The Jaguar XFR-S is proof that there is still plenty of humour in the Automotive industry. It is utterly bonkers, totally unhinged and given half a chance, more than willing to make you part of the countryside.[Not a valid template]
I had planned a short trip into the UK to deal with a few bits and bobs and made that ‘if you don’t ask you don’t get’ phone call, to see whether I could get my hands on the most powerful, fastest and most agile Jaguar Sports saloon to date. It’s harder in every aspect and steps up to the plate pushing the standard XFR over to the left, to go head to head with the segments long standing kings; the BMW M5 and the Mercedes E63 AMG. Main stay legends in their own right, but there is space in that segment and the XFR-S is gunning for it.
The XFR-S is the second model in Jaguar’s ultra-high performance R-S range. Joining the bonkers XKR-S in the exclusive 300km/h club, showing that in it’s current guise, Jaguar means business. Jaguar has it’s mojo back. With a raft of very cool machines appearing out of Gaydon (all be it concepts), the engineers are certainly having fun. But, and this is a point I raised recently and still stand by it. 542bhp slotted into a saloon car is nuts! Do people really need it? Do they even want it? Does it matter? Probably not, however how boring would the world be if car manufacturers didn’t let it all hang out once in a while? Halo cars like this make the world a little more rosey and whether they impact you or I when buying the mid-range models is neither here nor there in reality. A discussion we will take up soon enough.
I had three days, plenty of miles of countryside and motorways to tread and a desire to find out what this car is really all about. It was with some trepidation that I slid my backside into the cosseting seats of the XFR-S, as the heavens opened up on me. How was I going to deal with well over 500hp on damp English country roads, without making a mess of it? Only one way to find out I suppose.
So with the big supercharged V8 warming up nicely I pointed the bonnet towards the north of England. I needed a driver for the day so I could grab the much needed tracking shots and there was only one man fit for the job. Justin Law. Yes, that hairy faced legend who hustled a 20 year old Group C Jaguar up this summers Goodwood Hill Climb, leaving everyone in his wake; even the full works effort from Peugeot and their Pikes Peak record smashing silhouette machine.
It was rather a mundane drive to reach my destination, yet it gave me the chance to see what this car was all about. Typical Jekyll and Hyde fast Jaguar as it turns out. Breezing up the M40, M42 and then into the continual drama of the M6, the XFR-S proved itself as the consummate comfy companion doing a damn fine job of masking its alter ego. Mike Cross and the rest of the engineers involved with Jaguar and making them drive like they do, have given the car a hard edge, but somehow provided it the usual Jaguar trait of cosseting and not bucking you all over the road.
That’s not to say that the the chassis changes are impalpable. There is a clear addition of weight to the steering that is noticeable from outset. Like it’s sister, the F-TYPE, the steering is far from alive with road chatter and feel through the wheel, but it’s beautifully direct and the big Jag feels easy to place as you guide it amongst the traffic. At low speeds and across the road joints that litter the M6, the ride is noticeably firmer. Not a bad thing at all and when it’s time to peal off the mundane strips of commuter tarmac, it becomes a serious benefit. As mentioned above, the chassis team have ensured that all of these changes aren’t uncomfortable, as the car is just so well damped. The more speed you throw at, the better it seems to get. Looking back to the likes of the big RS Audis, Jaguar seems to have this aspect utterly sorted which makes me wonder why so many get it so wrong.
Arriving at Don Law Racing an hour and bit later, I parked up out the back of his wonderful facility and took the opportunity to soak in the angles, the carbon and capture some light. The visuals certainly aren’t to everyones liking, but then when is the top line car? You go edgy and throw a handful of design tweaks at a car and you are certain to divide opinion and I’m actually finding myself on the ‘not sold’ side. Yes the new front splitter cast from a big slab of carbon works superbly well, along with the carbon sills and rear diffuser, the XFR-S exudes a greater element of aggression than the standard XFR. Thankfully my car for the day was missing the WRC style big rear wing, in its place a cheeky lip wing giving the overall look a lot more balance. Yes Jaguar claim a 68% reduction in lift with it fitted, but it never reared it’s head and I was glad of its absence when keeping an eye out through the rear window.
Those wheels though. Half an inch wider at the front and an inch wider at the rear wrapped in Pirelli P Zero rubber developed in conjunction with Pirelli, just look wrong. Jaguar have a history of designing some seriously sexy wheels, yet the ones on the XFR-S have a whiff of cheap aftermarket about them. A shame really, as wheels can make or break a car. Think of them as a sexy pair of shoes on a lady. Get it wrong and it stands out big time. Tucked up behind those slightly dodgy wheels, the XFR-S is running the front suspension uprights of the XKR-S, revised geometry and damper settings (100% stiffer than a stock XF) along with a tweaked active differential (the key to the cars ability to live with its tail wagging at every opportunity and some choice steering items from the F-TYPE.
With the static pictures done, it was time to hit some proper roads. It only takes a matter of minutes to realise that outside of the confines of a highway, the Jaguar XFR-S is a pretty intense drive. This is where Mr Hyde and the unhinged side of the cars character comes out. You have to be so gentle with the go faster peddle as there’s no artificial limit on the wave of torque produced by the 5.0-litre supercharged V8. Too keen and you’ll have the traction control light flickering furiously at you. Go in smooth and the XFR-S melds the horizon with the view in front of your nose. I’m not exaggerating when I say that it builds speed very very quickly indeed. Drop down one of the eight gears on hand, prod the throttle and jail time is staring you in the face instantly. With the damp roads I had the pleasure of, the rear was constantly squirming around with the chassis fighting the internal battle between the power and grip. Not once during this slightly clenching time, do you ever feel a disconnect though. As mentioned above, you are part of the car and the communication between head, hands, feet and chassis. Having your wits about you is a MUST though.
Reaching down and selecting Dynamic mode the threshold between lighting the rears up and the car catching you increases significantly. Something that was clear as I powered out of tight corners and junctions (0-100kmh – 4.64 secs). Less you forget that it might have 542bhp and pace to devour most cars up to the likes of a R35 GTR in a straight line, you are still carrying 1,987kg along for the ride. Engaging, exciting, more than capable of laying down big black lines everywhere when asked and a proper drift machine. Smiles on my face right now.
Speaking of drift, when the rear is provoked into a slide the electronically controlled diff remains locked up much more tightly than the standard XFR. Mechanical sounding science to the average Joe. Driftastic to you and me. The XFR-S is honestly capable of entering a drift event and holding it’s head high. It might be a serious injustice to ignore the front end though. Turn in grip and general ability to carry speed to and through the apex is startling. The level of grip adds to the air of bonkers the car exudes and also belies the car’s weight. Keep it on the boil down your favourite road and you’ll need a trip to the chiropractor to sort your stiff neck out.
Now before I close this piece off I need to mention the interior. The XF is getting a touch long in the tooth now, and although it all works well, there are a few items that need sorting out. Even after a few days of driving around, I just couldn’t get my head around the navigation system. I found it tricky and not as user friendly as others out there. Mind you, having said that, I was holding onto so tight that the sat-nav was the last of my issues.
To surmise, is the XFR-S worth it? I am certainly glad it exists, and more than happy for Jaguar engineers to keep pushing the boundaries of sanity. This is after all what Jaguar is all about. Proper fast saloon cars that cosset and keep you on your toes in equal measure. it shows the brands commitment to being driver focused and that will always be a good thing. Whether it is as good as or better than the M5 or the E63 AMG, I can’t tell you that until I’ve played a game of musical chairs with all three of them at the same time. It has the charm and punch but is that enough?
|V8 / 5000cc
|542bhp @ 6500rpm
|502lb ft @ 2500-5500rpm
|eight-speed automatic transmission
|20-inch front and rear
|Pirelli P Zero / 265/35R20 front / 295/30R20 rear