We drive supercharged flagship on British roads to see if it really is a class leader
The Jaguar XF isn’t short of accolades – it’s the reigning Auto Express Car of the Year and has just scooped our Driver Power 2009 award. Now, the Coventry company can add the title of top executive sports saloon to its trophy cabinet. The excellent XFR manages to serve up a compelling blend of performance, driver involvement and impressive refinement. It’s a hot performance car when you want to have fun and a low-key cruiser when you want to relax.
The big cat is ready to get fierce! Jaguar’s new XFR has hit British soil for the first time – and as the Coventry brand’s fastest-ever four saloon, it’s set to take the fight to the rapid BMW M5 and muscular Mercedes E63 AMG.
With an all-new 503bhp supercharged V8 engine, hi-tech adaptive damping and a special limited slip differential, the Jag certainly has all the ingredients for high-performance success.
However, the XFR doesn’t shout about its potential in the same way as some of its class competitors. The car’s handsome lines have been subtly enhanced with the addition of a deeper front bumper, neat side skirts and an understated tailgate spoiler.
Look closer and you’ll spot the ‘supercharged’ logos on the 20-inch alloy wheels, a discreet ‘R’ badge on the boot lid and two small cooling vents set into the bonnet.
Car group tests
Climb aboard and the changes to the cabin are equally subtle. More side support has been added to the soft leather seats, while the dials now feature red needles to replace the white items of the standard car.
There’s also luxurious suede trim for the headlining and a chequered aluminium finish on the dash. Elsewhere it’s standard XF, which means great fit, finish and materials.
Prod the pulsating red starter button, and you’re left in no doubt about the Jag’s sporting intentions, though. Your first clue to the available performance comes from the purposeful burble emitted by the quad tailpipes.
Twist the gear selector into drive, put your foot down on the throttle pedal and the XFR explodes off the line. With an incredible 625Nm of torque from only 2,500rpm, the Jaguar delivers acceleration to rival a supercar, completing the sprint from 0-62mph in only 4.9 seconds. But what really impresses is the scorching mid-range pace – as well as the bellowing exhaust note.
As soon as you turn into a corner, it’s clear the XFR is far more than a straight-line specialist. Press a button on the transmission tunnel and the Adaptive Dynamics mode is engaged. This sharpens the throttle and gearbox settings, and reduces the intervention of the ESP stability system. The car also features Jag’s new electronic Active Differential Control, designed to boost traction on slippery surfaces.
The result of all this is that the XFR displays excellent agility on twisting back roads, delivering the sort of thrills you’d expect from a sports car. The steering is direct and well weighted, grip is strong, body control superb and the brakes offer strong stopping power.
However, the Jag’s party trick is its ability to turn into a refined cruiser when you want to relax. The ride is supple, the engine noise subsides and the cosseting cabin is quiet even at motorway speeds.
If this sounds too good to be true, get ready for the best bit. At £59,990, the XFR undercuts the M5 and E63 by over £5,000.
Rival: Mercedes E63 AMG The brutish Merc saloon delivers huge performance from its 507bhp 6.2-litre V8 engine, and covers 0-62mph in a blistering 4.5 seconds. But it’s expensive, while the chassis doesn’t have the poise and agility that marks out the more nimble Jaguar.