A high performance super saloon is a thing every car-loving human needs to own at least once in their life. With the dilution of sedans in favour of SUVs, the rarity of these vehicles is becoming part of their appeal. Somehow, though, they still seem to cost more than their higher riding rivals and that begs the question, do they still make sense?
Having jumped out of the similarly priced Range Rover SV Autobiography Dynamic and the slightly cheaper Range Rover Sport SVR into the Jaguar XJR, our shameless love for sedans became pretty apparent, pretty quickly.
As nice as the higher sitting position and that grander-than-thou feel is, there’s nothing like being low to the ground in a practical family sedan with a ridiculous 5.0-litre supercharged V8 under the bonnet.
At $299,990, the XJR is a connoisseur's choice, the sort of car you buy if you absolutely love Jaguar and want the biggest and coolest sedan they sell.
For similar coin, there is the Audi RS7, Maserati Quattroporte Tesla Model S, BMW 750i and even a Mercedes-Benz S500. That’s a tough crowd to go up against, and the Jaguar XJ, which in its current iteration has been around since 2009, is not the youngest kid on the block.
That would also suggest there are some serious deals to be done on one of these cars, so the sticker price is far less sticky than, say, a Tesla (which is like a really, really irritating form of super glue).
Finances aside, the updated Jaguar XJR looks rather grand. There is something about the top-spec British car that tends to turn heads. Our test car was adorned in the SVR favourite colour of Caesium Blue, which for a large sedan trying to be subtle yet classy, is a little taboo, but for all the right reasons.
The rear end looks a little out of place when compared to the rest of the Jaguar family, sporting claw-like taillights that are in serious contrast to the current horizontally stretched rear lights of the rest of the range, but the result is a unique approach for Jaguar - penned by perhaps the world’s best car designer, Ian Callum. The front end has been updated ever so slightly for this model year, and it will take a Jaguar fanatic to tell the differences.
The 404kW and 700Nm supercharged V8 coupled to an eight-speed ZF gearbox is the drivetrain combination we’ve come to love in the Jaguar Land Rover brand of products, from the F-Type to the Range Rover Sport SVR. This V8 is hard to fault for noise, power and torque delivery, or pretty much anything bar fuel usage, which is horrendous (but worth it).
Jaguar says the big cat will go from 0-100km/h in 4.6 seconds, though it does tend to feel a tad slower than that on the go. It’s also equipped with the quiet version of Jaguar’s R range of exhaust systems and has nothing on the F-Type or Range Rover SVR when it comes to noise and crackles, which is a bit of a shame considering it's wearing an R badge, but we get that it’s not meant to be a hooligan – even if we want it to.
The big cat feels its 1892kg kerb weight but is not nearly as much as you may think. It’s a long car, so you do get the enjoyment of the rear end playing games if you mistreat the accelerator. It’s also stupidly comfortable, which for an R-badged car is a huge bonus.
The problem with the XJR, for us at least, is that you don’t really want to drive it fast. It’s a nice big sedan for long distance driving or cruising. It doesn’t make us want to drop down a gear or two and punch it. It would probably evoke more of those desires if it emitted more noise, but as it stands, it comes across more as a very comfortable super sedan rather than an outright sporty one. Which then begs the question, why not just a regular Jaguar XJ? Or the XJ Autobiography we also spent some time with (review soon).
Jump inside and it's evident this grand Jaguar was envisioned in a previous decade. It still looks rather nice and is decorated with beautiful upholstery and craftsmanship (we especially love the air vents), but compared to the current crop of Jaguar models, it feels old.
Press the start button and the V8 roars to life. The Jaguar rotary dial (bejewelled in a crystal finish) will engage drive, and away you go. It’s pretty simple. There is no exhaust button, but there is a dynamic mode which sharpens up the gearshifts and allows the engine to hold on to gears for longer than it otherwise would.
Behind the wheel, the Jag feels lazy, in a good way. It has an unreasonably high amount of torque, but the throttle needs a bit of work to make it come alive. The aluminium framework of the XJ aids the Jaguar’s cornering ability a lot, keeping the mass down while maintaining excellent stiffness, however, there is no escaping its physical dimensions, which provide objections to certain levels of dynamic competency.
There is a hell of a lot of room in the back. This is how sedans used to be, spacious in all dimensions. One can easily fit three adults in the back comfortably, or two with oodles of space. Being a short wheelbase version of the XJ, this isn’t the sort of car you’d buy to be chauffer driven, but it’s just as comfortable in the back as it is in the front. So if the need arises, it will be a good journey. But there is also the Autobiography, a better fit for that purpose.
On to the negatives. The infotainment system is slow, but works well enough once you get it to respond. As is the case with the entire crop of the current model range of Jaguar and Land Rover, the XJR lacks Apple CarPlay or Android Auto and its user interface is nowhere near the polish of the three major German players for ease of use or responsiveness.
On the plus side, once things are working and the music is flowing, we found the sound system to be rather epic. Actually, the higher spec Meridian sound system in all current JLR products is one of the best audio systems for those that love modern music and appreciate deeper levels of bass. Also worth noting here that part of the reason why you can’t hear the roar of the V8 engine is the ridiculously good sound proofing inside the XJ cabin. It’s deadly quiet most of the time.
Our particular car had the cold climate pack, which installed metal elements through the windscreen that we found horribly distracting at night. They seemed to catch and distort the street lights quite substantially, and we would recommend, for Australia at least, you leave that certain box unticked.
This particular Jag isn’t up to the technological standards of the S-Class or 7 Series, but it’s not meant to be. While those cars have moved to the turbo age and feature gimmicks like gesture control and super giant screens (which we love, in a different way), the XJR is an offering that harks back to the original values of class and glamour. It’s a Jag after all.
We are not excusing it, but it’s worth considering it’s a different market than the Germans. It’s also very, very rare, which further aids in its exclusivity.
Consider that from January to April this year, Jaguar Australia has sold just 10 XJs. In comparison, Mercedes has sold 50 S-Classes, and BMW’s 7 Series has found 62 buyers. In fact, more Lamborghinis are sold than XJs so far this year.
At its price point, it’s hard to make an argument for the car over, say, a Range Rover Sport SVR, which offers the same drivetrain with a hell of lot more emotional appeal. However, if you must have the grandest of Jags, the XJR won’t disappoint.