• May 29th 2009 at 11:57AM
  • 26
2010 Jaguar XFR – Click above for high-res image gallery

About 20 minutes after heading south towards the Mediterranean, traffic on our four-lane roadway stops abruptly. The bus we have just passed pulls up on our right and an officer is standing in the middle of the roadway, waving the morass of motorists through – until we reach the head of the pack. He points at us, then motions towards an unpaved turnout where a handful of squad cars are accompanied by a dozen police officers.

We pull the white, droptop XK into the dirt lot, twist the rotary shifter into Park and within seconds we're being berated by a young officer with "CADET" embroidered across his upright baseball cap. Our French is about as good as our Klingon, so after realizing we don't speak the native tongue, he snatches our documents and leaves us to stew.

A few minutes pass, at which point an older officer approaches and asks in perfect English, "Do you know why you are here?" We tepidly shake our heads as he informs us we were doing 60 km/h in a 40 zone. Our wallet recoils in horror as we remember the advice given to us earlier in the week: "The police in France are very strict about speed limits. The fine can run upwards of 1,500 euros (a little over $2,000) and it is payable on the spot." Just as thoughts of frantic phone calls, maxed-out credit cards and the atrocities that await us in a Parisian jail cell begin to flood our minds, the officer cocks his head sideways, realizes we're a pair of dimwitted Americans and simply says, "Please be more careful."

So begins our time with the foursome of Jaguar's newest offerings, and we haven't even sampled the 510-horsepower XKR and XFR yet.

Photos Copyright ©2009 Damon Lavrinc / Weblogs, Inc.

Jaguar's managing director, Mike O'Driscoll, admits it's been, "a traumatic ten years" for the brand. Aging, lackluster products and a poorly implemented marketing strategy conspired against the automaker and it quickly fell off the radar of both German brand refugees and Jag's most ardent devotees. But last year's introduction of the XF proved Jaguar was poised for a renaissance (Tata takeover or not) and O'Driscoll's posture straightens and his chin tilts upwards when he says, "We're making Jaguar Jaguar again." And 2009 is Jag's coming out party.

The all-new XJ is due to be revealed next month and go on sale this December, and for the 2010 model year, Jaguar has added two new high-performance models to the mix – the XFR and XKR – along with upgrading the powerplants in its shapely sedan and arresting (pun intended) coupe/convertible.

2010 Jaguar XF

Both the naturally aspirated and supercharged 4.2-liter V8s are gone in the U.S. market for 2010, and in their place is an all-new, Jaguar-developed 5.0-liter direct-injected eight-pot putting out 385 hp and 380 lb-ft of torque. Jag's codename for the revised mill is the "AJ-V8 Gen III," but don't let that fool you – only two parts have been carried over from the outgoing engine – and one of them is a screw.

Fitted to both the 2010 Jaguar XF and XJ, the 5.0-liter V8 is a torquetastic wonder of modern machinery that utterly transforms both the sedan and coupe. With peak twist coming in below 2,500 rpm, a judicious mash of the throttle elicits a wave of torque that's as flat as the Salar de Uyuni and best measured with an EKG.

Channeling both the XF and XK's newfound grunt to the rear wheels is a revised six-speed automatic gearbox with uprated internals to make better use of the mill's inflated torque. Gear selection is controlled by either the reworked, shift-by-wire computer or through the steering wheel-mounted paddles, each of which delivers some of the most crisp, immediate shifts this side of a dual-clutch 'box and one of the most intoxicating throttle blips known to man. Our only complaint centers on the traction control system which, even when engaged in Competition mode by pressing the checkered flag button on the transmission tunnel, cuts in far too soon for our tastes. Completely disabling the electro-nanny requires the driver to depress the same button for 12 seconds, something we're not inclined to condone when blasting across the narrow, unfamiliar byways draped over Southern France's majestic mountains.

But we just can't help it when we get behind the wheel of the XFR.

2010 Jaguar XFR

In a nod to Jaguar's tradition of making its hottest models barely distinguishable from their staid, stock counterparts, the XFR exhibits the sort of passive-aggressive demeanor normally reserved for sadistic seven-year-olds and scorned felines. The front fascia's been augmented by a set of gaping, chrome-lined air intakes, the mirrors have been shaved in size, the side sills have been extended, a rear spoiler joins a quartet of polished tailpipes and hood vents emblazoned with "Supercharged" match the XFR-specific 20-inch rolling stock.

The interior revisions are equally subtle, with 18-way adjustable sports seats, dark oak and mesh aluminum inserts, R badging on the seats and a choice of either London Tan or Redzone leather, the latter of which looks absolutely striking with the R-only Kyanite Blue exterior.

The muted determination of the exterior and interior matches the XFR's driving experience beautifully. With the rotary (and gimmicky) JaguarDrive Control set to "D," the hotted-up XFR exhibits none of the trashiness you'd expect from a 500+ hp sports sedan. But that can work both ways. While the BMW M5 may be an awkward handful when meddling around town, there's a sense of occasion every time you slip behind the wheel. The XFR simply feels like its naturally aspirated counterpart... until the Renault in the left lane moves out of the way and – as the Brits would say – you give it the beans.

The Roots-type, four-rotor Eaton supercharger sucks sacrificial oxygen molecules through the duo of water-cooled intercoolers and delivers a kidney-punishing 510 hp and 461 lb-ft of torque. The blown 5.0-liter blends the perfect balance of low- to mid-range torque and upper-end horsepower, landing squarely between the aforementioned high-revving M5 and the executioner-style twist provided by one of Mercedes-Benz' AMG-fettled offerings.

Equally endearing is the XFR's ability to walk the steering and suspension line between BMW's directness uber alles and Mercedes' and Audi's penchant for numbness. The connection between the helm and the front wheels is in a class the boys from Bavaria obviously skipped, allowing minor course corrections to be made at speed without threatening a shunt into the weeds, while still delivering enough information to engage, but avoid overwhelming, the driver.

The majority of that connected sensation is thanks to the adaptive dynamic technologies Jaguar employed on the XFR – equipment that is now standard on the XK. The system tweaks the damper rates 100 times a second to maintain a constant and level attitude based on steering, throttle and brake inputs, and combined with the Active Differential Control, which integrates with the DSC system and features true active locking – not a brake-based setup – the XFR is a dynamic coup for Jaguar. It may not be as rewarding or taut as some M- or RS-badged products – and its muted exhaust won't set your auditory senses ablaze – but give the XFR an open road and a blank check (made payable to the local constabulary), and you'll be amazed at its ability to consume countless kilometers with the kind of ease Jaguar was once known for. And with the XKR, that formula creates a perfect party for two.

2010 Jaguar XKR

Like its four-door stablemate, the XKR is another stylistic balancing act that errs on the side of aggression. The new front bumper compliments the chrome mesh nestled within, and the hood louvers and quad exhaust assure that only Jag aficionados can identify what breed of coupe just blew past. The interior features the same shift selector, heated and cooled front sports seats (with ample bolstering) and a black alcantara headliner that begs to be stroked while stopped at traffic lights.

However, unlike the XFR, which feels like a fullback who's been forced to take yoga, the XKR is more refined and supple; a half-back who enjoys ballet as much as giving the stiff arm to a defensive lineman.

With the supercharged V8 mounted closer to the firewall and a wheelbase that's some six inches shorter than the XF, the XKR jukes and jives with the confidence of a GT peppered with a few tricks pulled from the sports car segment. The dynamic systems carried over from the sedan -- along with the brakes, which proved fade-free after miles of flogging – feel even more at home on the coupe, providing an experience that's both fluid and firm, and is sure to put the hurt on more expensive grand-tourers-turned-sports coupes, including the Aston Martin V8 Vantage. Whoops.

But where the XKR falls flat is price. Starting at just over $100,000, Jaguar's hottest coupe doesn't make a compelling case for itself when the good bits – specifically the dynamic suspension – are standard on the entry XK, and the new 5.0-liter V8 is just... well... damn near perfect for a daily driver and back-road enthusiast. Throw the XFR into the mix, however, with a starting price just south of $80k and a pair of usable back seats, and the choice becomes even more clear. We'll take ours in blue, with the red leather interior and a better awareness of French traffic laws.

Photos Copyright ©2009 Damon Lavrinc / Weblogs, Inc.

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 6 Years Ago
      When the lottery check is deposited, the first withdrawal is going to be for the XFR... Now... back to that lottery thing...
      • 6 Years Ago
      I still declare "butterface" on both these cars, but from what you say, it's more than worth it to drive 'em. I just have to find a really big brown paper bag now...
        • 6 Years Ago
        Just to be clear, I think there are some detail things that I would have done differently... actually I would have kept them the same as the concept, and NOT changed them...

        But I think the car as a whole is fantastic, and quite good looking...

        The XK comment... the grille is odd. It looks rounded and oval, and all that, but at a certain angle, looking down from above the front of the hood, the grille is cut off completely flat, and the whole car is remarkably flat across the front, for a car that otherwise is so nicely curved up to that point.

        The headlights and tail lights are just slightly inconsistent. A sharp triangular shape outboard, and an obviously oval, more freeform shape otherwise. I just wish they had picked one, and stuck to that. Otherwise I think the XK is a quite nice premium coupe. I wish it had a stick option, or at least dual-clutch. Hydra-matic only is probably the most popular, but some people still want to actually DRIVE.
        • 6 Years Ago

        The C-XF was so hot. The angry cat eye headlights, blacked out, were so cool...

        Then they mangled it. The XFR's lower air dam isn't as graceful as the stock one, or the concept's more pronounced version. Three chrome-circled intakes, including the main grille, is a bit much.

        The XK wants to be a hot car. If the details could just decide whether they want to be oval or triangular, and whether the grille wants to be rounded or flat. Just a touch of schizophrenia.

        The V8, and the supercharged version of the V8, sound like fantastic engines, though. That is good.

        If someone would just produce a kit to make the XF look like the concept from the front.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Sorry Duders, but I've gotta disagree with you. I've seen both cars in person and neither is particularly attractive up front. The headlights on the XK need to curve up instead of drooping down to create a more aggressive look instead of a looking like it just had a stroke. Simply changing the headlights would make it much more attractive. Change the headlights on the XF back to the concept's and again, it becomes much more attractive. The cars in general aren't ugly. They're just not pretty. But that's what the second generation is for, right?
        • 6 Years Ago
        " and whether the grille wants to be rounded or flat."

        It looks pretty good in person. Certainly better than the Audi "jelly bean" grill.
        • 6 Years Ago
        I can't believe the number of people on this blog that claim this thing is ugly. In person it's unbelievably good. And in all these pictures I think it looks just as good as in person.

        The cars interior and engineering is light years ahead of everything else in its class, this coming from a person who has driven them all, and if you were going shopping for a car in this class you'd be foolish to buy anything but the XF. It's a homerun for Jaguar.
        But I am a little biased from working at a Jag dealership o.o
      • 6 Years Ago
      my dad has a thing even for the "base" XF. i think if he saw one of these in public, he'd have to excuse himself. am i the only one who things the front end is kinda vanilla? i mean of the xf in general; no one is confused as to the R's general intent.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Not bad...

      And that XFR is painted the PERFECT color of blue. It is pretty much exactly what I figure a modern pearl/metallic version of Ecurie Ecosse Blue would be, which is absolutely suited for a Jaguar, after having dressed privateer C and D types as well as other sports cars in the past.

      I wish Jag would do one more thing... a mid-engined sports/race car program, targeted at the market segment somewhere between Cayman S and Audi R8 V8.

      5.0 and supercharged versions of AJ-III, longitudinally mid-mounted, driving the rear wheels, even sleeker and simpler mechanically than the AWD R8... with more power and longer lines than Cayman S.

      With a dual-clutch gearbox, they could still use the rotary knob to switch between forward, neutral, reverse and park settings, with paddle-shifted, clutch-engaged gears, more like PDK and DSG than R8's automatic option. Jag would have to offer a traditional stick shift in the interior design if they wanted to offer a traditional manual gearbox, as well.

      And if it is as sexy as the XJ13, but designed as a road car for the 201x decade, instead of the 196x decade, all the better.

      And paint it that color blue. or Brooklands/British racing green.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Such beautiful cars. But I'm saddened by the lack of fogs.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Great review and photos, that XFR sounds fun!

      (I never thought I'd say that about a jag)
        • 6 Years Ago
        the new v8 is awesome

        i didnt know anything could be that responsive at low engine speeds
      • 6 Years Ago
      Come on Jag, get the ZF 8hp70 8 speed auto!
      • 6 Years Ago
      You guys have one of the best jobs in the world.
      • 6 Years Ago
      "The police in France are very strict about speed limits" -- this is the most nonsensical statement I've ever read on this site. Nothing is farther from the truth.

      The drinking & driving laws in France are most strict than most parts of the US, but they are not enforced strongly. It is still socially acceptable anywhere outside of Paris to drive with a bit of a buzz. I've spent years in various parts of France and never once seen 1 single cop doing a RIDE check. I don't D&D and would like to see more cops do random checks. Residents don't see it as a priority.

      I routinely drive 30-40 km over the limit on the highways and have never been pulled over. In many cities, you will be tailgated by middle-finger gesturing French bastards if you drive the speed limit. French drivers don't slow down for school zones, either. That's what I've seen in living in France for 4 years.
      • 6 Years Ago
      What a cool cop!
      • 6 Years Ago
      Kidney punishing? Is that a reference to one's own kidney organs, or to the BMW M5's gaping twin-kidney grille?
      Anyway, these are two amazing cars. I love how warm and inviting all current Jaguar interiors feel, and the subdued exteriors too make both cars true sleepers.
      • 6 Years Ago
      the XF is such a sexy car... gets my attention EVERYTIME... I could only imagine XFR
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