Matt Hubbard reviews the Jaguar XFR-S, a 543bhp, £80k saloon with a great big spoiler on the back
The Jaguar XF is now getting on for eight years old, although it received a facelift in 2011. It's available as a saloon and estate and the vast majority are sold with a 2.2 litre diesel engine. The base model costs £33,445. This, the top of the range XFR-S, costs £79,995.
The XF in vanilla trim is a large, great looking, spacious saloon with a fab chassis. It still looks fresh and relevant to the point the new, smaller, XE follows the basic shape and design elements. A new XF will be launched later this year. Spy shots suggest it won't look a great deal different.
The interior of the XFR-S just about stays tasteful, although the blue piping and carbon fibre effect leather panels do their best to make it feel a tiny bit garish. The Ultra Blue paint and the massive carbon fibre spoiler tip the exterior over the edge of tasteful and just about into garish territory.
Mind you, why order a big, fast, loud, £80k Jag in a sombre colour? You can - black, white or silver. Red is also available. Order red or blue. It suits the car's character. Anything else is trying to hide the nature of the beast.
The rear seats are capacious and the front seats are very comfortable and electrically adjustable (obviously). I also appreciated the heated seats and steering wheel in the week I spent with it. Night-time temperatures never rose above 1℃ (33.8℉ in American-speak) so the heated windscreen was also something of a bonus.
The interior is trimmed in such a way as only Jaguar knows how. Yes the carbon leather and blue piping is a bit over the top but the leather is soft and the stitching fine, the aluminium looks great, the buttons feel great, the layout is still best in class and the Alcantara that lines the pillars and headlining is sensuously pleasing.
I'll finally admit the infotainment system is showing its age. It does everything perfectly well but takes a while to fire up. The graphics still look good and the satnav and various menus and function work well though.
The Meridien sound system is epic as 825W though 17 speakers should do. The sound is super clear and will keep audiophiles happy. Turn it up loud and, with the bright blue paint and spoiler, you'll be at risk of looking like a very rich yob.
Rich because you'll need to be to buy an £80k saloon that isn't a Mercedes or Porsche, although the nearest Panamera in terms of price is the V6 with a mere 414bhp.
The engine in the XFR-S is the same 5-litre supercharged V8 that's seen service in almost all modern Jags and Range Rovers and is on its way to being thought of as one of the best road engines of all time. In this guise it has 543bp and 502b ft of torque and sounds brilliant - with a deep, bassy soundtrack peppered with the occasional spit and crackle. The XFR-S might weigh 1,987kg but by heck it's fast.
Really, seriously fast. In a straight line and in perfect conditions it'll do 0-60mph in 4.4seconds but introduce any degree of bend or anything other than a perfect road surface and getting all that power down is almost impossible without a hell of a lot of restraint.
Cruise at 60mph and put your foot flat to the floor and it'll spin the rear wheels, find some traction and catapult all the way up to 186mph in the blink of an eye and on a wave of torque and good old fashioned horsepower.
But the challenge of the XFR-S is not driving at insane speeds, which you can't do on the road. It's in taming such a powerful car in everyday conditions. Drive it briskly time after time, corner after corner and you'll begin to appreciate the true character of the thing.
You'll find that the front end is communicative and allows you to feel what the front tyres are doing, producing properly perfect placement. It takes patience and practice but the rewards are plentiful.
The back end requires more patience. By dint of its weight and size, and despite having a bespoke rear subframe, the XFR-S's back wheels can feel distant, which doesn't always inspire confidence.
You feel this every time you drive it, the front end feeling fully under your control but the back having a life of its own. Mind you, the traction control is quick to bring things back into line if you really do make a hash of it.
It's this character that makes the car so appealing. Yes it looks good and the interior is wonderful but the experience of driving it is its raison d'être. 15 grand is a lot to pay over and above the similarly spectacular XFR but the added frisson of power and performance helps make your mind up.
It's not something you'll experience on a test drive though, or even over a weekend with it. It takes time to fully explore the XFR-S in terms of its capabilities, and yours.
Yet it is possible to drive with restraint and enjoy the ride in a relaxing and refreshing way. Despite having 30% stiffer springs over the XFR the XFR-S cruises in as refined manner as you'd expect from a gentleman's express, soaking up the road's imperfections as it goes on its way.
I haven't mentioned the gearbox yet. It's the same 8-speed ZF unit found in all XFs and changes when you would expect it to. It doesn't sit in a high gear, engine revving away, when you don't want it to yet it changes down through the gears quickly when you put your foot down.
Over a week with the car it returned an astonishing 15mpg. Perhaps, though, given the XFR-S's capabilities that figure isn't such a surprise. The engine is fantastic but it is very thirsty.
It is a car you'd choose because you fell in love with it rather than by viewing the stats of it and its competition. If you're looking to spend a ton of cash and are in the mood for a super saloon that takes no prisoners you should take one for a whirl. You may just be entranced.
Price - £79,995
Engine - 5 litre, V8, supercharged, petrol
Transmission - 8-speed automatic
0-60mph - 4.4 seconds
Top speed - 186 mph
Power - 543 bhp
Torque - 502 lb ft
Economy - 24.4 mpg
CO2 - 270 g/km
Kerb weight - 1,987 kg
By Matt Hubbard