Jaguar XJR review
Jaguar XJR offers incredible performance and comfort, rivalling the Mercedes S63 AMG super-saloon
The new XJR is the latest in a long line of hotted-up Jaguar saloons. In the UK it’s offered only in short-wheelbase trim, but it’s cheaper than the Mercedes S63, weighing in at well under £100,000 - but the Audi S8 trumps both cars with the lowest price of the three super-saloons. Other rivals include the Maserati Quattroporte and Porsche Panamera.
With its sloping roof and coupe-inspired lines, the XJ always appeared well suited to a racy R makeover. Although you can’t ignore the all-round desirability of the Mercedes S63 AMG, the more engaging Jaguar gets the nod in terms of pure thrills. From its burbling V8 soundtrack to its entertaining rear-wheel-drive handling, the XJR feels like a proper sports saloon.
While it can’t match the S-Class for hi-tech kit, soft leather seats and beautiful materials give well finished Jag cabin a cosy, club-class feel.
The Jaguar XJR manages to look classy and sporty at the same time, with the sharper side sills, carbon fibre rear spoiler and revised front bumper adding just the right amount of athleticism. Bonnet vents and the quad-exhaust set-up hint at the performance on offer, while extra interest comes from the LED running lights and latticework front grille.
However, given that the standard XJ was launched back in 2009, the cabin is beginning to look a bit old. As you’d expect there’s plenty of leather upholstery and plush trim, but the new S-Class’s superb interior throws the spotlight on the Jag’s dated design.
The TFT dials, touchscreen and switchgear all look old-fashioned, too, while some of the materials don’t match up to the Mercedes S-Class’ exemplary standards. Even the fit and finish lacks the final polish of the class-leading S-Class.
Still, with smart ice-blue ambient lighting, chrome air vents and plenty of equipment as standard, there’s still much to like about the XJR’s interior – especially as the driving position is excellent and the standard sports seats are comfortable.
The XJ has always been one of the best-handling luxury limos money can buy. And for the XJR, Jaguar’s engineers stiffened the spring rates by 30 per cent and reworked the adaptive damping. Inspired by the F-Type, the steering calibration has been fine-tuned, too.
As a result, the XJR feels impressively agile for a big car, turning into corners quickly and precisely. The tyres are wider than the regular saloon’s, so there’s plenty of grip, although the sheer amount of power on offer means that, despite the best efforts of the clever electronic differential, the car relies heavily on its traction control on the exit of tight corners.
The Jaguar feels spirited, with a communicative chassis and responsive handling adding to the character. While it doesn’t flatter you like the Mercedes S63 AMG, there’s more feel at your fingertips. The XJR is the faster choice, too. The weight savings of its aluminium construction help it tip the scales at 200kg less than the S63, and the car sprints from 0-60mph in a mere 4.1 seconds – three-tenths faster.
Sharper throttle response makes it feel keener than the Mercedes and, in spite of its 220Nm torque deficit, it just has the edge for in-gear response. The eight-speed automatic transmission kicks down a couple of ratios if you get too eager with the throttle, so it’s best to use the torque by holding the gears and shifting manually.
It all adds up to car that shrinks around you in a way rivals simply don’t. However, the pay-off is a jittery ride and suspension which reacts to surfaces more than some rival models. The Jag’s big 20-inch wheels crash into potholes as well.
Yet this muscle car infusion doesn’t come completely at the expense of comfort. Although the XJR doesn’t isolate road noise as much as we'd like, the exhaust is tuned to deliver a nice growl. Even better, the V8 doesn’t drone on the motorway, and most of the time this model is nearly as relaxing to drive as a diesel-powered XJ.
The XJ feels solidly put together, and has strong safety credentials, too. There are eight airbags as standard, as well as stability control and a pop-up bonnet to protect pedestrians. Plus, our test model featured the optional blind-spot monitor and adaptive cruise control – although the market-leading S-Class still has the edge in terms of hi-tech safety equipment.
Jaguar dealers rated fifth in our Driver Power 2013 survey, and even more impressive was the British company’s third-place finish in the manufacturer results. Some owners may be worried that Jaguar ranked only 15th for reliability, but the V8 is well proven in other Jaguar Land Rover models, as are the eight-speed ZF automatic box and a large majority of components.
Driver enjoyment is the priority, but the XJR is still comfortable and spacious. While you can’t buy a long wheelbase car in the UK, and the sloping roofline pinches rear headroom, there’s still room for two adults in the back – although the LWB S63 feels much bigger.
There’s more room up front, plus lots of seat adjustment. Yet the small rear screen restricts visibility, and the touchscreen feels outdated and is difficult to use sometimes. The XJR does feature standard heated and cooled front seats, plus keyless entry and a heated steering wheel, and its 520-litre boot is a decnt size.
By choosing the supercharged V8 petrol XJR over the cleaner, cheaper and more efficient diesel XJ, you’re clearly happy to accept increased running costs. And one of the biggest will be depreciation – this is just a fact of life for luxury saloons. Predicted residuals of only 40.9 per cent mean the flagship XJR trails the S63 by 4.5 per cent.
The price advantage over the Mercedes S63 AMG helps the XJR when it comes to tax bills, though. Both models sit in the highest 35 per cent bracket, but here a top-band earner will pay £3,839 a year less in company car tax than one choosing an S63 – although that’s still a hefty £12,775.
Also expect big fuel bills – we averaged a mere 15.2mpg in the XJR, and while this included track testing, it meant the 82-litre tank gave a range of only around 270 miles.