Got an itch to feel like James Bond and yearn for the panache of a slinky European model, but don’t want to pay the six-digit price tag?
Jaguar has a stunning answer with its XFR, a sporty sedan that hints at Aston Martin styling and delivers a supercharged V8 with 510 horsepower. This R model is a guided missile, though one with British refinement and class.
I had driven the base model about 18 months earlier. That one had a 300-horsepower V8, and featured the same styling as the new R model. The XF is a new design for Jaguar, a radical update to its former stylings and with a horizontal, not vertical, grille.
The R’s 5.0-liter supercharged V8 coupled with a silky smooth six-speed automatic is a monster. The R is aimed at the racier Jaguar buyer, the person who wants the most power per pound. It doesn’t disappoint, with an 8.4 pound-per-horsepower rating. The power bursts into the rear-drive wheels when you hit the accelerator. Yet the smooth transmission keeps everything under control, with help from a traction control system.
Handling is excellent, too. The sedan crisply snaps off corners at speed and feels like it’s got excellent grip into and out of the bend. The Dunlop ZR20 low-profile tires help, along with the sport-tuned independent suspension all around. There is no body lean or sway in this 4,306 pound sport sedan, but be forewarned that the steering feels on the heavy side.
I noticed during heavy acceleration that the traction control hesitates briefly, so the tires feel like they break traction for a moment before the car powers up and away.
Ride is firm and sporty, but not punishing. The Jaguar exhibited a more abrupt feel on our streets’ biggest potholes and cement street seams.
Braking from the giant vented disc brakes all around is superb, although the brakes are touchy. I found myself braking a little too hard initially, needing to ease into the pedal more than I would in most cars. Also, the disc’s brake dust really builds up on the Jag’s Nevis alloy wheels.
While no one considering the R would buy it on its gas mileage performance, I was pleasantly surprised. I got 23.3 and 22.9 mpg in two long highway stints, and 17.0 in mostly city driving. The EPA rates the car at 15 mpg city and 21 highway.
I love the Jag’s interior look and feel. The dash is upscale cool, with a woven metal trim. The test car had a black leather dash, with saddle stitching and saddle colored power leather seats trimmed in black. The R featured a black wood trim below the metal facing. Add to that the metal air vents that rotate up from the dash when you start the car, along with a metal cylinder rising from the console to allow the driver to shift. Clever, although it could be problematic when needing repairs.
There is push-button start, a rearview camera that shows in the screen mid-dash, a soft leather-wrapped power tilt/telescope steering wheel with radio and cruise controls on the hub, two-memory driver’s seat, Bluetooth, sunroof and rear window sun shade, HomeLink system and a blind-spot monitor that lights up in the mirrors when a car is in your blind spot.
The speedometer and tach are simply displayed in two round gauges on the dash. The trip computer is controlled by a stalk to the left of the steering wheel. Most everything else is controlled through the screen, including a navigation system. The screen is a tad small, and some of the on-screen buttons are little and a bit hard to read.
Adjusting the Bowers & Wilkins stereo is sometimes difficult. This thing has 440 watts of power and includes satellite radio, an iPod hookup and high-definition radio along with 14 speakers, so it sounds great. Still, to adjust the radio, and then the climate system and then the map, you need to keep poking a Home button on the dash, which takes your attention away from driving. Luckily, there are radio volume and climate control fan knobs for the things you use most often.
Seating pluses, minuses
The interior is quiet. However, the low-profile tires tend to rumble on concrete.
Seating is comfortable for city driving, as there are multiple power adjustments, including a varying lumbar support. You also can tune up the seat’s side bolsters to hold you tight if you’re planning some sporty back roads driving. The nice leather seats were too firm for long hauls, I thought.
Naturally, there is a price to pay for such luxury and power. The XFR starts at $79,150. This metallic gray model added $1,000 for the paint job, plus $850 for delivery, to hit $81,000. The base model with the 300-horsepower 4.2-liter V8 starts at $51,150, and the Premium model with a 385-horsepower 5.0-liter V8 lists at $56,150. Supercharge that model and the 470-horsepower XF starts at $67,150. Yes, this drinks premium fuel.
Final note: Jaguar and Land Rover are owned by Tata Motors, based in India. Jaguars, however, are still built in England, this one in Castle Bromwich.