative to the 4.2-litre it replaces but the fact remains this is a 500hp-plus supercharged V8 with an appetite for fuel somewhat out of step with much of current thinking.
For the record the figures reckon you can get 22.5mpg on the combined cycle.Enthusiastic driving can halve that and we drained the 69.5-litre tank in a mere 150 miles. That's our place in eco-purgatory sealed then. There's the usual array of electronic safety nets and airbags too but the fancy differential is incredibly effective at keeping the car stable, reducing the need for electronic intervention unless it's really necessary.
The MSN Cars verdict
Blindingly fast, the XFR is more than a match for BMW M and Mercedes AMG in pure performance and technological cleverness.
But it's also much more charismatic, from the snarl of the new V8's exhaust note to the way in which it deploys that massive power.
|Need to know|
|Engines, petrol||5.0-litre V8, supercharged|
|Torque, lb ft||461|
|0-62 mph, secs||4.9|
|Top speed, mph||155|
|CO2, tax||292g/km, 35%|
|Ride & handling||*****|
|MSN Cars verdict||*****|
Read another Jaguar review on MSN Cars
related stories on msn
Latest Cars videos
On the road with the landmark Lambos for special golden anniversary drive.
Date 13/05/13, Duration 4:26, Views 9024