5 Dec 2012

2012 Jaguar XFR review

Matt Hubbard reviews the Jaguar XFR, currently top of the XF range - until 2013 when the XFR-S hits Jaguar showrooms

To fully appreciate this review of the XFR you need to know the stats, so instead of burying them at the bottom of the article here they are:
  • Power - 503 bhp
  • Torque - 461 lb/ft
  • Engine - 5 litre supercharged
  • Drive - rear wheels
  • Gearbox - 8 speed semi-automatic
  • Kerb weight - 1890 kg
  • Acceleration - 0 to 60mph in 4.7 seconds
  • Top speed - 155 (limited)
  • Price - £65,380

With that out of the way I can now tell you, in the knowledge that you understand what I'm talking about, that the Jaguar XKR is the most insanely overpowered saloon car I've ever driven.  That includes the Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG Coupe Black Series which weighs ever so slightly less and has ever so slightly more power - and really is a saloon despite Mercedes calling it a coupe.

The XFR takes a standard XF bodyshell and adds very little on the outside.  Aside from the R badges, a rear diffuser, slightly larger front air intakes, and quad exhausts the exterior is pretty much identical to the rest of the XF range.  And that's a good thing.  The XF is an extremely pretty car, for a saloon.  Jaguar will introduces lots more carbon fibre and a huge spoiler on the XFR-S but the XFR remains pretty much a Q car.

Inside and the story is the same.  The XFR gets a green R on the glovebox but everything else remains just as it is in the XF.  Again, this is a good thing.  The interior is an almost perfect place to be.  Jaguar have always made great interiors but the modern breed of Jags have some of the best in the business.

The air vents are a good place to start.  When the ignition is off they present a flat, aluminium plate.  When the ignition is on they rise up and present their vanes to the inside of the car.  Simple and useless, yet exquisitely presented.  The leathers are of high quality, the plastics soft to the touch (take note Infiniti) and the buttons and dials feel weighty and of the highest calibre (again, take note Infiniti).

Jaguar have taken the median route to the number of buttons installed in the XF.  Not too few, not too many - as there are in the outgoing Range Rover.  The media screen is easy to use with big buttons underneath marked NAV, PHONE and MENU.

As with all expensive modern cars you drive the XF with the key in your pocket.  The engine is started with a Start/Stop button.  The sound isn't quite as in-yer-face as it is in the XKR-S but it's loud enough. In fact Jaguar's supercharged 5 litre engine, used in every model they sell (and in the upcoming F-Type) could be used to alleviate all sorts of ailments just with it's exhaust note, so sonorous it is.

And so to driving the XFR.  As described above, Jaguar have taken a perfectly pleasant car with an excellent chassis, lovely compliant suspension and put a slavering, rabid beast under the bonnet.

Driving the XFR is like taking a bear for a walk on a lead.  Turning the gearbox to Sport and pressing the Dynamic button is like being dragged along by the bear when he's seen a tasty looking deer at the bottom of a hill and decides to run after it at full speed.  The XFR really is that mad.

Somehow the same engine in the XKR-S, even though it has 47 more horsepower, doesn't feel so outrageously out of place - probably because the XKR-S is a sportscar and is meant to have a powerful engine so you treat it accordingly.

Handling and road holding are fine, in fact they're great, as long as you apply only limited throttle pressure.  Plant the accelerator in anything other than a straight line and the XFR wants to go sideways.  And the traction control waits, waits, waits - until you need new underpants - to take control and tidy things up.

Granted, the roads I drove the XFR on weren't the grippiest available.  It didn't rain the day I had the car, in fact it was a lovely, sunny winters day, but as you can see from the photos it was pretty muddy.  But even on half decent A roads the XFR is a handful.

The XF is also available with a 340bhp, supercharged, 3 litre V6.  That engine matches the car pound for pound.  It's an exact fit for the ability of the chassis, suspension and steering.  The 5 litre, supercharged V8 overwhelms it.

But, you know what.  The XFR doesn't have to be driven like a hooligan.  It is enough to know that you're sitting behind the wheel of one of the most under-rated, capable, fast, saloons on the planet.  If I needed a performance saloon, and had a £65,000 budget, I'd by-pass BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Audi and I'd by an XFR.

If you think you might want an XFR then take one for a test drive.  I guarantee by the end of the drive you'll either be dead or want to buy it.

The statistic I missed from the list above is the combined mpg - which is 23.  If that concerns you then you're looking in the wrong place for a new car.

All images ©Speedmonkey