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.