Jaguar XFR

Hottest version of classy Brit isn’t quite so extreme. But is that a good thing?

If you want a refined and rapid supersaloon, the Jaguar XFR takes some beating. This blisteringly quick car is our current class favourite, thanks to its blend of sleek style, engaging driving dynamics and excellent value for money.

However, the Jag faces a fierce fight to hold on to its crown. With less power and higher CO2 emissions than the BMW, it loses out on paper. So, is it on a hiding to nothing, or can it pull something special out of the bag?

Well, there’s no doubt the rakish XFR looks the part. A subtle bodykit, deeper front bumper, neat bonnet vents and 20-inch alloys give extra visual aggression. And as with other models in the line-up, the high-performance range-topper gets distinctive LED running lights.

Inside, the Jag is more cramped than its roomy rival, with much less rear head and legroom. What’s more, the 540-litre boot is awkwardly shaped – although a folding bench is standard and hikes capacity to 963 litres.

It’s not all bad news, though. Build quality is easily a match for the BMW’s, while the traditional mix of wood and leather gives the cabin a charming appeal that the clinical-feeling M5 can’t match. There’s also plenty of standard kit, including sat-nav, a powerful 1,200W sound system and keyless ignition.

Prod the starter button and the 5.0-litre V8 rumbles menacingly into life. In isolation, the 503bhp engine feels extremely strong, giving scorching acceleration in any gear. What’s more, the six-speed box provides seamless changes in auto and manual modes.

However, the XFR loses 49bhp to the M5 and trailed at the track. Our Jag sprinted from 0-60mph in five seconds exactly – six-tenths slower than the ballistic BMW. Yet there was little between our duo’s eye-popping stopping power. We’ve always been impressed by the Jag’s poised chassis, and this revised set-up is no exception – particularly in Dynamic mode. This stiffens the adaptive dampers, sharpens throttle response and delivers more aggressive gearshifts via the wheel-mounted paddles.

Turn into a corner and you’ll find extremely direct and well weighted steering, plus decent feedback from all major controls. And while the XFR lacks the M5’s ultimate grip through corners, it’s a more fun and engaging choice.

Yet as with the BMW, the Jaguar transforms into a refined and cosseting executive express when you simply want to cruise. Road and wind noise are kept to a minimum, while the ride does a good job of soaking up bumps – although it’s a little firm at low speeds.

The Jaguar has the edge on price: it costs £65,350, and undercuts the M5 by a massive £7,690. And while it emits more CO2 than its rival, it’s a cheaper company car choice and returned stronger economy in our hands. Add blistering performance, entertaining handling and sleek styling, and it still looks a strong contender for victory.

Details

Chart position: 1WHY: The fastest XF of all is our favourite supersaloon. It beat the Cadillac CTS-V and Mercedes E63 AMG in 2010. Now it faces its biggest threat yet.

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