What is it?
With the new £79,995, 542bhp XFR-S, the excuses Jaguar has had up until now not to be compared with rivals from the likes of BMW’s M-division, Audi’s RS department and Mercedes’ AMG powerhouse come screeching to a halt.
That’s because this time, Jaguar can, and indeed must, compete squarely with the BMW M5, Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG and Audi’s new RS6. And if it can’t, well, the mission will have failed.
The bottom line is that the XFR-S boasts no more power or performance than any of its key opponents from Germany, yet it costs a fair bit more than they do. Jaguar’s justification, of course, is that the XFR-S is a whole lot more than just a breathed-on XFR.
Not only does its supercharged 5.0-litre V8 generate more power and torque – up from 503bhp and 461lb ft to 542bhp and 502lb ft – but the whole car has also been preened to deliver a quantifiably more vivid driving experience than that of the regular XFR.
What's it like?
In a nutshell? It feels sharp and ready to perform, with more grip and sharper responses than the XFR.
Fundamentally, the cabin is just as it was before. The basic dashboard architecture and the instruments are unchanged, as is the driving position, the round dial gear selector and the centre console. Look at the ceiling and seats, though, and XFR-S is quite different. There are swathes of Alcantara everywhere, while the seats feature R-S logos and offer a fair bit more support in all the right places.
As a result, the car feels more focused inside, even though it stops some way short of being a stripped-out hot rod. It strikes a lovely compromise, in fact, between the two, yet it seems more expensive inside because of this.
On the move, the first thing you notice is the steering. It’s heavier than in the XFR, quite a lot heavier, in a way that, to begin with, feels a little bit un-Jaguar-like. The rack is the same, so the change in effect is largely because of the new valving (although the bigger front tyres and different uprights also make a slight difference). But the result is that, instantly, the XFR-S feels… more alert, yes, but also more brutal and perhaps a touch heavier on its feet.
Either way, it immediately feels keener than the car on which it’s based. Put your foot down and the eruption of V8 sound that you expect to happen fails, initially, to materialise. So you introduce the pedal to the carpet properly and, wham, the XFR-S fires itself at the horizon with even more vim than you remember, although not that much more. It feels a little bit more energetic, especially towards the upper reaches of the rev range, but not by perhaps as much as you were expecting.
Jaguar claims 0-60mph in 4.4sec, with 0-100mph in “under nine” and a top speed limited to 186mph. Which is easily enough to level with a BMW M5. In the mid-range, it now has that rare strain of performance that is, for most of the time, more than enough for most people.
Not often do you open the taps wide in this car for more than a few seconds, but it’s nice to know it’s there all the same. And the effect is aided in this instance by the new eight-speed gearbox, which has a ratio for every occasion and then some. Between 2000rpm and 5000rpm, it makes the XFR-S feel notably more potent than the XFR.
The ride is stiffer than before, too, and if you press the Dynamic button – which also quickens the gearchange responses and alters the steering weight fractionally – it becomes stiffer still. But fundamentally, it’s still a perfectly comfortable car to travel in, especially beside the harsher M5. And the handling, although sharper than before, is still every bit as lovely as it was.
Should I buy one?
Make no mistake: this is a very good fast saloon car, in other words, that has been made even more exciting to drive. Mostly. Whether that’s sufficient to justify it costing ten per cent more than its nearest opposition is another matter entirely.
In the meantime, be in no doubt: the excuses are no longer required.
4.4sec; Top speed
24.4mpg (combined); Co2 270g/km; Kerb weight
1987kg; Engine V8, 5000cc, supercharged, petrol; Power
542bhp at 6500rpm; Torque
502lb ft at 2500-5500rpm; Gearbox 8-spd automatic