Jaguar XFR

Understated Brit delivers a deceptively strong knockout punch.

Before the XFR arrived, the supersaloon crown had been worn by the BMW M5. However, the Jaguar’s refinement, comfort and class, combined with sledgehammer pace, saw the new British car take top billing.

Not that the hot XF shouts about its talents, as only enthusiasts will spot the differences between the R model and its less-powerful stablemates. Subtle detailing tells them apart, and it is the quad exhausts, 20-inch alloy wheels and bonnet vents which are the most obvious tell-tales.

Some buyers may lament this lack of visual aggression, but it really is key to the Jaguar’s appeal, because its understated and stylish looks hide serious performance.

That same quality of design continues inside. The high transmission tunnel and low ventilated leather seats give the driving position a true sports car feel, while the rest of the cabin exudes the kind of luxury that is missing in its rivals here. The rotary gear selector, which rises out of the centre console, and swivelling air vents also provide a touch of theatre every time you start the supercharged V8 engine.

While the Jag is loaded with kit, music fans should splash out on the superb Bowers & Wilkins audio upgrade. At £1,100 it’s not cheap, but it’s a seriously impressive bit of kit. The only slight disappointment with the cabin is that rear passengers don’t have as much room as those in the Mercedes.

Compared with the raucous CTS-V and loud E63 AMG, the XFR is muted at idle. However, the 5.0-litre V8 takes on a pleasing growl at higher revs. Even so, if you leave the automatic box in Drive, the big cat changes gear so smoothly that it feels slower than it really is. Check out the numbers and you’ll see that it is actually just as quick as its competitors.

Thanks to instant thrust from low in the rev range, the British car’s supercharged powerplant delivers impressive and seamless acceleration. Jaguars have always been famed for their comfortable ride, and the XFR is no exception. Its supple set-up is perfect for road driving, although it’s a touch soft for serious track work. With the traction control switched off, a jab of the throttle will be enough to break grip at the rear, especially in damp conditions. However, it’s easily controllable and with the safety system engaged, the XFR is even more sure-footed.

Despite featuring generous equipment levels, the Jaguar costs £9,950 less than the Mercedes. It also boasts much better residuals. In addition, the XFR has the lowest CO2 emissions here, at 292g/km, and the most impressive fuel economy. Our return of 20.4mpg means owners will be able to manage 300 miles between fills.

This all-round excellence makes it hard to argue against the Jaguar. A flexible engine, stunning interior and composed but comfortable handling are all wrapped up in a gorgeous body. Has the Brit got what it takes to hold on to the top spot against its more powerful supersaloon rivals?

Details

WHY: Supersaloon mixes civility, power, driving thrills and the best cabin in its class to fly flag superbly for Britain.

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