With a 550PS supercharged 5.0-litre V8 under its bonnet, the Jaguar XJR is one of the sector's heaviest hitters. Jonathan Crouch welcomes it back.
Ten Second Review
The Jaguar XJR delivers an intoxicating 550PS wallop courtesy of its 5.0-litre supercharged V8. A massively talented chassis results in an unexpectedly capable driver's car although the low-speed ride might well be too firm for some. You'll need very deep pockets to run one though.
There's a time and place for political correctness. It tends not to be when you're behind the wheel of a supercharged Jaguar with 550PS under your right boot. There might be the hint of concern about the environmental effects of unleashing that mighty V8, tasked with catapulting over two tonnes of car up the road, but they soon get overwhelmed by the focus on avoiding incarceration. The XJR is a rare and singular thing and the motoring world needs indulgences like this to punch welcome interruptions into a sea of grey diesels and hybrid econoboxes. We've had XJR models before and they fill a specific niche. They're the sort of car you buy if you find a German super saloon a bit antiseptic, a Maserati Quattroporte too henchman, a fast Lexus too nerdy and a Bentley Flying Spur too expensive. Think of the Jaguar XJR as an automotive equivalent of the late Alan Clark - well bred, urbane but at the same time with a barely-disguised roguish side.
Power comes courtesy of a supercharged 5.0-litre V8 and its 550PS will accelerate the XJR from zero through 60mph in just 4.4 seconds on the way to a more than adequate 174mph. The 680Nm of torque is delivered to the rear wheels through an eight-speed automatic transmission. The low speed ride on the standard 20-inch 'Farallon' lightweight forged alloy wheels is a bit busier than you'd find in the more accommodating Supersport trim but at higher speeds that the chassis - some 30 per cent stiffer than the standard XJ - feels at home. The wheel yields more feedback than the previous fingertip-light steering of old XJRs. Get the car up on its toes and it feels sportier than you'd ever imagine, especially so when switched into Dynamic mode. Nevertheless, it'll always feel like a big car. It's absolutely rammed with technology. Jaguar's Adaptive Dynamics system actively controls vertical body movement, roll and pitch rates through the use of continuously variable dampers. The Jaguar active electronic differential has been calibrated in order to exploit the XJR's prodigious grip, while the 'Trac DSC' setting of the Dynamic Stability Control system offers an enthusiastic driver the opportunity to further explore the car's dynamic potential. Helping keep thing shipshape are 380mm front and 376mm rear brake discs, internally ventilated for assured, repeated stopping power.
Design and Build
Most have become used to the fact that the Jaguar XJ now looks a thoroughly modern thing, shucking off its tired retro pretensions with the latest model. The XJR takes this sleek, clean design theme and runs with it. A front splitter, special 'R' bonnet louvres and quad tailpipes bolster the car's stealthy yet purposeful demeanour. The 'R' specification side sills serve to create a sharp break-off point between the bodywork and the road surface in order to keep the airflow attached to the car's sides for as long as possible. Rear lift is also reduced through the fitment of a bootlid-mounted lip spoiler to manage the airflow off the top rear surface of the car, while the special 'R' bonnet louvres aid aerodynamics and engine cooling. The five-spoke, lightweight, 20-inch 'Farallon' forged alloy wheels certainly look the part and can be specified in either Sparkle silver or Technical grey finishes. Then there's the Sport Pack grille with chrome surround and black mesh. It's not confirmed whether the UK will get the long-wheelbase version. Americans with long legs will have no such issues.
Market and Model
The cabin of the XJR has come in for a pretty extensive makeover, befitting its position as the sporting flagship model. There are technical finishes inside the car and optional semi-aniline leather and veneers in either Carbon Fibre or Piano Black. Providing a further unique touch is a choice of contrasting colour stitching to emphasise the design of the seats. Other kit includes dual-zone climate control, twin glass sunroofs and the touch screen navigation, Bluetooth and voice-controlled entertainment system. Safety-wise, you can expect to find all the latest electronic traction, stability and braking aids, plus airbags springing from every crevice. There's even a spring-loaded bonnet to protect pedestrians at point of impact. The XJR is fitted as standard with a 380W, 12-speaker surround-sound system from British audio experts Meridian. Recognised by audiophiles as a leader in audio reproduction and fidelity, the system uses digital signal processing to create an all-encompassing sound field. An optional 825W, 18-speaker system features Meridian's proprietary Trifield System which places every occupant at the centre of their own perfectly focused surround-sound arena. Prices for the XJR open at well over £90,000.
Cost of Ownership
If you're worried about costs, look away now. Yes, there are some concessions to reducing the ongoing cost of XJR ownership, but more often than not, they're serendipitous by-products of a different focus. The aluminium body cuts weight and improves agility. It just so happens that it's good for economy too. The same goes for the XJR's aerodynamics, which reduce wind noise, improve acceleration and high-speed stability but also benefit in reducing fuel consumption. Not by a whole lot though, and if this worries you, Jaguar will happily point you in the direction of their far more efficient 3.0-litre supercharged XJ. Go for the XJR and you'll be looking at a combined fuel economy figure of 24.4mpg, which will probably translate to 15-16mpg in real world conditions, while the emissions figure of 270g/km lags some way behind what you'd get in a Mercedes S63 AMG (237g/km).
Be in no doubt that the Jaguar XJR is no one-dimensional autobahn express. It's a car that demands to be driven and driven hard. Is there really a place for a massive limousine that wants to be picked up the scruff of its neck in today's motoring environment? In a word, yes. As manufacturers strive to fill ever-smaller niches, it's good to see that there's an old school British bruiser around that uses modern technology to achieve a classic result. The XJR overflows with charisma and that's what sets it apart. It's not perfect - the low speed ride is firm, it costs a small fortune to run and an Audi RS7 would leave it behind in a straight line. But it has personality and, as we know, personality goes a long way. It's a beguiling package. It looks good, it drives well, it's beautifully finished inside and it speaks of a certain independence of thought. Jaguar even now routinely thrashes its German rivals in customer satisfaction surveys. If you want a big car that comes with a large side order of feel-good factor, not a lot touches the Jaguar XJR.