WHEN Jaguar Cars came up with the inspired tagline “Grace, space and pace” in the 1960s, they set up their stall as a brand that considered overt displays of power somewhat vulgar. Even this XFR model, despite its capacity to boost you up to speeds that will make your hair stand on end, looks more like a bowler-hatted businessman than a brawny bruiser. Unless you’re a proper petrol-head, you would never know from its elegant and understated styling what a powerful big cat lies within.
There are a handful of subtle clues to this car’s magnificent potential: the wide wheels, embossed with the unequivocal “Supercharged” message in the centre; the “R” badge on front and rear, and the vents in the bonnet, under which hides a super-strength whopper of an engine. This XF model has a mighty Supercharged 5.0-litre V8 with a power output of 503bhp. This is a lot.
So is this stately rear-wheel drive Jag up to taking on rivals like the BMW wildcat M5? Well, it’s definitely a contender. With an astonishing 0-62mph acceleration time of 4.7 seconds, it is supercar-fast. Put your foot on the throttle and it will shoot like a bullet to the horizon. Find a half-decent reason to arrange a work rendezvous in Germany you have to drive to – any excuse will do: “Don’t worry about shipping those financial reports to Hans in the Frankfurt office I’ll drive them there” – and you’ll be able to experience the car’s goose-bump-inducing 155mph restricted top speed.
Even if you’re no Jenson Button, you’ll find it a cinch to get up to that pace, thanks to the eight-speed automatic transmission. I found the XFR capable of breathtaking boosts of power when I took it for a motorway drive and I was unprepared for the wave of power punching me in the small of my back. Its grip is good, meaning it won’t come unstuck in the corners and the ride isn’t too harsh, despite the sporty setup.
The only snag is you have to keep an eye on the speedo as you hurtle towards triple-figure speeds. When we were cruising at less outlandish speeds back to town and at a standstill on the North Circular, it still made a satisfyingly menacing rumble: your heart will be racing even when the car isn’t.
Inside is classy and comfortable. The dash has a metallic-like weave and the rest is trimmed in leather and chrome. Our interior came in warm charcoal with soft leather, contrast stitching and piano black veneer. The rotary dial gear selector is particularly impressive, rising dramatically out of centre console as the engine fires into life. Turn the air con on and the vents rise like ballerinas (the rest of the time they remain closed).
The 825W Meridian audio system is also an absolute pleasure. It offers a choice of sound setup; a Jaguar preference or the one the Meridian’s audiophiles chose. Go with Meridian – if you can bare to tear yourself away from the sound of the V8 engine, that is.
THE FACTS: JAGUAR XFR
0-62MPH: 4.7 secs
TOP SPEED: 155mph
CO2 G/KM: 268g/km
MPG COMBINED: 25mpg
VALUE FOR MONEY ****