"Is it fast?"
We get that question a lot. Several times a month, in fact, and it comes from every corner of our lives – friends, family, complete strangers and even colleagues from time to time. And it's an understandable query. After all, speed, either in a straight line or around a twisty bit of tarmac, is a universally accepted line of demarcation between the typical family sedan and something much more fun and therefore desirable.
Imagine our surprise, then, when we encountered a small group of casual passers-by while shooting photos of the striking French Racing Blue Jaguar XFR-S you see above, with the beautiful backdrop of Mount Rainier outside of Seattle, WA, and not a single question was asked. This, despite the fact that all eyes were as unilaterally drawn to the slinky blue sedan as they were to the beauty of the snow-capped peak off in the distance.
For several minutes, we moved the car around our chosen photo location, and nobody said a word. And then, finally, a middle-age man and his wife walked by. The man glanced over his shoulder at the Jag, then said to his wife, "Wow. That thing is fast."
That was when we understood. Nobody asks questions when the answer is so obviously staring them in the face. Of course it's fast. Just look at it. Wings, spoilers, carbon fiber in every nook and cranny, massive wheels and a burbling idle sending shockwaves through the dead air with every cycle of combustion.
Oh yes. It's fast. Very fast indeed.
If it's a given that the Jaguar XFR-S is fast, it's an equally inalienable truth that it is attractive. But we'll stop a few steps short of calling it pretty. All those aerodynamic elements, while clearly aggressive, do detract a bit from the classically beautiful shape of lesser XF models. Not that we're complaining; we'll gladly accept a bit of visual evidence of what lies beneath, at least when what lies beneath is worth flaunting. In the case of the XFR-S, those blisters, baubles and bolt-ons exist to let more cooling air in and reduce lift when driving at speed, which is good since this car is capable of hitting an electronically limited top speed of 186 miles per hour.
In fact, Jaguar tells us that every bit of the XFR-S aero package is necessary for performance. There are lower sills with so-called 'aero-blades' that are said to slice through the air, and these join with the deeper front fascia, carbon fiber splitter and matching rear diffuser to reduce lift by 68 percent. Two rear spoiler options are available, one a relatively demure affair and one, as seen in our photos, that towers high above the decklid, comprehensively impedes rear visibility and empties the checking account by a not-insignificant $3,500. Choose wisely.
Every bit of the XFR-S aero package is necessary for performance.
The 20-inch Varuna alloy wheels are half-an-inch wider up front and a full inch wider out back than those fitted to the XFR, and they are wrapped in specially developed Pirelli tires sized 265/35 at the front and 295/30 at the rear. These sticky rubber hoops are required to generate enough traction to allow the XFR-S to sprint from 0-60 in just 4.4 seconds. That's 0.3 seconds quicker than its XFR sibling and a full half-second quicker than the regular-grade XF Supercharged model.
Naturally, Jaguar has seen fit to refine the car's chassis and suspension, as well. Spring rates are 30-percent stiffer and the electronic adaptive damping of the shocks has been recalibrated, which basically means the car sacrifices some ride quality in the name of ultimate road-hugging grip and improved driver dynamics. Those shocks benefit from Jaguar's continuously variable Adaptive Dynamics technology. A computer system adjusts damper rates up to 500 times per second in order to control vertical movement of the car as well as roll and pitch when driven in anger.
Suspension geometry has been changed with new knuckles up front that increase camber and castor, and these join with a steering rack that is said to have valving borrowed from the sporty F-Type to make the car more responsive to steering inputs. A new subframe at the rear and stiffer bushings are said to increase stability. The electronic differential at the rear is also updated, and, along with a reprogramming of the Dynamic Stability Control's 'Trac DSC' setting, allows for a bit of tail-out antics while still keeping the car under control.
The car sacrifices some ride quality in the name of ultimate road-hugging grip and improved driver dynamics.
Jaguar hasn't made any changes to the brakes in the transition from XFR to XFR-S, claiming that the 380mm front and 376mm rear rotors, both internally ventilated, are plenty powerful and resistant to fade for even demanding use on the track. We drove a few XFR-S models, one of which exhibited a harsh pulsation on hard stops, though it didn't seem to be a warped rotor. It's possible the brakes had been damaged by being clamped tight for too long after a few hot laps at the track. Our own time at the racetrack revealed plenty of initial stopping power and zero fade, though the course we drove wasn't really a high-speed track that would be hard on brakes.
One area on which the Jaguar team spared no expense is the powertrain. While we've never complained about a lack of power from the automaker's 5.0-liter supercharged V8, which spits out 510 horsepower in regular-grade guise, we're never ones to balk at an upgrade. In the XFR-S, Jaguar has chosen to use the most powerful production motor it has ever created for sedan use, and we're thankful for each and every one of the 550 horses and 502 pound-feet of torque living underhood.
Jaguar has chosen to use the most powerful production motor it has ever created for sedan use.
For those averse to math, that output equals a jump of 40 horsepower over its less-powerful sibling, and Jaguar says the boost is made possible by the optimization of the engine's electronic brain along with revised air-intake and exhaust systems. Just as importantly, torque is raised by 41 lb-ft, and its peak is spread thick between 2,500 and 5,500 rpm. The added power starts making itself known around 3,000 rpm, and it continues building until 6,500, at which point we're ready for the next gear. Thankfully, Jaguar's eight-speed Quickshift transmission is up to the task of delivering rapid gear changes when kept in Sport Mode and when the driver has engaged Dynamic Mode from inside the cabin.
There are all manner of electronic nannies working furiously to make the transmission react to your desires, and they mostly work. We noted that hard driving automatically caused the car to stay in gear without needless upshifts that could upset the chassis, and, at least when kept in Dynamic Mode, downshifts occurred rapidly when called upon by a slight dip of the right loafer. We're not in love with Jaguar's implementation of start/stop tech – the engine shuts off quite noticeably at a stop and restarts with a corresponding jolt when the brake pedal is released. The brand's well-known rotary shift knob is alive and well, and it's paired with a set of paddles behind the steering wheel, which are sadly cast in somewhat flimsy plastic that's unbecoming of such an otherwise well-appointed interior.
Front and center inside the cabin is a leather-wrapped steering wheel that perfectly frames the gauge cluster ahead. Two large, clear gauges dominate the view, with a small screen slotting in between that offers up useful information at a glance. To the right of the driver, a seven-inch screen exists to show you more useful information – navigation, audio and climate settings, etc – and to drive you completely nutters with sluggishness and an overall sense of distaste. While it has indeed been improved over past efforts from Jaguar, to say the infotainment package is inferior to that offered by Audi is like saying a Standard Domestic Shorthair isn't as imposing as... well, a Jaguar.
Hard driving automatically caused the car to stay in gear without needless upshifts that could upset the chassis.
We don't have many specific complaints about the rest of the XFR-S interior, except to say that you realize it looks sorta dated as soon as you compare it to the gracious confines of Jaguar's own XJ sedan, which is positively gorgeous and enveloping in a way that somehow manages to look both modern and traditionally British. As befitting a car with such performance credentials, the wood you'd otherwise expect to find in a Jag-you-are has been replaced with things like Dark Linear Aluminum, piano black plastic or carbon fiber. It may look a bit dour when compared to the richness of other Jaguars, but it's still lovely while also being purposeful. The somewhat gimmicky rotating vents are still here, and we also think the carbon-patterned leather inserts on the seats and door panels are more kitsch than chic. Ergonomically, though, we have nothing negative to say.
The seats themselves are power adjustable in just about every way imaginable, and it's possible to morph them from well-bolstered to love-handle-pinchingly snug using the appropriate buttons and air bladders. In other words, you're likely to find a comfortable spot somewhere in there, but you may have to work at it for a few minutes. By and large, the cabin is attractive and comfortable, and nothing gets in the way of driving once you decide to forget about inputting navigation instructions and decide instead to go wherever the road takes you.
Any perceived interior or infotainment demerits are quickly forgotten once the start button is pressed. This is the spot where we'd normally make a lame reference to the engine purring (like a jaguar, get it?), but that's just wouldn't be apt. No, this is an engine that bellows. In fact, though we may be crossing over to the canine side of this tired metaphor, it howls like an American werewolf in Coventry. Go ahead, rev it out a few times. What you'll hear is exactly what Jaguar engineers and God Himself intended, with a tuned note partly developed in a sound studio and partly developed by the exquisitely timed explosions of premium unleaded.
It howls like an American werewolf in Coventry.
Once you get that out of your system (it will quickly return when you find yourselves in a tunnel with the windows down – ask us how we know... ), twist the car into gear and hit the gas.
Put simply, all the tweaks and refinements we've discussed up to this point serve to sharpen the XFR-S into a true high-performance super-sedan. We'd need to drive its competitive set (the BMW M5, Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG, Audi S6) back-to-back with Jag's heavyweight to get a true feeling for its performance creds, but our seat-of-the-pants feel tells us that the XFR-S sits back on its haunches and goes hunting with the best that Germany has to offer.
Jag is still using a fully hydraulic setup in lieu of a more fashionable and fuel-saving electronic steering system here in the XFR-S. On the road, steering feel is excellent, with crisp response from the wheel. Braking is strong and linear, grip is plentiful from the extra-wide Pirelli rubber and the body is very well controlled, both in a straight line and when thrown hard into a tight corner. And, as you'd expect, power comes on strong right off idle and remains plentiful all the way to redline.
It's certainly not without flaw, but it's also not without character, beauty or speed.
The 2013 Jaguar XFR-S is certainly not without flaw, but it's also not without character, beauty or speed. In fact, it's the fastest sedan Jaguar has ever created. It's pricey, too, with each example commanding at least $99,000 from buyers. That's a pretty penny, to be sure, and it's about $9,000 more dear than a base BMW M5 and about the same price as an M5 fitted with the Competition Package.
Perhaps, then, what you'll get with the Jaguar that you may not with one of its German peers is more time to drive. After all, you won't be answering many questions from your fellow motorists about how fast your car is. Because they'll know just by looking at it.