Jaguar XJR review: The flagship V8 super saloon is back

 
Tim Pitt

The Jaguar XJR was a staple super saloon in the 1990s, but its star gradually faded, eclipsed by ever-faster rivals from Germany. Now this Brit bruiser is back, armed with a thunderous 5.0-litre V8 from the F-Type R. Time to get reacquainted.

With subtle spoilers, quad tailpipes and 20-inch forged alloy wheels, the XJR is certainly menacing in the metal (lightweight aluminium, in case you’re asking). However, its styling remains divisive: the front end is generic modern Jag, while its elegant, coupe-like roofline is countered by an awkward-looking rear overhang.

There’s little to complain about once cocooned in leather-lined luxury, though. Forget games of ‘spot the Ford switchgear’, the latest XJR has Jaguar’s new InControl Touch Pro media system, plus configurable TFT dials with the option of a widescreen map – just like Audi’s Virtual Cockpit. The burr walnut of yesteryear is banished, too, replaced by gloss-black veneers and understated ambient lighting.

Fortunately, there’s nothing understated about the XJR’s performance. With 550 supercharged horses just an ankle-flex away, 0-62mph is dispatched in 4.6 seconds. Or at least, it is on dry tarmac. On rain-soaked March roads, the Jaguar spins its rear wheels with hilarious ease. Find an Autobahn, though, and you can leave those 155mph-limited Germans for dust, blasting all the way to 174mph.

There’s no escaping the Jaguar’s sheer size (at 5,127mm, it’s longer than a Range Rover), but it changes direction like a hot hatch. The steering – 10 per cent quicker than standard – is nicely weighted, while adaptive suspension adjusts the damper settings up to 100 times per second, keeping it flat and composed – even when you unleash your inner hooligan.

The downside to such agility is a rather brittle ride; the XJR thumps over speed humps and jitters on uneven surfaces. Frankly, I was having too much fun to care, but passengers would doubtless be happier in a lesser XJ. The fact you can’t opt for a limo-spec, long-wheelbase XJR only reinforces the impression that this car puts its driver first.

It’s also a car defined by its engine. The supercharged V8 doesn’t deliver the aural fireworks of the F-Type R, but those attention-seeking snaps, crackles and pops would seem unbecoming in a luxury saloon. Instead, the XJR is mostly quite muted, certainly around town. Only when you put the hammer down does reserved rumble turn to red-blooded roar.

Ultimately, the ageing XJ is outgunned by its German adversaries – particularly the new 7 Series and S-Class – yet that scarcely seems to matter.

Opportunities for full-bore acceleration are rare, particularly in the south-east of England on a damp day, but the almighty torque of that V8 makes for effortless progress. The XJR would make light work of a schlep to the south of France – provided you could stomach the fuel bills.

Ah yes, there had to be a catch. Any petrol-powered super saloon has a healthy appetite for V-Power, and while Jaguar quotes 25.4mpg, I managed mid-teens on a drive through London’s suburbs and beyond into Surrey. Then again, at £91,775, the XJR looks relatively good value against rivals from BMW and Mercedes-AMG – both of which cost well into six figures.

Ultimately, the ageing XJ is outgunned by its German adversaries – particularly the new 7 Series and S-Class – yet that scarcely seems to matter. The line between flaws and character-defining quirks is a fine one in cars of this quality and many, myself included, will simply prefer the raffish charms of the Jag to its more austere (and more obvious) rivals.

Jaguar’s own 340hp XJ R-Sport remains a better all-rounder. It’s £30k cheaper, rides more comfortably and is only 1.3 seconds slower to 62mph. But the XJR defies such rational logic. This Jekyll-and-Hyde machine seduces with luxury then startles with its performance. I’ll take mine in red with a company fuel card, please.

Tim Pitt works for motoringresearch.com

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