Jaguar is finally relaxing into itself, building cars that compete with others but do so in a Jag way. Inevitably, the XF-R will draw comparisons with BMW’s M5, but truth be told it offers a completely different experience.
The XF-R doesn’t quite have the visceral appeal of the M5. If you want the last word in a touchy-feely technological masterpiece, then the M5 is still the car for you. But the XF-R does the super-saloon tourer thing so much better. It works far better than the M5 at low speeds, around town, stuck behind a lorry.
First then, to the engine. This is the big news on the Jag, as the brand new supercharged V8 produces 510bhp and 461lb ft. That’s enough for 0-60mph in 4.9 seconds. But it’s the manner of the delivery that’s so impressive. Loads of low down torque (no revving it to destruction like the M5) that just keeps pulling, and pulling, and pulling in an incredibly linear fashion.
It could do with being a bit louder, as the V8 burble gets drowned out. But as a way of going effortlessly fast, few come close. In fact, it’s so easy that you need to constantly check the speedo - 100mph creeps up on you all too quickly.
That relaxation is helped by the chassis. Leave all the switches in normal and you get a very fast XF - good but a bit numb. But put the gearbox in Sport mode and press the Flag button, which brings up a dynamic mode - the car’s suspension gets harder and the new trick rear differential gives everything a raw edge. The engine’s acceleration gets sharper as well. That’s the mode you want to leave it in.
The ride is still comfortable, but there’s less body roll on the entry to a corner and the steering, while never brilliant on a Porsche level, does get a bit weightier. And that’s the key thing. The overall character of the car isn’t altered and it still feels like a Jag, but one with more attitude.