New Jaguar XFR Roars at Rivals

I plonk myself down in the driver’s pew of the new Jaguar XFR. The start button is pulsing red. I push it and the circular, rotating gearshift wheel rises like a phoenix from the console. It is slightly symbolic for Jaguar. The air vents, which were no where to be seen, are suddenly open across the dash. The new 2010 year form XFR is open for business. I rotate the gearshift to `D’ and depress the right pedal to start the road test. From the four exhausts there’s a roar … a thorough throated snarl that only a performance V8 produces.

I listen carefully. I think I hear it say ‘AMG E63 I’m coming to get you.’ The revs rise and again it speaks, ‘BMW M5 … I’m here.’ Jaguar are calling it the start of the ‘revitalisation.’ Jaguar doing what Jaguar do best: high performance saloons, although the XF at times looks more like a coupe than a four door. XFR is the latest addition to the XF range. A potent, high-end flagship. A car to take on the Germans: Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Audi.

The XF range was launched in 2008 with Jaguar’s familiar 4.2 litre V8 along with a V6 petrol and 2.7 litre V6 diesel. Two of those engines have not made the cut in this makeover. The 4.2 litre has been replaced by an all-new Jaguar-designed 5.0 litre V8 belting out 283 kW of strength (up 23 per cent) and 515Nm of torque (up 12 per cent). The XFR gets special treatment via an Eaton supercharger with new intercooler and this lifts it to 375 kW and a cool 625 Nm.

The highly fancied 2.7 litre diesel also gives way to a greatly improved 3.0 litre which boasts a different, and improved, dual turbocharger system than found on the 2.7 litre. The Supercharged V8 propels the XFR to 100 km/h in 4.9 seconds, a cat’s whisker behind the E63 AMG and a similar whisker in front of the M5. It is keeping good company.

We take our road test out from Sydney on to twisting roads, interspersed with long straights. The big cat grips the damp roads with surprising ease. Not only new engines are on board the XF, but also new technology. The Adaptive Dynamics System monitors body movements 100 times a second, and wheel locaiongs 500 times a second to immediately adjust for optimum handling and ride. It inspires driver confidence. There’s also active differential control which limits slip between the rear wheels.

Unlike the direct competition the Jaguar does not sacrifice ride and comfort for handling. It has both. We hit a long straight, up a steep hill, and a slow truck. We are out, past the truck, and back in before you can say ‘God Almighty’. It takes 1.9 seconds to rocket from 80 km/h to 113 km/h. The King of Australian Rugby League football, Wally Lewis, would be proud. A perfect pass. For those who like having gear control the XF range features F1 style paddles on the steering wheel. One on the left for downshift and one on the right for upshift, compensating for the without of a lever. The six speed transmission is the proven ZF gearbox which handles the task of harnessing the grunt with consummate ease and smoothness.

The XFR is conservative in turn up. It’s alloy wheels are 20 inch, and the only reference to being supercharged is written subtly on the wheels and bonnet louvers. The XFR gets rare exterior and interior design features including revised bumpers and lower front air intakes, sill extensions, bonnet louvers, four tail pipes and boot lid spoiler. It is the first XF to carry the `R’ badge, Jaguar’s sign of a performance form.

While the XFR lived up to high expectations, the surprise packet in this latest XF range is the 3.0 litre turbo diesel. It is simply dramatically in its without of diesel noise, economy, emissions and out and out performance. While getting economy of 6.8 litres/100 kms, this super-quiet oil burner will kick you from 0-100 km/h in just 6.4 seconds.

To put that in perspective the naturally aspirated XF 5.0 V8 will get from 0-100 in 5.7 seconds and the 3.0 diesel will be breathing down its neck all the way. Jaguar did away with the twin turbo set up of the 2.7 litre and replaced it with dominant and secondary turbo chargers working in similar aimed at eliminating turbo lag. The diesel has 202 kW of strength, but the important figures is torque: 600 Nm on tap from just 2000 rpm. At 1500 rpm the 3.0 litre diesel has 61 per cent more torque than the 2.7 litre, meaning the car sears off the line. It slashes the 0-100 km/h time of the 2.7 litre by 1.8 seconds or more than 20 per cent.

The current XF form has already made an impact on Jaguar. In Australia 511 XF’s were sold lifting Jaguar sales by 27 per cent in 2008. More importantly the average age of Jaguar buyers plummeted from 55 years to 49 years since the XF set afloat, with the median age of XF buyers being 44, with 50 per cent of buyers new to the Jaguar brand. In effect this method Jaguar is throwing off the tag of being an ‘old’ man’s car.

FIRST DRIVING IMPRESSIONS

In this update Jaguar have concentrated on the drivelines and suspension improvements and that stands out dramatically. In our road test we drove the XFR for more almost 360 kilometres across a range of roads. We spent covered 140 kilometres in the diesel, which is badged with a simple ‘S’.

They are different cars for separate buyer profiles, but have shared attributes: superb handling, effortless performance and the luxury expected from a Jag. The most viewed part of any car is the boot and Jaguar have placed a ‘leaper’ a chrome leaping Jaguar, across the middle of the boot. The grille and steering wheel centre characterize the ‘roarer’, the roaring Jaguar emblem, leaving you in no doubt of the marque you are driving.

The XFR is scintillating in its performance, but this is at little cost to comfort. The ride is slightly firm, but luxuriously comfortable, already across rough country roads. The ‘S’ has an already softer ride. High performance cars can be a pain in the urban jungle. The XFR Jaguar is just at home on the open road as it in the suburbs with the driveline smooth and contented with cruising in peak hour traffic as it is eating up the highways.

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