Jaguar XFR – beauty and the beast

Jaguar-loving Peter Franzen gets a warm glow from the magnificent XFR.

My love affair with Jaguar cars has endured for more than half a century. It really started when, as a child, I spotted a black Mark IX in the local showroom and persuaded my father to trade his Humber Super Snipe for the Jag. I think he lived to regret my pressure because in those days Jaguars were rust buckets and I remember him spending hours repairing the rust patches with the aid of filler and aerosol cans.

Jaguars were THE car of my youth and over the years I have driven all manner of Jags from E-Types and XKs to S-Types and XJs. I have owned them, and still run an old Daimler Sovereign. Nowadays they are 'respectable' and the chosen mode of transport for prime ministers and those in high office such. But in my younger days Jaguars were the domain of rogues like TV character Arthur Daley, and so often the getaway car for bank robbers in the old movies.

But if any movie-makers want a getaway car for the future, look no further than the Coventry brand's fastest-ever saloon, the XFR. I have spent a week pouring fuel into its tank, but it was worth every penny just to experience the sheer joy of driving this awesome machine. Those who like comparisons will put the XFR up against the rapid BMW M5 and beefy Mercedes E63 AMG.

Unlike these rivals the XFR doesn't shout about its potential in the same way. Its handsome lines have been classily enhanced with a deeper front bumper, neat side skirts and an understated tailgate spoiler. Look closer and you'll spot 'supercharged' logos on the 20in alloy wheels, a discreet 'R' badge on the boot and small cooling vents in the bonnet.

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XFR 'oomph' comes from a new 5.0-litre supercharged petrol engine, which compared to its supercharged 4.2-litre V8 predecessor, sees power increased by 23pc and torque by 12pc. The sound quality of the engine is a key characteristic of all Jaguars and is one aspect Jaguar engineers have accentuated in order to further increase driving pleasure.

The XFR has received special attention to deliver the required V8 intake sound character commonly absent on supercharged engines. Intake manifold pressure pulsations are fed into an acoustic filter at the rear of the engine that is tuned to 'tenor C', with the output from the filter ducted into the cabin. The filter is controlled by the engine management system which allows the acoustics to enter the cabin only under certain conditions, such as when the engine is accelerating hard, thus maintaining the desired sound quality at all times. Amazing!

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Push the flashing red starter button, and you're left in no doubt about the Jag's sporting credentials as a purposeful burble is emitted by the quad tailpipes. Boot the throttle from standstill and it takes your breath away. It's quick – 0-60mph in 4.7 seconds, but more importantly (and usefully) just 1.9 seconds from 50mph to 70mph. Top speed is limited to 155mph.

But the great thing about the XFR is that it only becomes a 'beast' when you want it to be. While this is a car that signals its ability from the first turn of a wheel through the crispness of its steering and the tautness of its springs, this big cat is a pussy cat in traffic. Easy to drive slowly and blessed with the same lovely cabin that comes with all XFs, the interior is distinguished by dark mesh aluminium finish across the instrument panel and doors, and dials that glow with a blue halo.

When compared to a 'standard' XF, the steering is quicker, spring rates are 30pc stiffer, and the continuously variable damping and electronic differential make the XFR significantly sharper and intuitive in bends; with a nimbleness that belies its size so it can be cornered with pinpoint accuracy.

Press a button on the transmission tunnel and the adaptive dynamics mode is engaged. This sharpens the throttle and gearbox settings, and reduces the intervention of the electronic stability system. The car also features Jag's new electronic active differential control to boost traction on slippery surfaces. The result is that the XFR displays excellent agility on twisting back roads, delivering the sort of thrills you'd expect from a sports car.

Despite its sporting pedigree, the ride comfort is superb and travel remarkably refined. The car has two-stage dampers with soft and firm settings and the new system on the XFR is continuously variable. Also new is the electronic differential, which can divert torque to the outside rear wheel if the tail begins to slide instead of relying on the electronic stability system to brake the inside rear wheel.

The cabin environment is uniquely Jaguar and in the XFR more details hint at the car's performance. A full soft grain leather interior is standard, and a dark oak veneer is the standard finish for the XFR's wood-trimmed areas. New 18x14-way adjustable sports seats have electrically adjustable squab bolsters for significantly improved support at higher cornering speeds.

Each XFR seat has the 'R' logo embossed on its squab and the roof lining is suede. The speedometer and tachometer have the unique sporting signature of red dial pointers, and carry the 'Supercharged' motif. And at start-up, the 'R' logo appears on the touch-screen as part of the XFR 'driver handshake' sequence.

The XFR comes 'fully loaded', and includes bi-xenon lights, full navigation system with touch screen, heated front screen, auto lights and wipers, Bluetooth phone connection, parking aids and keyless entry – to name but a few.

I covered around 500 miles and averaged 26.7mpg – not exactly green! So why opt for this car when you could drive an XF 3.0 litre diesel for at least �20,000 less with very respectable performance and get nearly 40mpg? To answer this question you have to let your heart rule your head (and cheque book).

The XFR is a thing of beauty, both aesthetically and mechanically. The chances of exploiting its full potential on British roads are zero, but to Jaguar-lovers it brings a warm glow inside. It is a truly magnificent machine.

Price: from �62,600

Engine: 5.0-litre, 510bhp supercharged V8 petrol

Performance: 0-60mph, 4.7 seconds; top speed, 155mph

MPG: Urban 15.1; extra urban 32.4; combined 22.5

Emissions: 292g/km

Benefit-in-kind tax rate: 35pc

Insurance group: 49 (out of 50)

Warranty: Three years/60,000 miles

Will it fit the garage?: Length 4,961mm; width (including door mirrors) 2,053mm; height 1,460mm

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