What is it?
Something we’re surprised Jaguar hasn’t done before now: a sportier-looking version of a more humble version of the XF.
The inspiration for the R-Sport is clear from the name. Jaguar has noted the success of BMW's M Sport models, which bring the looks of the M cars to the rest of the range. Mercedes-Benz also does it with its AMG Sport models, as does Audi with its S Line range.
While Jaguar’s German rivals offer dynamic upgrades as well as cosmetic ones in their respective R-Sport-style trim levels, the British firm only offers cosmetic upgrades for now.
These are inspired by the XFR and XFR-S models, and include a sportier front bumper, a rear spoiler, new side sills, 17-inch alloys, plenty of R-Sport badging inside and out, and a newly-trimmed charcoal interior.
The trim is being offered with the 161bhp and 197bhp versions of the 2.2-litre turbodiesel and a 237bhp 3.0-litre V6 turbodiesel in saloon and estate bodystyles, so it’s a toe in the water exercise to see if the R-Sport trim can be expanded into a full-blown M Sport rival across its range in the future.
What's it like?
A very fine car indeed. The XF is still one of the most handsome saloons out there, the R-Sport trim tastefully improving the aesthetics to these eyes. The cabin is also still a nice environment, having aged well and been updated since the XF first went on sale in 2008, the charcoal R-Sport trim certainly giving it a sportier edge.
The R-Sport additions don’t alter the way the XF drives, but it’s noteworthy in reappraising the XF that time has not diminished its appeal. This is an executive saloon with crisp steering, a soothing ride quality, even on the low rolling resistance 17-inch rubber of our test car, and impressive turn-in.
It’s a shame Jaguar didn’t seek to make any dynamic tweaks to the R-Sport to differentiate it from the rest of the range in something other than cosmetic terms, but when the base package is so well sorted the rule of if it ain’t broke don’t fix it was applied in this original R-Sport model. Should it be a success though, we'd expect the R-Sport brief to be expanded in future applications.
Elsewhere, the familiar drivetrain is well-suited to motorway cruising, and around 50mpg is achievable in this scenario. There’s plenty of low-end grunt also for brisk acceleration. We’ve still reservations about the automatic transmission, which can be slow to respond when a need a turn of pace on the motorway when you spot a gap in the traffic.
Should I buy one?
Yes. The XF R-Sport is a handsome, well-sorted executive saloon that looks as good as it drives.
It faces strong competition from the likes of the also excellent BMW 5-series 520d M Sport auto’, which betters the Jag on performance and economy, but is around £2500 more expensive to buy.
But this new R-Sport model is a welcome addition to an XF range that seemingly gets more competitive with age, rather than having its appeal diminished.