Jaguar XFR - Supercharged fun from Jaguar

Setting the pace for future Jaguar models, the XF breaks with the retro-stylings of the S and XK. It was the goal of Jaguar design director Ian Callum to return the brand to a position of setting styling trends rather than revisiting past ones. The XF is the first product reflecting his vision.

Jaguar's tradition, however, is one of more than just styling innovation; it also includes a passion for performance. Enter the $80,000 XFR.

Using a variety of technologies, Jaguar has infused the XFR with attitude and ability. This is not a luxury performance sedan for the feint of heart. Yes, its stunning good looks will turn heads and inspire thumbs-up signals from passing drivers, but the core of the XFR's driving experience is its adrenalin-pumping acceleration and cat-like agility. It's a driver's car first and a luxury sedan second. If you are looking for a sedate, insulated luxury sedan, there are plenty of nameplates out there offering a plush, tomb-quiet touring experience. The XFR just isn't one of them.

The motoring press is a fickle lot, but in the XFR's first few months praise has been heaped upon it in quantities that border on embarrassing. You would have an easier time finding a Mensa Society member at a tractor pull than a serious negative word on the XFR in a published review. It's that good.

The XFR's blistering quickness comes via a 5-liter supercharged V8. It generates 510 horsepower and 461 pound feet of torque. Delivering this robust output to the rear wheels is a ZF six-speed driver-shiftable automatic transmission. Whether set to automatic or manual mode, this transmission shifts up or down quickly maximizing rpms. It dashes away from green lights as though shot from a cannon; reaching 60 miles per hour from a standstill takes just over four seconds. The exhaust note has been specifically tuned for the XFR and its rich burble finds its way into the cabin from time to time.

Although the XFR's supercharged V8 is larger, putting out 90 more horsepower and 48 additional pound feet of torque than the 4.2-liter supercharged V8 available in last year's XF, it delivers nearly the same fuel economy. In fact the EPA rates the city/highway combined mileage of both engines at 17 mpg. The 5.0L loses a couple mpg to the 4.2L in highway mileage but still manages an estimated 15 mpg in the city and 21 mpg on the highway.

Comfortable but firm, the ride is more about handling than it is about pampering fannies. The XFR uses beefier anti-roll bars than the vanilla XF. It has an active suspension featuring Bilstein electronic varying shocks. Stiffer spring rates also do their part to keep the XF flat and neutral in the twisties. Z-rated performance rubber mounted on 20-inch wheels enhances the traction and stability.

Four-wheel disc brakes with 15-inch rotors monitored by an antilock system rein in the XFR's forward motion. Electronic stability control, traction control, emergency braking assist and electronic brakeforce distribution are all included.

Beyond the badging, there is little to differentiate the appearance of the XFR from the more subdued XF. That can be good or bad depending on whether you are trying to showoff for the folks loitering around the valet stand or maintain a low profile around those badge-toting uniforms writing out speeding awards. Exterior upgrades include a mesh grille, a trunk-lid spoiler, sculpted side skirts and quad exhaust tips. Inside the XFR gets its own sport seats with electrically adjustable side bolsters. Everything else is standard XF.

Other than paying a premium for requesting certain exterior paint and interior color schemes, there are no options available on the XFR. Everything is included.

Leather, wood and wool find their way into the XFR's cabin by the square yard. Pushing the red start button on the center console not only cranks the engine, but sets the dash-mounted air vent rotating open and raises the circular gear selector from its resting position in the center console. In addition to full power accessories, the XFR has adaptive cruise control, leather-wrapped tilt-telescoping steering wheel with redundant audio controls, keyless ignition, dual-zone automatic climate control, and a 14-speaker Bower & Wilkins audio system with 7.1 surround sound, auxiliary input jack, iPod integration and Sirius satellite radio capability.

Although rear-seat occupants may find legroom a bit lacking, the cabin is generally roomy. The trunk holds nearly 18 cubic feet of luggage. The door openings are sufficiently wide for easy ingress and egress.

Able to give the BMW M5 and Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG ulcers, the XFR is a world-class competitor in the mid-size luxury performance sedan arena. It will thoroughly surprise those who imagine Jaguar as a staid brand for the horses-and-hounds set. Think of it as taking the absolute most drop-dead gorgeous person in the class to prom and then discovering he or she can dance like a professional instructor.

By Russ Heaps