It may be an XXL-sized sedan but the Jaguar XJR has a body made of light weight aluminium and a heart that beats hard and fast.
At 1870kg the $298,000 XJR is barely heavier than size-smaller sedans including the brand’s own XFR.
Yet, unlike merely L-sized sedans, the Jaguar XJR provides acres of rear-seat space and can transport its leg-stretched occupants from standstill to 100km/h in 4.6 seconds. The 5.0-litre supercharged V8 petrol engine produces the same 405kW of power and 680Nm of torque as the smaller, more hardcore Jaguar XFR-S, which the XJR matches to the tenth for straight-line speed. But the XJR tops out at 280km/h where the XFR-S will click over to something starting with a ‘3’.
Jaguar says there is no demand in the large limousine class for hardcore versions, so there will be no XJR-S, let alone a track-focused XJR-S GT.
Instead, the XJR teams the performance of the XFR-S with road-biased steering and suspension. It is quite an attractive proposition.
The steering tune is unique to the XJR, and although it is soft on-centre with a bit too much freeplay, there’s mid-weighted consistency and decent feedback when winding lock on and off.
With adaptive dampers standard, the Jaguar XJR rides astonishingly well for a big car rolling on 20-inch tyres – 265mm wide at the front, and 295mm at the rear where the power goes – although it is even more impressive in Dynamic mode rather than the standard Comfort setting.
In Comfort there’s just a fraction too much float, or vertical movement of the body, even around town. It can be a fraction nauseating. Dynamic mode tightens things noticeably, yet despite the slight increase in small-bump intrusion, is actually more comfortable.
The suspension isn’t, however, quite as sophisticated as the Magic Body Control system that made its debut on the Mercedes-Benz S-Class and which uses a forward mounted camera to ‘read’ the road ahead and automatically adjust the dampers to deal with each specific bump. We tested it last month and it proved flawless. (Next month we’ll see how it shapes up on the XJR’s closer rival, the S63 AMG, at its international launch.)
In isolation, however, the XJR is impressive. Likewise with its dynamics.
Jaguar bravely brought us to a race track south of Seattle, in the USA, for part of the international launch drive of the XJR. On the road the XJR felt well balanced and composed, but on the track it felt stunning for such a large car.
We only tested the long-wheelbase version – which puts 3157mm between the wheels, up 125mm on the SWB that will only be sold locally – so the fantastic mid-corner stability can perhaps partially be put down to that.
The front tyres gnaw the road surface hard while the rear end swings around. Apply early throttle and the XJR maintains its composure and resists oversteer like a debonair fast limousine should. It feels planted and poised.
Unique to the XJR, a ‘Trac DSC’ is also subtle in its interventions. The XJR never feels heavy or lardy, with the Dynamic suspension mode containing body roll well, particularly considering how well the big Jaguar rides on the road.
The ventilated disc brakes, 380mm front and 376mm rear, pull the XJR up as well as the supercharged V8 propels it.
And it is propelled very well.
Perhaps more impressive than the sheer straight line speed is the way the eight-speed automatic keeps the engine in its sweet spot. The ZF auto transmission now gets a ‘Corner Recognition’ mode that won’t auto-upshift or downshift if steering lock is being applied. In D the transmission is superbly fluent and melds into the background.
Yet in S the transmission is not frenetic unless it detects hard driving, at which point it flutters back gears when the driver is on the brakes, keeping engine revs up.
There’s no crass supercharger whine, or any lag that may have been added if a turbocharger had been used. The bark from the quad exhausts has also been deliberately toned down in keeping with the XJR’s luxury-sports brief.
The only problem is the XJR sounds better from the outside.
For the driver and occupants the restricted engine and exhaust noise makes it sound too generic, softly snarling but nothing more.
There are other noises you would like to be less noticeable, however.
There is some tyre roar thrown up from the wide tyres, for example. It isn’t noisy, per se, but other large limousines, such as the new S-Class, are superior for overall refinement.
Likewise inside. Splashes of piano black and plastichrome trim look and feel fairly average for the price. Some of the buttons don’t twist and push with high-end tactility, either.
The leather used, however, is obviously high quality and it is splayed all across the dash to lift the ambience.
The electronic, colour speedometer and tachometer display is the only real nod to technological advancement, because the XJR still won’t, for example, automatically brake itself when a crash is imminent, or detect if the driver is swerving out of a lane, or recognise pedestrians and animals on a night-view screen – all of which is available on the new S-Class.
It does offer blind-spot warning detection, but on our drive the system confused steep rock faces lining the kerb for cars.
For all its expanse and expense, the Jaguar XJR doesn’t feel like a particularly sophisticated offering, at least not in terms of technology and interior finish. It is a sports-luxury limousine that does, however, get the basics absolutely spot on, with a fantastic blend of performance, space and dynamics.