Time Well Spent: Jaguar XJ-R

Mike Humble:

The 5.0 litre 550Ps V8 Jaguar XJ-R
The 5.0 litre 550Ps V8 Jaguar XJ-R

Despite how nonchalant or low key some of us try to be when going about our daily motoring escapades, if you are into your cars, you cannot help looking at your own reflection in shop windows when driving through busy town centres. I don’t mean as obvious as John Revolting with his two tins of non drip gloss in the famous street walk scene of the ’70s movie Staying Alive, but sometimes you just cant help having a good look can you?

After all, what’s the point of having a prestige or luxury car that has the visual glamour of a Blackpool hen night? An executive car not only has to hit the spot on the inside but do the same party piece on the outside for the benefit of bystanders – anyone who denies this notion is only fooling themselves. Some cars are indeed over the top to some – especially your typical “Supercar” for instance, but the prestige end of the market has so many aspirations to fulfil. Not many cars can pull off the trick of being a luxury vehicle without the increasing sad 21st century trait of public bitterness or jealousy.

Jaguar has always been rather clever with its vehicle styling. Look back to the 60`s and you’ll find the E-Type was often regarded as being the most beautiful car in the world while the classic XJ saloon from 1968 soon became one of the most instantly recognised cars on the road. They are skilled with what I have often called “restrained opulence” which in layman’s terms relates to a luxury and prestige car that’s instantly adored and respected from all walks of life without appearing flash or over the top. Back in 2009 Jaguar re-invented their flagship model that followed no previous path of XJ series beforehand… but the ability to turn heads and gain instant respect has continued.

The styling still looks sleek and pretty. Good shutlines and paint quality too. Quad exhausts and steam roller tyres give following drivers something to watch as you swiftly head towards the vanishing point.
The styling still looks sleek and pretty. Good shutlines and paint quality too. Quad exhausts and steam roller tyres give following drivers something to watch as you swiftly head towards the vanishing point.

I have just had one of the most enjoyable and expensive weeks behind the wheel of a car thanks to the sporting version of the Jaguar XJ-R. Upon arrival at my office, the car soon drew a small crowd of admiring people who are well aware of my automotive exploits and it drew as much attention as the F-Type R did a couple of months ago. Though not as big as the XJ-L sampled earlier this year, it’s still a rather large and imposing sight once up close with all the right curves in all the right places. It took a little while to get used to the current XJ shape but I am hooked on the styling that offers no homage to any previous shape or generation of Jaguar.

At first sight, the XJ-R looks cool and restrained – every inch an executive board room on wheels. There’s little to warn you of the shattering performance from the 550Ps V8 5.0 litre supercharged energy station that resides under the large humped bonnet said for the impressive quad slash cut tailpipes and rear tyres (295/30/20) as wide as a the front wheel on a Garrett steam roller. A discreet tail spoiler and circular “R” badge only adds to the discretion but when viewed side profile, the XJ-R looks like a slightly lowered Jaguar. Of course if you look really hard it’s all there to see from the splitter type front bumper to the heat dissipation vents in the bonnet.

The UK assembled V8 with a twin vortex supercharger sounds awesome and delivers more power than an electrical storm - Stunning carbon fibre cover looks very snappy!
The UK assembled V8 with a twin vortex supercharger sounds awesome and delivers more power than an electrical storm – Stunning carbon fibre cover looks very snappy!

Exterior fit and finish is pretty good with nice close shut lines, very high quality glazing and careful application of the brightwork – the white paintwork shines well with almost millpond reflections in the gloss. Pull open the weighty doors and your nose is treated to that mesmerizing smell of high grade carpet with leather and the standard of presentation makes you nod in appreciation. Jaguar has rather cleverly blended traditional craftsmanship with modern technology with the XJ, you’ll find the balance between the use of leather, chrome and piano black satisfying, impressive and soothing – it really is a very special world to explore.

Equipment leaves little for the wanting, front and rear dual zone climate, heated front screen, cruise control, digital TV and DVD player with incredible sound quality are all there plus so much more besides – you won’t feel short changed. The Bluetooth system connects without difficulty and people with first hand experience of JLR products will find the Sat-Nav and general head unit functions familiar, though the appearance and font on the LCD screen is getting a little clunky and could do with refreshing. The driving position is inch perfect but the test car came fitted with a panoramic roof that robs headroom for taller drivers – I sat much lower in the car than I would have liked.

Wonderful interior that smells even better than it looks and MY GOD is it refined. Nice blend of "trad meets modern" with a good hiding, a sprinking of chrome and tasteful piano black. Other trim options are available. Quality is ok but not quite as nailed tight as a 7 series, headroom is rather poor for taller folk and the centre screen is becoming a little bit last week darling!
Wonderful interior that smells even better than it looks and MY GOD is it refined. Nice blend of “trad meets modern” with a good hiding, a sprinking of chrome and tasteful piano black. Other trim options are available. Quality is ok but not quite as nailed tight as a 7 series, headroom is rather poor for taller folk and the centre screen is becoming a little bit tired and outdated in font.

Elbow and legroom is about right for the size of the car and there is more than enough space for loose items, small change and general nick nack clutter by means of a large glove-box, vast under arm-rest cubby box and reasonably sized door pockets. XJ-R continues to be supplied with an electronic virtual LCD dashboard which emulates real dials and needles without looking garish and is easy to read at a glance. Overall interior build quality is pretty good and the suede roof lining is particularly impressive to feel and view. My only gripes with the interior are the cheap feeling panel dimmer, boot release and fog lamp switches… they’re also a little out of reach.

Firing up the huge V8 plant brings a sublime muted woofle that quickly turns into a soothing hum once settled back to idle. Moving the 8 speed auto into drive, you glide away with regal poise and with gentle throttle use the gear changes are totally seamless offering driver and passenger near limousine levels of refinement. Chassis and body control are both well up to class standards with only the deepest pot hole knocking the almost two tonne car off guard. At motorway speed on a good road surface you can speak to rear seat passengers in a whisper so good is the ride and environment, wind noise is almost non evident.

Rear passengers have their own climate system and the option to listen to the 825w Meridian Hi-Fi through bluetooth headphones. Legroom is okay but headroom is tight.
Rear passengers have their own climate system and the option to listen to the 825w Meridian Hi-Fi through bluetooth headphones. Legroom is okay but headroom is tight.

There is confidence inspiring brakes with massive discs all round shrug off the momentum with aplomb; no amount of high speed braking could induce any fade or loss of confidence. Superb handling in the apexes allied to the wonderful ride almost make the Jaguar shrink in size – this is a true drivers car after all, you will not be disappointed with the poise, balance, ride and handling of the XJ-R… it really is stunning to chuck around on a sweeping country road. Great steering feel too thanks to Jaguar currently opting to use a traditional hydraulic power steering system and the rim is chunky with a sensible small diameter – oh, it’s heated too!

But when you have tired of the refined feeling of a large luxury car, a little press on the throttle pedal brings a whole new world of faster heart rates and dilated pupils. The muted thrum of that creamy smooth V8 changes to a metallic rasp and whine, select “dynamic mode” and the steering sharpens while the suspension is monitored constantly to fine tune the driving experience. The only way to sum up the performance is in one word – devastating. The noise, the sensation and the sheer way it devours distance is utterly breath-taking and yet it’s all very safe and controlled, but in warp speed mode this car demands respect and requires both care and a little skill.

520 litre boot is ample for five - seat back could do with the ability to fold or at least feature a "ski hatch"
520 litre boot is ample for five – seat back could do with the ability to fold or at least feature a “ski hatch”

For sure the traction control and limited slip “active” differential takes the sting out of its tail happy habits, but there is still an immense amount of power to lay down. Be warned… it will catch you unaware if you daydream with a heavy right foot. Fuel consumption is another factor of course although motorway cruising should see the right side of 25mpg – which to be fair is more than reasonable for an almost two tonne rocket ship. Once used to the bulk and the power, the Jaguar XJ-R is one of the finest long distance touring cars I have ever experienced in over 25 years driving – the refinement, the power and the enjoyment are truly… first class.

So it’s well equipped, well styled and disturbingly rapid with an amazing chassis and a presence to instantly command respect from adults and excitement from small boys… what’s the catch? It doesn’t come cheap at £96.000 (as tested) it simply wont fit in the average garage and in the wrong hands will either bite you hard or cost you your driving licence. Drive it like you stole it and the XJ-R will drink you out of house and home too not to mention making rubber confetti out of its rear tyres. Items such as the central display / computer could be a touch more modern too and it would be nice to see a smidge more practicality in the boot, but a very mild facelift is due sometime later next year to add a little freshness.

Its excess with style and a car be-fitting its title… it is pure Jaguar – an elegant and sleek creature of beauty and yet stealthy and wild when you want it to be. Minor issues aside the XJ-R is quite remarkable and very hard not to fall in love with.

AUTOBRITANNIA.NET RATING – 8/10

THE HUMBLE OPINION:

Terrific performance with outstanding refinement means the Jaguar can soothe the most fevered brow or induce those stimulation endorphins in equal measures. It’s a true Jekyll & Hyde machine that only us Brits can pull off convincingly.

Runnings costs are bound to be high and if driven full bore all of the time, you’ll be on first name terms with the cashiers down at the local Shell. But as the saying goes – if you need to scrutinise the costs, you may need to ask the question if you can afford it. But if you can, you will for sure, never tire of the split personality, the sensation and sheer enjoyment of this sporting version of Jaguar’s flagship battle cruiser.

It’s not perfect, nor am I entirely convinced it’s built as well as the best of the Bavarians. But… and its a BIG but… its very special, thoroughly engineered and makes you as the driver feel special too… that my friends, is a priceless feeling.

Other big German saloons may be in the running for those requiring a high speed luxury large saloon, but they are ofted loathed or resented by lesser motorists. The Jag on the other hand commands respect from grown ups and jaw dropping gazes from schoolboys. The XJR is so cool – its virtually cryogenic!

Keep ’em peeled for the updated model due sometime next year.

MODEL TESTED: Jaguar XJ-R Standard wheelbase

PRODUCED BY: Jaguar Land Rover Group Castle Bromwich

PRICE ON THE ROAD AS TESTED: £96.425 (£92.395 ex options)

Equipment Highlights: Adaptive cruise – Dual zone front & rear climate control – Upgraded brakes – Panormaic roof – Adaptive HiD headlamps – Leather and suede interior trim – Heated & cooled front & rear seats – Digital on board TV – Active differential – Multi media audio inputs & DAB – Heated steering wheel – Multi memory adjustment & pneumatic side bolster adjustment to front seats.

Engine: 5.0 V8 Petrol Twin Vortex Supercharged
Power: 550Ps & 680Nm torque
Gearbox: 8 speed ZF auto with paddle shift function
Brakes: Vented discs with ABS/EBD
Suspension: Independent all round with adaptive dynamics
Luggage Capacity: 520 litres
Fuel Economy: 24.4mpg combined (claimed) 22mpg on test
Emissions: 270G/km
Performance: Max speed (limited) 174mph*
Top Speed: 0 – 60mph in 4.4 seconds*

* = Manufacturers Data

THE HIGHS: Blistering performance – Amazing chassis – Communicative steering – Off the boil refinement – Looks – Style – Image – Well equipped – Suportive seating – Eats long distances with devasating efficiency & relaxation – Marvellous engine note – Superb brakes – A joy to drive or be driven in – Commands respect and favourable comments wherever you go.

THE LOWS: Front & rear headroom poor – Central display & head unit needs updating – Low speed ride can be unsettled – Build quality is still not quite on par a with a 7 series – Ferrocious thirst when Dog-fighting – Some facia reflection in windows during night bombing raids – Rear end very skittery on damp roads – Residual values – Loses a point or two in terms of practicality.

For more information on XJ or the Jaguar range: CLICK HERE


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