So-called "'Ring taxis" are specially modified race-ready vehicles designed to tote passengers at high speeds around Europe's famed circuit that circles the village of Nürburg, Germany. While most automakers modify their high-performance models for the harsh duty, the British automaker chose the largest vehicle in its lineup – the extended-wheelbase XJ sedan in range-topping Supersport trim. Yes, the company's limousine.
The all-aluminum test mule was painted black at the factory, so the engineers specified a more visible matte gray wrap and deleted the rear "XJ L" decklid badging. Fitted with the new Sport and Speed package (the two will be bundled into the "Sport Pack" for those of us in the United States), the four-door features a full aerodynamic package including a small rear spoiler on the trunk to reduce lift and the raised top speed limiter.
Under the hood are all stock mechanicals, including a supercharged 5.0-liter V8 generating 510 horsepower and 461 pound-feet of torque. The ZF-sourced six-speed automatic transmission, one of our favorites in terms of durability and shift smoothness, is also retained. The brake rotors and pads are also identical to what one would find in the showroom today. The 20-inch alloy wheels are wrapped in standard Dunlop Sport Maxx tires (245/40ZR20 in the front and 275/35ZR20 in the rear). And there is still an aluminum temporary spare tire in the trunk.
Under the hood are all stock mechanicals.
The loss of the seats means weight is down, but the cage adds some of it back – we estimate a curb weight of about 4,150 pounds (still lighter than a stock XFR sedan). In its current configuration, the race-ready XJ L should hit 60 miles per hour in just over 4.5 seconds with a top speed of about 175 mph.
We found ourselves at Jaguar's Nürburgring garage last week, so we understandably jumped at the opportunity to take one of the vehicle's inaugural rides with passengers around Nordschleife (the Northern loop).
Our driver was none other than Frank Klass, Global Head of Communications for Jaguar Land Rover. In addition to his busy day job, Klass has participated in more than a dozen 24-hour races at the Nürburgring and has finished a number of long-distance races with top results. Most recently, he drove the legendary D-Type Jaguar at the Mille Miglia. In a nutshell, Klass knows the Nordschleife better than you know your daily commute (plus, he's a genuinely nice guy).
Klass knows the Nordschleife better than you know your daily commute.
With Klass behind the wheel, us in the right front and two passengers strapped firmly into the back seats, we set out to do a hot lap of the north circuit. Unfortunately, the weather had other plans. Spring showers, complete with thunder and lightning, had done their best to well lubricate all 13 miles of the challenging circuit. Undeterred, Klass rolled up all the windows, shut off stability control and set the driving dynamics mode to 'Sport' (firming up the adaptive suspension, increasing throttle response and hastening shift times). With a gulp, we pulled down even tighter on our harness straps.
Jaguar had rented the entire circuit, so with the exception of a few other Jaguars on the asphalt, lap traffic was a non-issue. We flew down the main straight at our own pace - much faster than your author would have driven in the rain - leaving a huge rooster tail of water in our wake as our wipers strained to keep the front glass clean. The corners were wet and slippery, but Klass was fearless and dove into each very quickly. Upon exit, the tail would twitch and the rear tires would break free playfully and he'd counteract any tail-wagging with a bit of corrective steering.
Our helmet would smash against the roll bar on the bumpier sections, such as the Caracciola Karussell ("The Carousel"), but other than some slightly challenged legroom, we were comfortable. The four-point harnesses held us firmly in place, even under heavy braking.
Other than some slightly challenged legroom, we were comfortable.
Klass fell into a rhythm, instinctively knowing where to place tires. Completely new to the circuit, we were along for the wild ride. The Nordschleife has more than 70 corners, so we repeated this again and again and again – the circuit is so long that it plays like an endless loop.
After about ten minutes of enjoyable g-loading, we were off the track and back at Jaguar's Testcenter Nürburgring for a quick debriefing. Standing next to the matte gray luxury sedan, with rain water hissing loudly as it dripped on the hot brakes and boiled off, Klass was understandably impressed with the XJ's performance – and so were we.
The big limousine is amazingly fast around the circuit, but it still needs a bit of polishing. From what we can tell, the most glaring weak link right now is the braking system. The rotors and calipers are up to the task, but the stock (street compound) brake pads were overheating even at our wet pace. In addition, the stock brake fluid was being overworked. Race pads and high-temp brake fluid would rectify both issues within an hour. A nice set of R-compound tires would also help pick up the pace.
If you have the opportunity to ride in Jaguar's long-wheelbase XJ Nürburgring taxi, sit in one of the back seats for the true E-ticket ride.
If you have the opportunity to ride in Jaguar's long-wheelbase XJ Nürburgring taxi, sit in one of the back seats for the true E-ticket ride. While the sedan gyrates around its axis beneath the front seats, those in the rear benefit from some addition whipping as they sit aft of the center of rotation – much like a seating position in the rear of a commercial airliner flying in turbulence. While none of today's passengers needed the barf bags, our bets are that they come in handy when conditions are dry.