Jaguar XJR review

New Jaguar XJR powered by a 542bhp 5.0-litre supercharged V8 engine from the XFR-S

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.0 out of 5

The Jaguar XJR is a strange mix. Luxury saloons like the XJ are all about comfort, but there’s something appealing about a car that mixes this with brutal performance and lively handling. For most people, the diesel XJ has enough performance and driver engagement, but for those who want more, the XJR’s style and character are hard to ignore.

The new Jaguar XJR arrives in showrooms alongside the XFR-S this summer to leave fans of fast Jags spoilt for choice. Powered by the same 542bhp supercharged V8 engine as the XFR-S, the first R version of the current generation of XJ manages to look upmarket and menacing at the same time.

The coupe-like lines ensure the XJ is well suited to the racy R treatment. Sharper side sills, 20-inch wheels and a rear spoiler help it stand out, while the trademark bonnet vents and quad exhaust set-up hint at the potent supercharged V8 engine.

Press the start button and it burbles into life with purpose, while on the move a retuned exhaust enhances the familiar V8 Jaguar roar. With plenty of crackle on the overrun, it sounds every bit the muscle car – and has the performance to back it up.

Sprinting from 0-60mph in just 4.4 seconds – an identical time to the XFR-S – the XJR will keep on accelerating all the way to an electronically limited top speed of 174mph. On the road, performance is effortless and continues building, well after you’d expect it to tail off.

The eight-speed automatic box kicks down several gears if you’re too eager with the throttle, but opt to use the steering wheel-mounted paddles and you can enjoy the torque by holding gears and shifting manually.

As with other XJs, switching to Dynamic Mode sharpens throttle response, alters gearshift patterns and tightens damper control, but the differences are subtle.

For the XJR, Jaguar’s engineers stiffened the spring rates by 30 per cent over the standard car and fine-tuned the adaptive damping. The steering calibration has been adjusted, too. However, you’d probably need to drive the R back-to-back with the standard car to fully appreciate the changes.

• Jaguar XJ review

Still, with its fast and accurate steering and agile handling, the big XJ has always hidden its size well. And the R is no different. Helped by the significant weight savings of its aluminium construction – the XJR is 100kg lighter than the XFR-S – the car turns in precisely. And with wider tyres than the standard XJ, there’s lots of grip, too. The agile chassis communicates what’s going on really well – in fact, few limousine-sized saloons can match the driver involvement.

The clever electronic diff tries hard to maintain traction. But get aggressive with the throttle and the XJR will trouble its stability control on the exit of tight corners, while given the freedom of a test track you can disarm the system altogether. That makes it easy to indulge in lurid power slides.

But the XJR’s alter ego as a V8 muscle car doesn’t come at the expense of comfort. The exhaust is tuned to ensure there’s no drone at cruising speeds, and despite 20-inch wheels, the ride is firm but comfortable, with only the roughest surfaces upsetting the Jaguar’s composure.

The glitzy XJ cabin gets subtle R branding and a choice of carbon fibre or piano black veneers, and aside from a dated navigation system, it all feels pretty special. The generous standard equipment is at a level you’d expect for a car with a £92,370 price tag. And while the model in our pictures is a US-spec long-wheelbase XJR, for now it will only be sold in short-wheelbase trim in the UK.

Of course, the XJR is a niche car and unlikely to be a big seller on this side of the Atlantic. However, that doesn’t make the big Jag any less desirable.

• Jaguar XFR-S review

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