Keith Adams, editor of Honest John Classics, recently recounted on Facebook overhearing a white-haired chap in a club lounge telling the waiter in a booming voice that he owns a Jaguar. It transpired that the gentleman owned a 1998 S-Type and thought that modern Jaguars are ‘mass-produced nonsense’. I’m awfully sorry, sir, but the new breed of Jaguar cars have been with us for quite some time and having driven them all for various lengths of time, I can confidently state that they are all absolutely marvellous in their different ways. It was the XF which really broke the mould and heralded a new era in Jaguar design, both outside and in, and I’ve always considered it a beautiful creature. The XFR spiced things up a bit, to say the least, but still didn’t give Jaguar a weapon to wage against German super-saloons like the Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG and BMW M5. This is where the XFR-S comes in – all 542bhp of it…
Five word verdict: Astonishingly fast, characterful, too muted | Rating: 4.0/5
‘Drop-dead gorgeous’ seemed to be the reaction of most people who beheld the monster Jag’, complete with its bulging aerodynamic package, hulking-great wheel arches, menacing, darkened front grille, beautiful but oh-so-exposed 20-inch wheels the size of planets, ‘Supercharged’-etched bonnet louvres, side skirts, chunky red brake callipers, quad exhausts, carbon fibre front air intakes, and a tell-tale rear spoiler.
I’m not exactly the most extroverted person around and much prefer discretion if it can be helped, so I was rather thankful when I knew the XFR-S I’d be spending the week with was a Stratos Grey one rather than the pretty flippin’ conspicuous French Racing Blue one I drove briefly last year. The XFR-S looks arresting in all its available colours but Stratos Grey is just more ‘me’. The only snag with a dark-coloured one was that it arrived covered in particles from that cloud of Saharan dust and pollution which blighted the UK for a good few days. Plus it rained for well over half of the Jag’s stay.
Despite the XF’s design having been knocking around since 2008, refreshed with a facelift in the last couple of years, even the less discerning members of the populous could tell that this wasn’t one of the more common oil burner models. Onlookers were magnetised by its achingly beautiful ‘RS Exterior Theme’ styling and besides, they could also tell from the sounds it made that it was something special.
The Audi model range looks so similar these days that it’s becoming harder to differentiate with a fleeting glance an A4 from an A5, A6 or A8 (aesthetically, I consider the A7 the best-looking), the firm’s RS models being relatively discrete too. The latest BMW M5 is pretty conservative, the E63 AMG doesn’t look much different from a lesser E-Class with AMG styling, and many folk, although myself excluded, consider the Porsche Panamera to be bog-ugly. Visually-speaking, the XFR-S is my pick of the super-saloons, unless it’s got the much more obvious and perhaps slightly cartoony whale-tail spoiler fitted on the back.
Jaguar haven’t radically transformed the interior of the XF but I still rather like it and didn’t at all feel hemmed in with the gear selector, stability buttons and storage compartments elevated to the left of me. The novelty of the moving vents and selector are old hat now but still a nice touch and I love the interior lights which are controlled by gesture – very classy. Phosphor blue interior mood lighting reinforces the premium ambience further. Although bucket seats can be tremendously good, they can on occasion get on my wick, so the leather, R-S-embossed seats proved a good compromise, being sporty and supportive but not restrictive or hard. Plenty of seat adjustment was at my disposal to find a comfortable driving position, but while I’m on the subject, the steering wheel adjuster felt cheap, as did the volume controls, flappy paddles and a few other components. These Mondeo-parts-bin-esque bits didn’t detract from the luxury experience too much, though, and I’m still a big fan of the touchscreen sat nav and multimedia system.
In the back, I found the head and legroom plentiful, certainly spacious enough for four adults on a long journey. The suede headlining adds a quality feel, the carbon interior trim works well enough to add to the sporty vibe and the Meridian sound system with DAB radio and surround sound is very good indeed, although I had it switched off most of the time, to listen to the engine. I can state with confidence that a 5-foot driver should have no issue getting comfortable enough in the XFR-S, and at 5’ 10” I had plenty of all-round room as well. The boot is a good size at 540 litres (963 litres with the back seats folded down) and I can live without it having a lazy button to close it electronically. Overall, then, the interior proved a very nice place to be.
On the road
Just like any other XF, push the start button and the vents open, the round gear selector rises up out of the centre console and the car comes to life – only with the XFR-S, it’s accompanied by a wonderfully pleasing, roaring burst from the exhausts. Initial impressions? The brakes are rather sensitive, but they’ve got to be, to stop this runaway train of a car – and it doesn’t take long to lighten your foot and get used to them. Once the initial roar from the exhausts had subsided, I knew not to expect the XFR-S to come with the thunderous, full volume soundtrack of its sibling the XKR-S. To stimulate any spine-tingling noises from the saloon, I left the audio system off for most of the week and relied on the flappy paddles to force the engine and exhausts to have a conversation with me. Granted, it didn’t do much for the fuel bill, but it resulted in far more smiles at urban speeds. The pace is enough to make an unforgettable impression on anybody – in fact, the XFR-S hurtles itself towards the horizon so fast that it can sometimes be a little disconcerting, bordering on frightening.
The XKR-S, which I’ve been behind the wheel of on several occasions, has always struck me as one of the fastest but yet somehow easiest and friendliest cars I’ve ever driven, full stop. The XFR-S saloon, although sharing the same engine and hence the same blistering speed and performance, never quite feels as manageable and ‘at one’ with the driver as the coupe does. The saloon’s slightly dated chassis can be traced back to the late-90s S-Type and sometimes felt overwhelmed by the incredible power on tap, and the ride over poor surfaces felt fidgety on occasion. Having said this, Jaguar’s ETO division have worked wonders to turn the original chassis into an overall cracker for the XFR-S, with 30% stiffer suspension including tweaked knuckles akin to the XKR-S’s, a new rear subframe, revised electronic wizardry to improve the dynamics, plus exclusively-developed Pirelli tyres. The muscular exterior styling isn’t just for show, either, designed to reduce lift, feed more air to the mighty 5-litre V8 engine and sharpen the handling.
Compared to the XFR, the R-S boasts an extra 40PS and 55Nm of torque, taking its vital stats to 550PS and 680Nm, uncannily with no dip in fuel consumption. If figures like this don’t mean that much to you, they basically mean that the XFR-S possesses a heck of a lot of grunt and power, but its speed statistics of 4.4 seconds to hit 60mph and a top speed of 186mph kind of sum it up nicely. Does it actually feel that quick in practice? Yes, in a word. On motorways, dual carriageways and appropriate A and B roads, you only need to waft your foot near the accelerator and you’ve suddenly reached the speed limit.
The XFR-S effectively incorporates the best bits from the XKR-S and the F-type into a saloon package, the latter’s Quickshift 8-speed gearbox being a revelation. In manual mode using the flappy paddles, the upchanges and downchanges are lightning- fast, giving you confidence and making you feel utterly part of the action. Left in ordinary automatic mode, the Quickshift transmission suits the XFR-S equally well, adapting to the style of the driver and even holding gears while cornering, courtesy of its Cornering Recognition function, improving safety and poise. Bar the very occasional jolt, it’s a remarkable smooth gearbox and made driving the XFR-S most enjoyable, in dawdling, cruising and ‘hair on fire’ modes alike.
The XFR-S conquers most bends with aplomb and becomes more agile the faster and harder you goad it, but push your luck too far and the back will come out far too easily – this is one tail-happy car. Dynamic mode dilutes the stability control measures, stiffens things up further and makes the throttle response even more sensitive. It still behaved just as ironically though, sticking to the rule book when I actually wanted it to be a rebel, and then dishing up a nervy surprise or two when I least expected it and just wanted to drive normally. Having said that, as long as you keep your wits about you, the XFR-S isn’t too hard to haul back into line.
Providing you don’t live in the middle of nowhere without a petrol station nearby, the XFR-S can definitely be used as an everyday car. For starters, it’s very refined and a great cruiser, just a subtle burble discernible behind you, providing you’ve not got the radio on. Around town, it’s not the most bulbous of cars so isn’t particularly difficult to thread through gaps and tuck into parking spaces. The interior blends luxury with sportiness very effectively and is a nice place in which to while away the miles. What’s more, the XFR-S is fitted with stop-start technology, which can sometimes be annoying in certain cars, but seemed to work well in the Jaguar, the added bonus being a quick exhaust burst each time it started itself back up again. You can disable Eco mode if you wish and after a week of very mixed driving over around 350 miles, the XFR-S averaged 21mpg compared to Jaguar’s quoted 24.4mpg. This was very impressive indeed, especially considering that for just under half of those miles, it was driven very zestfully, and much of the remainder was spent stuck in traffic. CO2 emissions stand at 270g/km and stop-start helps keep them down, not that I expect the XFR-S’s green credentials will be at the forefront of your minds.
Think of the XFR-S, therefore, as a Sibelius symphony. Its throbbing V8 is like a vast orchestra – potent, but not exploited all the time. You can waft along in tranquillity in an XFR-S, rather like the gentler parts of a long classical composition – but stomp your right foot and bang, you’re in the next county, feeling the full force of the orchestra. As an overall proposition, then, the XFR-S is really quite something, part luxury executive car, part flying machine. It’s not too dissimilar to the E63 AMG in that respect, and while I’ve driven a Panamera round a track and was in awe of that, too, I’m yet to drive an F10 variant BMW M5. The last car to stun me as a total package was the Audi RS6, with an aurally magnificent engine and the reassurance of Quattro. The XFR-S isn’t the tamest and can be quite a wild child at times, so be mindful of the immense power at your disposal if you’re considering buying one. Aside from a few cheap bits, the interior is luxurious and spacious enough for four people. Depending on your personality you can choose an XFR-S colour and spoiler to suit you, and despite propelling you towards the horizon and around bends at break-neck speeds, I’ve proved it doesn’t have to be that bad on fuel, either. I just wish it was as stimulating to the ears at low speeds as the XKR-S is. As a super-saloon, I’m sold on the XFR-S – and for speed-seekers who can’t get away from the need for a load-lugging car, there is a Sportbrake estate version too, you know…
XFR-S PRESS VEHICLE SPECIFICATION VX62 KZV
BASE PRICE (OTR*): £79,995
PRICE AS TESTED (INC. OPTIONS): £82,315
• Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) with Trac DSC mode
• Electric Parking Brake (EPB)
• JaguarDrive SelectorTM
• JaguarDrive ControlTM with Sport Mode and Winter Mode
• JaguarDrive ControlTM with Dynamic Mode
• Cruise control with Automatic Speed Limiter (ASL)
• Adaptive dynamics
• Active Differential Control
• Intelligent Stop/Start
• Traction control
• Vented front and rear disc performance brakes
• Exterior mirrors, heated with electric adjustment, auto dimming with approach lamps and side repeaters
• LED tail lamps
• Black grille
• Bonnet louvres with Supercharged script
• Quad exhaust tailpipes
• RS Exterior Theme
• Bi-function HID Xenon headlamps with LED daytime running lights and automatic levelling
• XFR-S Carbon Fibre Rear spoiler
• Ebony Black coloured rear signature blade
• Side Fender vent – gloss black Jaguar Ingot
• Heated windscreen with timer
• Red brake calipers
• Rear parking aid with Touch-screen visual indicator
• 60/40 split fold rear seats
• 3-spoke soft grain leather steering wheel with RS logo
• Premium carpet mats with RS logo
• Driver information centre with dual function trip computer
• Jaguar Smart Key systemTM with Keyless entry
• Jaguar Smart Key SystemTM with Keyless Start
• Phosphor blue halo illumination and interior mood lighting
• Soft grain leather RS sports seats with driver’s and passenger’s electric adjustment (18x18way) and driver memory function
• Automatic climate control
• 20” Varuna Alloy Wheels with Ceramic Polished finish
• Meridian 825W high premium sound system with single slot CD/DVD
• Bluetooth® telephone connectivity
• Navigation system with HDD mapping
• 7 inch colour Touch-screen display
• Digital Audio Broadcasting (DAB) radio receiver
• Front Media Interface with USB and iPod connectivity
• Emergency Brake Assist (EBA)
Engine 5.0 litre Supercharged Petrol
Engine Capacity 5000
Cylinders/valves per cylinder 8/4
Maximum Power – EEC PS (kW) 550 (405)
Maximum Torque – EEC Nm (lb.ft) 680 (502)
Transmission 8-speed electronic automatic with Jaguar Sequential ShiftTM
Acceleration 0-60 mph (0-100km/h) – sec 4.4 (4.6)
Maximum Speed – mph (km/h) 186 limited (300)
Urban – mpg (l/100km) 16.7 (16.9)
Extra urban – mpg (l/100km) 32.8 (8.6)
Combined – mpg (l/100km) 24.4 (11.6)
Carbon dioxide emissions – g/km 270g/km
OPTIONS FITTED TO THIS CAR:
• Stratus Grey Exterior Colour (no cost)
• Warm Charcoal Trim Colour (no cost)
• Blind Spot Monitor (£460)
• Xenon Headlamps with Adaptive Front Lighting, Cornering Lamps and Automatic Levelling (£450)
• Jaguar VoiceTM (£450)
• Intelligent High Beam (£200)
• Reverse Park Camera (£500)
• Rear Spoiler Carbon Fibre (no cost)
• Ski Hatch (£260)