You may remember, not too long ago, that I recently enjoyed a thrash down the Abu Dhabi coast in Jaguar’s awesome XK, a remarkably nostalgic experience of the British lifestyle I recently left behind. And loved it!
So you can imagine my reaction when the sleeker, brutish, more agile Jaguar XFR rolled up at C&P towers. Great! Another extensive thrash and another enjoyable day in the sunshine.
Not quite. Since I’d rather monopolized the team’s Jaguar XK time, I was hoiked to the bottom of the Jaguar XFR dibs list. Plus, this was also a day when several ‘oh, did you ever get a chance to finish…’ queries were thrown in my direction. So it was well after 9pm by the time I’d lowered my weary frame into the hot seat, meaning I’d only grab a few darkened hours with the go faster pedal.
As it turns out though, this was rather fortuitous. The luxurious, nay outstanding, quality of the Jaguar XFR’s interior is pretty similar to the Jaguar XK’s, but subtle features hitherto unnoticed in harsh sunlight suddenly stuck their heads above the parapet. Delicate ambient lighting suffusing the cabin is a particularly nice touch, and be sure to look for the illuminated “Jaguar” moniker on the inner door run.
The high quality Jaguar XK interior remains – finely stitched leather upholstery, loads of cabin space, etc – only in the Jaguar XFR, they’re a little racier. The driving position is still top rate, and pseudo-bucket seats now hold you comfortably during even the most ambitious of cornering speeds.
Darkness plays its hand admirably on the outside too. Well placed air inlets and a beefy front bumper make the Jaguar XFR a looker, the sweeping roofline doing the business as it always has done for Jaguar. In shadow, the front grille and frowning headlights look positively menacing, making the car seem almost monstrous. Almost.
In truth this does worry me, since Jaguar’s coupe line-up prides itself on both performance and luxury. And yet with a big V8 producing 510bhp, it hints more towards standing quarter miles. I therefore buckle up tentatively, unsure whether I will end my run giggling uncontrollably at the precision, or stiffening my upper lip for a good talking to after planted the Jaguar XFR into a tree.
Weighty steering and good feel through the front tyres allow me to keep the car on edge, a quick tap of my right foot making the rev counter shimmer without pause. Yes, throttle response is excellent but the urgency under acceleration catches me completely off-guard. Traffic simply becomes a multitude of headlights in my wing mirrors seconds after launch at a red light. And that’s not even in full Sport Plus banana mode.
Gear changes are typically crisp, even if the paddles feel a little plasticky compared with the rest of the instrument panels. The gear lever raising out of the centre console on start-up still makes me smile, as do the exhaust notes: they genuinely sound like a big cat growling at you. New improved brake discs mean speed is scrubbed just as rapidly.
Don’t expect though that these raw characteristics inevitably provoke loutishness. Sport Plus on and traction control ‘off’ and the rears will light up, allowing enough oomph to send the big cat sideways when the moment strikes, but not enough to make snapping the car back-to-front realistic on the road. The Jaguar XFR has four proper seats after all, and will soak up the clicks with remarkable ease.
Three solid hours of ‘work’ successfully completed, I pull into a petrol station in Sharjah for a can of Red Bull and a revolting sandwich. And I am confused. Stellar interior quality, limited road noise and an easy-to-use infotainment system mean it cruises superbly. But the Jaguar XFR’s menacing – almost primal – exterior aesthetics give a raw edge, and this can certainly be felt in the performance. Reasonable to say the Sunday afternoon drives probably won’t be the same again.
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