Jaguar XFR – Cat Power
Jaguar’s XFR is powerful, luxurious and unbelievable value—our editor wakes up to the stuff that dreams are made of.
Early one morning, I was flying down the Pacific Coast Highway toward Malibu, the sunrise filling the ocean mist with light, a Mozart piano concerto blasting in my ears.
As I rounded the turn at Mugu Rock and saw a perfect set of waves peeling toward the beach, it occurred to me that the concerto sounded especially good, that my seat was remarkably supportive and comfortable, and that the rich smell of a good leather interior is the best ‘new car’ smell there is. Driving a luxury British auto on the Pacific Coast, waves crashing against the rocks, listening to Mozart and marveling at the sun breaking through a chilled morning mist, could potentially be seen as a clichéd way to start a movie (or an article, for that matter). But clichés be damned; I can tell you from experience that if the car is a Jaguar XFR, it’s a beautiful way to start a day.
The Mozart concerto was an accident. I’d been so intently captivated with driving Jaguar’s new 2010 XFR—the hotter version of its stately and already powerful XF four-door—that I hadn’t really bothered with the audio or navigation systems yet.
After pushing the smart-key enabled “Start” button and hearing the Jag’s 510 horses roar to life, the rotary gear selector knob rose from the center console, an “R” appeared on the dashboard’s display screen (reminding me this was no ordinary ride) and the classical music came on.
It seemed to fit nicely with the interior’s fine wood, beautifully finished leather seats, suede-covered headliner and pillars, and elegant metal appointments, and so I left the radio alone. Anyway, with all due respect to the excellent Bowers & Wilkins audio system, I was more interested in the noise coming from under the hood, which was absolutely spectacular.
The engine is a monster. The XF and the XFR both use Jaguar’s third generation AJ-V8, but the two engines could hardly be called the same. In fact, the only bits the XFR’s 5.0 liter V8 carried over from the XF’s was the tappets and the cylinder-head bolts. Otherwise, the XFR uses a newly designed die-cast block and heads, and other lighter and higher performance parts. These, along with a sixth-generation, Roots-type twin vortex supercharger and a redesigned air intake (which reduces flow loss by more than 30 percent) are responsible for the fact that while the new XFR achieves 510 horses and 461lb-ft of torque, it does so quite efficiently, maintaining the same 15/23mpg that the XF’s heavier 4.2L 416hp mill manages.
With a 0-60 time of 4.7 seconds and so much horsepower on tap, it’s incredible that the XFR makes the mileage, but it does—and thus avoids the gas-guzzler tax. Jaguar says the engine is electronically limited to 155mph, but a few unofficial tests posted online have coaxed the XFR well beyond that. Whether or not you test the alertness of your local constable and his radar gun, this Jag is a thriller to drive anywhere at any speed. Quick as a whip with an accelerator we would call ultra-responsive, there’s almost nothing between you and the power under the hood.
That said, in such a well-built car it can be tough to appreciate the engine’s roar. Jaguar ensures you don’t miss out by piping the sound of the engine into the well-insulated cabin via an acoustically filtered duct that’s electronically controlled to allow the growl to interrupt the cabin’s quiet only under specific circumstances—say, powering out of a turn on the PCH, for example. Not surprisingly, Mozart sounds great when 510 horses are added to the orchestra. By the way, we enthusiastically support piping the engine sound into the cabin.
Keeping hold of the XFR’s power is easier than you might believe, thanks to some sophisticated engineering from Jaguar’s suspension and transmission folks. Two new systems—Active Differential Control and Adaptive Dynamics—get the power from the engine to the 20-inch Nevis alloy wheels and help control what isn’t exactly a light auto, weighing in at just a hair over 4,300 lbs. The first system monitors the road’s surface and conditions and varies the torque accordingly, limiting slip on acceleration but not as much on braking, meaning stuntman-style slides and drifts are possible. Adaptive Dynamics controls body movement on three axes: Up and down, back and forth, and side to side, making for incredible stability in almost any circumstance. The system is all the more impressive because it can sense driver inputs in a flash, then preemptively adjust in response to moves like abrupt braking, quick turns of the wheel or hard stomps on the gas (the last, by the way, will yield a tremendous head-snapping surge forward).
An automatic 6-speed transmission with Jaguar Sequential Shift handles shifting duties, with paddle shifters in easy reach of fingertips for manual control in the twisties, should you desire. Response with this, both up and down, is excellent as one would expect. As mentioned earlier, drive modes are selected via a rotary shift knob that sits recessed in the center console while the car is off, then rises when the illuminated “Start” button is pushed. Standard drive mode is lively enough, with quick off the line acceleration and firm handling. But in sport mode, and with the press of a button that bears, of all things, a checkered flag (fantastic!), the XFR undergoes a noticeable transformation. The engine gets a kick in the rear, with RPMs nearly doubling at 60mph, and the suspension stiffens up substantially. Incredibly, while the ride becomes definitely sport-oriented (you’re absolutely stuck to the road), the luxury doesn’t suffer.
Niceties and Style
On the subject of luxury, the amount of wood inside the XFR rivals that of the Mark II sedan of the late 1960s. A full soft-grain leather interior is standard, as is a handful of sophisticated electronics, including a good sound system and electronic climate controls. Optional upgrades are available for navigation and improved audio. Suede is simply everywhere, covering the entirety of the headliner, posts, pillars and the visors. The beautifully finished leather seats, as mentioned before, are supportive, which is perfectly in line with the XFR’s performance-car stats, but incredibly comfortable as well. I personally wouldn’t hesitate to take it cross-country. In any case, they’re multi-way electronically adjustable for comfort and fit, and optionally offer both heating and cooling. Lastly, they feature “R” logos in the headrests, which underlines the attention to detail found throughout this vehicle. The dash is rich with wood and lovely metal, offers great sightlines to the instruments, is ergonomically intelligent with all controls easily within reach and is overall better organized than some. A rear-view parking camera with proximity sensor and side-lane sensors in the rear-view mirrors are available as well, making lane changing and reversing safer, and easy as pie.
Two details we loved: Air vents for the climate system are concealed until the car is turned on, at which point they rotate around to expose the vents proper.
Second: A small, shiny, silver British “target” logo, like those that adorn RAF aircraft, subtly adorns the dash, flush with the dark wood trim. Looking like a reserved bit of decoration, it’s actually an electronic sensor that, when touched, opens the glove box. Nice.
The exterior is aggressively, though classically, styled, as befits a car with this heritage. A lower front fascia with large inlets, deeper side skirts, a quad exhaust system, “R” badging in several places and a small spoiler on the trunk—not to mention the air intakes in the hood—all add to the overall impression of performance.
As an editor, I’m not often fond of clichés or clichéd situations. That said, many of them have their roots in some kind of reality, and quite often those realities are rather nice: Caviar and champagne, a cigar and cocktail at the 19th hole, etc.
In the case of my morning drive, there’s no question that it was right out of a car commercial: Classical music, sunrise illuminating the Pacific waves alongside the highway, no other cars around, just me in my luxury British auto. But I submit this: Even if the setting and experience reads like a cliché, the Jaguar XFR is anything but. Incredibly powerful, sensationally appointed and more fun to drive than many two-door sports coupes, Jaguar’s XFR sits at the top of its class. And when you consider the price for all of the power and attention to detail you’re getting, nothing else comes remotely close.