20 Sept 2013

2013 Jaguar XFR-S review

The Jaguar XFR-S is an £80,000, rear wheel drive saloon with 550bhp.  I tested the XFR last year and found it to be something of an animal.  Is the XFR-S any more refined, despite having an extra 47bhp?

Jaguar XFRS
The XFR-S comes in five colours, but you should only consider French Racing Blue or Italian Racing Red.  The others are a bit samey and fail to put enough distance between the XFR-S and the rest of the XF pack because, whilst it might share a shape and, largely, interior with every other XF, the XFR-S is a very different beast from any other XF.  Even the XFR.

Visually you can tell the differences.  The XFR-S gets a bodykit, a humungous rear spoiler, black where there was chrome, special colours and, under the bonnet, a breathed-on version of Jaguar's superb 5 litre, supercharged V8.

Inside the XFR-S the layout is exactly the same as any other XF - as long as it's optioned to include aluminium, piano black and leather.  The seats are brilliantly supportive and comfortable but come in carbon lookey-likey weave.  The screen is the same as in other XFs and has the same functions.

The engine has been tuned by virtue of some software jiggery pokery, and is the same unit as in the XKR-S.  It is massively powerful and makes the most wonderful sound.  At full chat it sounds like Brian Blessed with his testicles trapped in a mangle.

It doesn't have the crackles and farts on downchange of the XKR-S but its deep bellow is enough to make up for that.

So far so good.  It looks distinct, its interior is pretty fantastic, aside from the slightly naff carbon weave on the seats, the engine sounds great.  How does it drive?
Jaguar XFRS interior

The XFR-S gets lots of upgrades under the skin over even the XFR - which is £15k cheaper don't forget.  The drivetrain upgrades include a new torque converter, larger driveshaft bearing and bigger half-shafts.

The tyres are wider than the XFR, the suspension stiffer (springs are 30% stiffer than XFR), the castor and camber more extreme and it has a new rear subframe.

The steering is a smidgen heavier, the throttle response quicker and the 8-speed ZF gearbox enhanced to give sportier performance - in other words the lower ratios are closer together.

The standard XF has a great chassis.  The XFR-S has a fantastic chassis.  The XFR-S weighs 1,987 kg, has 550bhp, does 0-60mph in 4.4 seconds, and 0-100mph in under 9 seconds.

It sounds phenomenal on paper, it sounds phenomenal when you dab the throttle, it feels phenomenal to drive.

Honestly, I'd buy one over an F-Type - which I drove a few hours earlier.  I loved the F-Type.  It is the quintessential British sports car for the modern age, but the XFR-S has more character than a Beano Annual.

It doesn't misbehave.  Acceleration is just massive.  The steering is sweet as a nut.  It has no dead spot.  either side of absolute dead centre you can feel reaction to every input.

It doesn't understeer unless pushed at low speed in a tight turn.  It oversteers as much as the traction control will allow.  If you turn the traction control off in the XFR it will be backwards in a hedge within 60 seconds, but the XFR-S is a much more pliable, reactive and predictable car.

Despite the power hike its chassis absorbs the punishment inflicted on it by the driver and engine and turns it into something useable.  Through a series of bends the XFR-S can be treated like a point and squirt machine, but also with excellent grip levels and tight, accurate steering.
Jaguar XFRS

Hit a series of bends with lots of elevation changes and it still sticks to the road, with nary a hint that death might await in the next hedgerow.

Acceleration is humungous.  You take fast acceleration for granted in a sports car, but you really feel the movement of the mass in this.  The tightly packed gears are much more suited to British roads than trying to get a fast lap on the Nurburgring.  This is a good thing.  Jaguar have used the same trick on the F-Type.

Up-changes take hardly any time at all so why not make the gears useable rather than having 2nd top out at 75mph - unless you are chasing Nurburgring records.

The brakes are huge.  Take a look at them in this video.  They're 380mm front and 376mm rear and are the same units on the XFR.  They need to be big due to the weight of the XFR-S but they stop it well enough, although sometimes with a little chirrup of skid before the ABS kicks in.

On a motorway or dual carriageway the XFR-S drives just like any other XF - refined and quiet, unless you floor the throttle in which case you will shortly have a rear view mirror full of flashing blue lights.  It has adaptive cruise control and the Meriden sound system with digital radio and bluetooth smartphone integration for calls and music.

Sure it rides a little more firmly than the XFR but this doesn't translate into tram-lining or juddering.  Only on properly rough back roads will you feel the downside to that stiffened suspension.  Weighing 2 tonnes has it's advantages, in the damping department.

The Jaguar XFR-S is kind of like The Beatles of the car world.  Take 4 blokes, none of whom were the most talented performers of their generation, indeed John Lennon said Ringo wasn't "even the best drummer in the Beatles."  But put them together and they became the most roundly talented, celebrated band in history.

The XFR-S takes an already great chassis, adds a superb engine, a bunch of chassis upgrades and some additional fettling by Jaguar's ├╝ber-talented chassis guru, Mike Cross.  These elements come together to make the XFR-S the most characterful, fun, capable car in its class.

It costs more than its competition.  The BMW M5 costs £73k, the Mercedes E 63 AMG costs £75k and the Audi RS6 £77k.  At this rate the XFR-S looks pricey at £80k.  The Merc CLS 63 AMG costs £82k though and the Audi RS7 will be £84k.

In that latter company the Jag makes more sense.  Its interior is superior to the M5, E 63 AMG and RS6 - the Germans are starting to show signs of cost engineering again, perhaps trying to make a few euros before the bottom falls out of the super saloon market.

What sets the XFR-S apart from the competition is its force of character - that Beatles magic I was talking about.  Nothing about it is clinical.  Everything about it is imbued with a sense of joi de vivre.  It doesn't just feel like a super-fast, super-efficient machine.

It feels like it has a soul.

That makes it worth £80k.  I loved the XFR-S.  It is the best Jaguar on the market today, and perhaps the best it's ever made.


Price - £79,995 (£82,245 as tested)
Engine - 5 litre, V8, supercharged, petrol
Transmission - 8-speed automatic
0-60mph - 4.4 seconds
Top speed - 186 mph
Power - 550 bhp
Torque - 502 lb ft
Economy - 24.4 mpg
CO2 - 270 g/km
Kerb weight - 1,987 kg

Article by Matt Hubbard

Review based on a 2 hour test drive at a Jaguar media day.

Jaguar XFRS

Jaguar XFRS

Jaguar XFRS

Jaguar XFRS

Jaguar XFRS