Review and road test of the Jaguar XFR (2009 - 2011)
COMETH THE R
By Andy Enright
If you thought that BMW's M5 occupied an untouchable niche at the apex of the supersaloon class, chances are you've never driven a Jaguar XFR. Here's a car that can trade punches with BMW's best and in certain key regards, best Munich's finest. It may not be the most politically correct vehicle around but a 5.0-litre supercharged Jaguar XFR might just be one of the most satisfying to own. Here's what to look out for when shopping used.
4dr saloon (5.0 petrol [XFR])
Prior to the introduction of the Jaguar XFR, the XF's sporting aspirations were upheld by the rather underrated SV8 model, a car that's set to be a very canny used buy in the next few years. The SV8 wasn't a bad car in its own way, powered by a 420bhp supercharged 4.2-litre engine whose roots could be traced back to the old S-TYPE and beyond. It made a great executive express but Jaguar knew that the dynamic potential of the XF's chassis wasn't being extended by this car.
The XFR arrived in summer 2009, powered by a 503bhp 5.0-litre V8. It received instant acclaim from all who drove it, with many reviewers placing it above rivals from BMW, Mercedes and Audi. A special edition Stratstone Le Mans limited edition was launched in 2010 to help raise money for the Royal British Legion. This car was available in Polaris White and Midnight Black, and could be identified by a black front grille with a colour-coded grille surround, chrome finish twin bonnet louvres with supercharged script and 20" gloss black wheels with Jaguar R brakes and red centre caps. The XFR continued largely unchanged until 2011 when a series of revisions were announced. Sleeker detailing, especially around the car's front end and a few interior tweaks to boost perceived quality were the key changes.
What You Get
Any super-saloon must look the part, visually exciting without lapsing into caricature. On that score, this XFR delivers a rather low key approach - at least at first glance. If, after all, you don't like the way the XF looks, then this one is unlikely to change your mind. Yet look a little closer and the detail touches begin to catch your eye. The 'SUPERCHARGED' lettering that encircles the wheel nuts and marks out the twin louvred bonnet air intakes. The deeper front and rear valances, the subtle side sill extensions, the chrome mesh in the front grille and lower air intakes and the chunky chromed rear tailpipes all underscore its purpose.
It's the same inside, your initial impression being of a leather-trimmed cabin very like any other well specified XF, though the dark oak veneer trim is specially chosen. But then you look a little closer and notice seats that offer more lateral support and backs embossed with the 'R' logo. Then there's the thicker steering wheel, behind which lie instrument dials with subtle red needles and the 'supercharged' legend, just in case you forget.
In the back, as with any XF, that coupe-style sloping roofline will compromise the headroom of the very tallest passengers just as the prominence of the central transmission tunnel will make it difficult to transport three adults for any huge distance. Yet two normal adults will be extremely comfortable here, with plenty of leg and shoulder room. And copious space for their luggage too. The 500-litre boot is one of the largest in the class - and can be extended further to 963 litres by dropping the rear seats.
What to Look For
Contrary to earlier generations of Browns Lane cars which had their fair share of niggling faults, the XFR has suffered no major problems, which is great news for used buyers. The usual cautions still apply though: stick to main dealers or reputable specialists and don't be tempted by a potential bargain car that doesn't have its service history present and correct. The XFR's wheels are rather prone to kerbing so check that they haven't been too badly scuffed and check for stone chipping especially on cars that have covered higher miles.
(approx based on a 2009 Jaguar XFR) A full exhaust system (without catalyst) is around £850. Front shock absorbers are about £200 a pair. An alternator is about £300 and a starter motor around £300. Front brake pads are around £120.
On the Road
It's sobering to think that 503bhp is the kind of power that F1 cars boasted as recently as the Seventies, but trickle through the traffic and you're rarely reminded of the fact, unlike you would be in a powerful BMW, Audi or Mercedes. No, this 5.0-litre direct injection supercharged V8 goes about its work with a subtlety that masks its quite astonishing firepower, with a thumping 625Nm of torque available from as little as 2,500rpm. Forget the fact that this delivers a rest to sixty time of just 4.7s. More important is that the commoner 50-70mph overtaking increment is demolished in less than 2s, whether or not you choose to use the neat steering wheel paddles that can manually drive the 6-speed automatic gearbox. No rival engine delivers so much pulling power over such a wide range. Top speed is limited to 155mph but were the nannyish speed limiter removed, you'd probably be edging up to 190mph.
The XFR gets 30 per cent stiffer springs that still somehow manage to deliver such a supple ride with fluid body control that German rivals by contrast seem rather crude. In the same way, there's a sharper steering rack that still delivers a feelsome helm without following every contour in the tarmac. Even better, instead of one of those rather crude selectable 'soft' or 'hard' damping systems, you get a continuously variable set-up that delivers exactly what it promises, automatically choosing the right suspension set-up for the mood you're in and the road you're on. If you want to stay in red mist mode, pressing this 'Dynamic' button will not only keep the suspension firm and the gearchanges quick but also let the engine sing more lustily as the exhaust silencers are bypassed. But the best bit - the trick electronic rear differential - is what really makes the Jaguar's chassis feel alive when powering out of corners. Make no mistake - this is the real deal.
The Jaguar XFR is a supersaloon that shows that Britain can build a modern car that can meet and beat the best in class. If anything, it stands up even better as a used proposition. Consumables are costly so make sure that the car you're looking at has been serviced and there's life in the brakes and tyres. Otherwise, this is as close to perfection as performance saloons get.
Jaguar XFR (2009 - 2011) review by Andy Enright