Jaguar’s XJR has never sold as well as its more staid German rivals – something that, if there’s any justice, will change with the introduction of the wild new 575
|Supercharged V8, 5000cc||567bhp @ 6250rpm||517lb ft @ 3500rpm||4.4sec||300kph||1876kg||TBC|
|Incredible fun to drive, gorgeous inside and out|
|Some questionable design details, expensive to run|
Unlike any of its German rivals, the top of the Jaguar range has always had a sense of humour. There is no other luxury limousine that performs tyre-smoking drifts on demand in the same way that the Jaguar XJR did; it was always a hooligan in an immaculately tailored suit and I loved it for that. It also had a unique visual character that stood out in a sector that is notorious for playing it safe, but unfortunately those things never translated into big sales numbers for the big Jag and it has remained a relatively rare sight on the roads. With the arrival of the new for 2018 XJR 575, Jaguar is hoping to garner some attention for its often forgotten flagship and give it more of the success that it surely deserves.
As the name implies, the venerable 5-litre supercharged Jaguar V8 gets a slight power hike from 542bhp to 567bhp (575PS), with torque rising to 517lb ft from a previous peak of 502lb ft. Granted, they’re only minor improvements on a car that weighs nearly two tonnes, but the new 575 clearly isn’t short on performance, particularly given its size. The 0-100kph sprint takes 4.4sec, and the top speed is quoted as being 300kph. The only transmission choice is, as ever, the eight-speed torque converter auto that suits these cars so well.
In addition to the power increase there’s a subtle body kit consisting of a lower front air dam, a revised rear spoiler, new side sills and a choice of either gloss black or dark grey 20-inch wheels. The glossy blue paint of our test model is thankfully optional, and to my eyes is out of place on what otherwise continues to be a beautifully elegant and powerful design. On the inside there’s more bling, with diamond stitching on the sports seats along with adjustable bolsters, a broad swathe of glossy carbonfibre running through the dashboard, and a rather tacky ‘575’ logo on the backrest of each front seat and in the centre of the ‘Riva Hoop’ – the panel that wraps around the top of the XJ’s otherwise gorgeous cabin. A positive new arrival – across the XJ range – is the new Touch Pro infotainment system with a 10-inch screen, and it’s a marked improvement on previous JLR efforts in this sphere.
Yes, the 575 is fundamentally a limo, but once you’ve shut the driver’s door behind you that’s all but forgotten. It’s a brilliantly cosy but contemporary driving environment up front, and easily Jaguar’s finest interior to date – not just in terms of quality perception but also the design, which is still pleasingly like nothing else in its overall architecture. Immediately you can sense an excellent driving position, complemented by a fine, thin-rimmed leather steering wheel, all putting the driver in the mood for far more than just chauffeuring duties.
Up ahead lies one of the best installations of Jaguar’s 5-litre V8 so far. In the ‘normal setting’ the V8 is as demure as the XJ itself, whirring away as it quietly persuades the XJ’s bulk to get a move on. Select Sport and it growls with a polished menace that reminds you of the potency that’s under the bonnet. The gearbox is finely calibrated: reserved in normal, energetic in Sport, but most of all crisp in manual mode via paddles, which is how I spend most of my time driving it. To do so feels natural, which is odd in a limo, but a pointer of things to come. The brakes deserve a special mention for their heroic stamina in the face of serious provocation on the twist and turns of our Portugese test route.
What makes the 575 so special is its ability to effectively shrink around the driver. It’s a 5130mm-long limo and yet soon enough you’re driving it around like a compact sports saloon on steroids. Although XJs received an electro-mechanical steering rack instead of the previous hydraulic version back in 2015, to alter the car’s direction still feels very precise, natural and well weighted, and that’s a major contributing factor.
Rather than unleash a terrifying amount of tech to make a big car do things it really shouldn’t be able to, the 575 relies instead on a more traditional recipe of feedback, chassis balance and depth of character to not only entertain, but to draw you relentlessly into the experience. It’s relatively easy to get to the stage where you’ve such confidence in the car, you’re starting to purposefully exceed the limits of the rear tyres, accessible with just one press of the stability control button. Driven thus you probably won’t get many kilometres from a set of rears in a 575, but you will giggle a lot. It’s an absurd sort of behaviour for a large, comfortable limousine, but it’s there for the taking, and I love every minute of it.
The new XJR 575 really commands its own niche. It’s more entertaining and practical (it seats five, after all) than a Porsche Panamera, and while an S63 AMG may well pulverize the big Jag in a straight line, you wouldn’t choose to actually drive one for fun like you might this car. It’s a real tragedy that the XJ range has not had more success, but here’s hoping that this excellent new XJR 575 will help reverse that trend. Maybe people will finally sit up and notice that this is a truly beautiful, highly engaging luxury limo with a sense of personality that none of its rivals can touch.