Jaguar XFR driven

With 503bhp, new XFR is Coventry's fastest ever saloon...

Overall Auto Express Rating

5.0 out of 5

There’s no doubt that Jaguar’s XF was one of the most impressive cars Auto Express tested in 2008 – but this new XFR model takes that car’s appeal to a whole new level. Much more than simply a tuned up XF, its extra performance is backed up with a wholesale review of the car’s suspension, gearbox and interior. Make no mistake, fast Jaguars have never been better than this.

It’s the big cat’s biggest moment! The storming Jaguar XFR has already proved its mettle with a record breaking 225mph run across the American salt flats in Bonneville, but now it faces its biggest test of all – a test on the open road.

Though this standard car's speed is limited to 155mph, it’s powered by a near identical 503bhp supercharged V8 engine, meaning a 0-60mph sprint of 4.7 seconds and devastating in-gear performance.

Described as the pinnacle of the acclaimed XF range, it gets unique bodywork and a distinctive interior, including new look air intakes.

The car also gets the JaguarDrive gear selector, a twist-to-use dial that debuted in the standard model, and rises up out of the centre console when the engine is started.

At idle, the new V8 offers few clues to its potential. The 5.0-litre unit ticks over smoothly, and the four polished tailpipes are almost whisper quiet. Fuel economy and CO2 emissions look good too, at 22.5mpg and 292g/km respectively.

Around town, the R proves an easy car to thread through busy traffic. Despite the engine’s potential, the model responds to the driver in a controlled and refined fashion. The suspension is firm, but never uncomfortable. The brakes feel reassuringly powerful, but not oversensitive.

As the roads begin to open out, it’s possible to use more of the engine’s performance, but it’s not until the V8 passes 4,000rpm that you begin to get a better idea of it’s real character.

As the revs climb, the quad exhaust arrangement begins to roar, and the car’s speed begins to build with supercar rivalling pace. Through sweeping bends, the XFR offers huge amounts of grip, and this coupled with the car’s accurate steering and powerful brakes helps you to cover ground quickly and effortlessly.

With the traction control switched to track mode – which lowers the system’s rate of intervention without switching it off altogether – the XFR proves agile and rewarding to drive. A new, electronically controlled limited slip differential also helps, boosting traction out of tight corners.

Overall the car is both exciting and rewarding to drive, and has a character that is very different to that offered by the motorsport inspired BMW M5, or powerful, autobahn tuned Mercedes AMG E63.

The Jaguar somehow feels a much more mature model, slightly softer, but no less capable. Thanks to its subtle styling additions, we also think it looks far better too.

If we had any criticisms, it would be that if you drive the car as fast as it will go, the seats don’t offer quite as much support as we would like. We struggled to apply the engine’s power smoothly out of corners too.

However, we look forward to finding out if the latter point remains a problem in the UK, as it could have been linked to the specific tuning of the gearbox control software on our early car.

That aside, we would argue that this is the finest performance saloon money can currently buy. Beautifully styled, brilliant to drive, and as thrilling a drivers car as anything else we have tested so far this year.

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