What is it?
A facelifted version of Jaguar’s 543bhp XJR. Outside of some minor cosmetic and equipment tweaks, including a more modern infotainment system, the key update is the addition of electronic power assistance to the steering.
Jaguar says the conventional hydraulic rack, which previously featured in the XJ and XJR, had: “reached the limits of its potential.” That might sound like an odd statement, given that all you want is to have the rack communicate your inputs to the front wheels and deliver appropriate feedback, but then a lot more is expected from cars these days.
Consequently, fitting electromechanical power assistance grants two benefits: an an improvement in efficiency and the ability to support more advanced driver assistance systems that require steering control.
There are fewer parasitic losses with an EPAS system, which Jaguar claims can reduce fuel consumption by up to 3%. A moot point for most considering cars in this class, perhaps, but for a manufacturer those minor improvements can add up quickly.
In an effort to quell those concerned about its fitment, the company is also keen to stress that the system responds and feels far better than the previous hydraulic set-up did. We've always liked the way the XJ and XJR drive, so hopefully its fine handling hasn't been affected.
One thing the XJR never lacked was power, however, which is why you’ll find the supercharged all-aluminium 5.0-litre V8 unchanged. It still churns out a stout 543bhp and 503lb ft, allowing the XJR to sprint from 0-60mph in 4.4sec.
What's it like?
We had just three laps of the Silverstone track in which to find out whether the addition of electronic power steering had tainted the XJR. Fortunately, however, it was immediately clear that it hasn't detracted from the Jaguar's driver appeal at all.
There's plenty of weight to the steering, and that weight builds progressively as the speeds and angle increases. It's got a slick, smooth action to it, making it easy to adjust, and you're further kept involved by a plentiful amount of feedback. You're ever conscious of the sheer mass of the otherwise agile Jaguar, but it rarely feels as weighty from the behind the wheel as the numbers suggest it might.
The XJR is also still a deceptively fast car, especially once moving. The supercharged V8's substantial urge means that 30mph-80mph takes seemingly no time at all, and it continues to pull with conviction deep into triple figures.
Strong brakes with good pedal feel make it quick and easy to then bleed off that speed, while the Jaguar's firm suspension keeps the body in check through the corners. The eight-speed automatic does a fine job on track, too, changing gears quickly when manually commanded and rarely getting flustered during more aggressive driving.
All in, it's a satisfying and confidence-inspiring car to drive fast, further aided by elements such as an easily modulated throttle and switchable stability modes that allow a modicum of oversteer while retaining an electronic safety net.
The XJR's engine is still a bit quiet, though, and the option of a louder exhaust system would be appreciated. There's still no ancillary instrumentation either, so you can't view boost pressure or other readouts you might consider relevant.