The Jaguar XFR-S is what happens when engineers find a few bits of their latest hottest models left around the workshop and decide to show us what the XF saloon is really capable of.
Under the curvy bonnet is the same 542bhp version of the 5.0-litre supercharged V8 that powers the XKR-S. That means power jumps by 39bhp and torque climbs from 625Nm to 680Nm over the standard XFR.
Once you press the starter button, the air vents revolve and the engine cracks into life. All Jaguar XFR-S’ get a passive sports exhaust that’s actually quite quiet, giving the car a fairly similar soundtrack to the XFR, albeit with a few more cracks and pops when you’re in sport mode.
The big V8 drives the rear wheels through Jaguar’s latest eight-speed automatic gearbox, and a specially recalibrated rear differential. It also powers the XFR-S from 0-62mph in 4.6 seconds – a tenth faster than the XFR – while the top speed is 186mph, making it Jaguar’s fastest ever saloon car.
It doesn’t take long to realise that the Jaguar XFR-S is a pretty intense drive. You have to be gentle with the throttle as there’s no artificial limit on the torque. If you are too quick, you’ll wake the traction control easily, but be smooth and the XFR-S builds speed very quickly indeed, the rear squirming a little as the Jaguar’s chassis does battle between the power and grip available from the specially developed Pirelli tyres. You always feel fully involved in the drive, the controls giving you plenty of feel and feedback, but it’s a car that demands you have your wits about you.
Arrive at a corner and the uprated brakes do a very good job of scrubbing off speed. Likewise, the stiffer front uprights and valving borrowed from the F-Type give the light and direct steering extra-sharp response, so again it pays to be nice and smooth, so as not to provoke the rear tyres to lose grip.
Switch to Dynamic mode and you have a pretty big threshold before the traction control light flickers on – something worth remembering when you’re accelerating out of a tight junction or when the road is damp. The steering becomes even more direct, although a little less linear in feel, responding to very small inputs with an impressive eagerness for a car that weighs 1,987kg. Dynamic mode feels very engaging and exciting, although it’s a pretty aggressive set up that’s not for the faint-hearted
Despite the fact that the Jaguar XFR-S gets 30 per cent stiffer suspension and 20-inch alloys that are wider than the XFR, the ride is really comfortable. There’s also a set of very plush electrically adjustable sports seats as standard, while, if you tire of the V8’s rumble, you can turn up the standard 17-speaker Meridian stereo.
If you want your XFR-S to stand out, there’s a larger rear wing to complement the carbon-fibre diffuser and more aggressive front bumper, although we think the smaller wing of our test car looks spot on.
And while the Jaguar XFR will be more than enough for most, the XFR-S is proof that Jaguar’s engineers haven’t forgotten the XF, nor its niche band of driving enthusiasts who will love the extra pace and involvement this car brings.