What is it?
Jaguar’s first high-performance estate, which will cost £83,000 when it goes on sale in the next few weeks. The rear-drive XFR-S Sportbrake is powered by a 5.0-litre supercharged V8 engine, which is good for 542bhp and 443lbft of torque.
That’s a 39bhp and 40.5lb ft hike over the same unit used the in XFR saloon. Jaguar is claiming the car will sprint from 0-60mph in just 4.6sec and then run onto a limited top speed of 186mph. Official EU economy is just 22mpg.
Jaguar says the power boost has been achieved by revisions to the engine management system and by changes to airflow both into and out of the engine, through a modified exhaust system.
Changes have also been made to the Sportbrake’s rear suspension in order to "handle the extra rear mass" of the estate body. These include increasing the springs rates by "100 per cent" over the standard XF model and increasing the lateral suspension stiffness up by 30 per cent front and rear.
The adaptive damping, active electronic rear differential and Dynamic Stability Control settings have also been tweaked to sit under the estate body. The XFR-S rolls on 20in wheels wearing specifically developed Pirelli tyres.
The V8 drive’s an eight-speed automatic ‘box, which gets the same ‘Quickshift’ technology that was introduced on the F-type. This, says Jaguar, makes the transmission even quicker to respond to the driver’s inputs. The transmission also has ‘corner recognition’ that senses when the car is travelling around a bend and retain ‘the correct’ transmission ratio for the driver to make the best exit.
Aside from the extravagant body kit (which has advantages in ‘reducing lift’ and improving engine cooling efficiency by around 5 per cent) the XFR-S is marked out by carbonfibre body kit parts, carbonfibre-effect trim inside and double line stitching with ‘micro-piping’ on much of the leather interior.
Jaguar says the Sportbrake’s load capacity is 1675 litres but with the rear seats in place the boot is relatively shallow under the load cover.
What's it like?
Edgy. The cars we drove on the narrow roads above Lake Geneva were still classed and pre-production prototypes and we did not have the time at the wheel – or the safe space – to stretch the car.
However, there’s not doubt that this Sportbrake is a very different beast to Audi’s well established (20 years this year) RS estate line. Unlike the increasingly refined and limo-like – if still devastatingly fast – Audis, this XFR-S is much more demonic.
Much of the demonism comes from the car’s sheer wallop. With the full 502lb ft of torque available at just 2500rpm and the eight-speed auto quick shift, it is amazingly easy to break traction. Rounding a near-180deg hairpin, just tapping in a little acceleration to help pull the car around was enough to have the inside rear wheel spinning.
Where we could try a little straight-line acceleration, the XFR-S was predictably very rapid indeed. Jaguar has emphasised the sound of the engine and the exhaust note, but not to a ridiculous degree. It’s clearly there, but it’s also nicely in the background.
There’s not much else we can definitively say after a short drive, but the XFR-S is easy to place on the road, steers pretty accurately and feels well put together. It also has nicely weighted steering at lower speeds.
The extra lateral stiffness of the suspension, along with the wide tyres did, though, mean that the car was following the undulations of one badly surfaced road. The overall ride quality seemed very well judged for such a high performance machine.
Should I buy one?
The XFR-S Sportbrake is an interesting proposition. It has that precise and 'engineered' feeling that AMG manages in cars such as the CLS wagon, but lacks the refinement, outright traction and stability of Audi's RS models - which makes it feel closer to a pure sports car.
It’s an unexpected combination of executive car and hard-edged driver’s machine. The right sort of driver will find the XFR-S a gloriously challenging cross-country racer. But in anything but perfect conditions, it will demand an attentive and skilled driver to extract the best out of it.
Potential buyers should be sure they want a car that demands this attention, rather than just a very powerful executive estate.
Jaguar XFR-S Sportbrake
Price £83,000; 0-62mph 4.6sec; Top speed 186mph limited; Economy 22.2mpg (combined); CO2 297g/km; Kerb weight 1800kg (est); Engine V8, supercharged, 5000cc; Power 542bhp at 6500rpm; Torque 502lb ft at 2500-5500rpm; Gearbox 8-spd auto