Packing a supercharged 5.0-litre V8, which develops a tyre-frying 625Nm, the updated Jaguar XFR is everything you’d expect from a prestigious marque steeped in racing tradition.
Despite an unsuccessful stab at Formula One in more recent years, Jaguar is still revered for its seven Le Mans 24-hour endurance race victories, which included their greatest triumph in 1957 when the unbeatable D-types came home in first, second, third, fourth and sixth, crushing the likes of Ferrari, Porsche and Aston Martin.
Jaguar’s ‘R’ cars effectively play on the company’s motorsport heritage, giving the now-Indian-owned British brand an answer to performance divisions of its German luxury – RS for Audi, M division for BMW and AMG for Mercedes-Benz.
The mid-size Jaguar XFR is specifically a response to the BMW M5 and Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG performance sedans. A new-generation Audi RS6 has been spotted testing recently, while Japan is also set to have a contender here in the form of the Lexus GS F.
The Jaguar XFR certainly wins the price war. With a sticker of $210,900, the Brit undercuts its rivals buy up to $30,000, a significant saving even in this segment.
If performance and outright power are the primary purchase triggers for a buyer, however, the Jaguar’s 375kW do lose out to both the M5 (412kW) and E63 AMG (386kW).
The Germans also have the advantage in the 0-100km/h sprint, though this all needs to be put into perspective because the Jaguar XFR is an extremely fast luxury sedan.
You can note its 0-100km/h time of 4.9 seconds, but it’s the way the XFR surges when on the move, accompanied by that delicious-sounding V8, that deeply impresses – with its 625Nm of maximum twist available from 2500 to 5500rpm. You’ll need to access the Bonneville salt flats if you plan on keeping your right foot flat for any length of time.
All that power is very well managed too, with what Jaguar calls ‘Active differential control’. It’s a clutch-based rear differential that’s designed to detect any wheel slippage and vary the torque supplied to any one wheel to aid stability
The electronic diff can also sense if you want to have some oversteer fun.
While the XF diesel-powered cars are equipped with an eight-speed automatic to further enhance their fuel-saving attributes, all petrol models including the XFR make do with a six-speed automatic unit.
The auto’s shifts are quiet and silky smooth, and seamless in Drive mode to complement the Jaguar XFR’s luxury side.
The XFR’s rotary transmission selector – first introduced on the XF and now transplanted to other Jaguars - offers further settings including Sport, Dynamic and Winter.
Selecting Dynamic mode provides a sharper throttle response and moves the shift points higher up the rev range. It also stiffens up the damper rates for flatter cornering and greater stability at speed.
There are paddle-shift levers that allow the driver to take full advantage of the faster gearchanges with this driving mode.
At almost 1900kg, the XFR is the heaviest of the XF range, but it’s still more than capable of threading a series of S-bends together at considerable pace, while feeling remarkably balanced and composed in the process.
You’re definitely aware of the car’s weight, especially on turn in, but it’s cleverly managed by the XFR’s adaptive suspension system that automatically adjusts the electronic dampers depending on speed, steering and body movement.
If we have any complaints, it would be the overly light steering weight that seems to affect the entire Jaguar fleet. In the XFR’s case, it weights up (to some degree) as the speed increases, but compared with its two German arch-rivals, it’s significantly lighter off the straight-ahead position.
There’s plenty to like inside the XFR – which takes the cabin of the regular XF up a notch.
The heavily bolstered and sumptuous leather pews are one highlight. They’re not as firm as those in rival models and offer armchair-like comfort for those longer spells behind the wheel.
There’s twin-stitched leather on almost every interior panel and a premium suede headliner that complements dark oak veneer and aluminium mesh trim on the fascia.
As expected on this top-spec Jaguar, the standard features inventory is extensive and includes a 7-inch touch screen that manages all the entertainment and communications functions.
Owners will especially appreciate the standard fit 1200-watt Bowers & Wilkins audio system on board the XFR, complete with 19 individual loudspeakers. The audio clarity from this unit, even via Bluetooth streaming, is stupendously good.
While the Jaguar XFR may fall short of its rivals in the power stakes, it makes up for any such shortfall in the styling department.
This is particularly true of the updated XF range, which benefited enormously from a few subtle improvements including a new front headlamp assembly, using the same J-Blade design as the flagship Jaguar XJ.
Despite the tell-tale performance signs such as the 20-inch alloy wheels, quad exhaust tips and two small ‘R’ badges, the overall profile of the XFR remains subtle in comparison to the slightly more exaggerated styling of the BMW M5 and Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG.
That’s something Jaguar buyers will most likely see as a plus with the XFR – a high-performance thoroughbred wrapped in a Savile Row suit.