Few luxury saloons feel as sporty as the Jaguar XJ from the driver’s seat, so the new XJR could be the perfect choice for enthusiast buyers in this class.
The small ‘R’ badges on the bootlid and inside the black mesh grille reveal that this XJ uses a tweaked version of the supercharged 5.0-litre V8 from the Supersports, which develops 542bhp.
The extra grunt exaggerates the big Jag’s playful handling, and on damp surfaces there is a constant battle between the traction control and the engine for control of those wide rear tyres. The electronic interference is so severe that you can feel it grabbing the brakes via the ABS, so throttle inputs need to be slow and deliberate through first and second gear.
As you start to build up speed, the standard sports exhaust fills the cabin with a fantastic V8 rumble, accompanied by a whine from the supercharger, and the ZF eight-speed gearbox thumps through the ratios without pausing for an instant.
The steering is communicative, and provides decent resistance at any speed – so even on narrow lanes, the XJR seems to shrink around you in a way few rivals can match. The lively chassis demands attention at all times, and the firm suspension can throw you around at speed, but these niggles are the price you pay for its adrenaline-fuelled character.
• Jaguar news and reviews
Sadly, when you do slow down the XJ starts to make less sense as an all-rounder. The black-lined interior and sharply sloping roof mean occupants will feel cramped in the front or rear, with anyone over six feet tall likely to struggle for headroom.
The flat TFT dials and touchscreen infotainment system are really beginning to show their age, and while the flamboyant air vents, ‘R’ branding and gloss black inserts add a sense of drama, some pieces of trim feel a bit flimsy.