When our man Lieberman drove the 2010 Jaguar XF Supercharged earlier this year, he came to the conclusion that of all the models in the XF range, the mid-grade Supercharged with its 470-horsepower V8 was the one to have, if you're buying. After all, at a relatively modest $68,000, it's a sexy sleeper with enough high-powered thrills to keep you happy while still being everyday-drivable and easily tamed. We wholeheartedly agree with our dear Jonny in this conclusion, and if we had never experienced this top-rung XFR, we'd be perfectly thrilled with our purchase.
But we have driven the XFR – once in France and now again in America – and asking us to overlook either experience when considering the XF range simply isn't going to happen. The R makes too much of an impression.
Yes, the Supercharged may be the "just right" Goldilocks model in the XF lineup, but the XFR is Papa Bear. That 'R' badge will cost you an extra $12,000, which is undoubtedly a hefty sum to pay when you consider that it only produces 40 more horsepower than the Supercharged. Thus, it's easy to write off the XFR as unnecessary or overzealous, but its sharper set of chops are able to handle so much more than lukewarm porridge. This car is a real honey, finances be damned! Follow the jump to find out why.
Photos by Steven J. Ewing / Copyright ©2010 Weblogs, Inc.
Before you even begin to think about the 510 raging stallions under the hood, the XFR will impress with its top-notch styling. Jaguar has really come into its own again over the past few years, and its full range is one of the most attractive on the market. The XF design, introduced in 2008, is aging quite nicely, and the subtle tweaks given to the R further enhance the strong emphasis on sex appeal.
Sure, the XF Supercharged is more of a sleeper, but the XFR has a more powerful stance and looks the part of a high-caliber sport sedan. We're very fond of the large air intakes that flank either side of the front fascia, and who can resist drooling over the XFR-only air intakes on the hood lined with "supercharged" text. The other visual upgrades like handsome 20-inch wheels, bespoke side skirts and a sharp lip spoiler blend well with the XF's design, and if you had never seen the base car before, you'd think that all XFs looked this way. It's that natural, and not nearly as brash as a BMW M5 or Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG, both of which simply scream, "No, officer, I don't know how fast I was going."
A similar theme of elegance has graced the cabin, which is quite stunning, especially in our test car's London Tan and Graphite two-tone attire. The sport buckets up front are incredibly comfortable, and because they can be adjusted 18 different ways, they can be contoured to mold just about any driver's shape. Overall fit and finish is good, if predictable for an $80,000 chariot, and the simplistic, understated appearance of the dash and controls goes a long way in not over-complicating the cockpit. The XF's funny turnstyle gear selector and air vents that open and close when the car is turned on and off are a neat parlor trick and never fail to impress passengers, but we still can't help but wonder what sort of problems could arise down the road. Motors do malfunction, after all.
All XFRs come standard with dual-zone climate control, heated and cooled seats, a premium Bowers & Wilkins audio system with HD radio, satellite navigation and an in-dash six-disc CD changer, among other luxurious staples. The touch-screen interface is relatively intuitive to use, but the response time for changing between screens and functions takes longer than we'd like. The same goes for the CD mechanism and shuttling between satellite radio stations. It might seem like a nitpicky quaff, but we just can't help but feel annoyed when it takes a few minutes just to empty the changer. (We're journalists – we had to find something to complain about.)
One area where we have no complaint, however, is the powertrain. Jaguar's latest 5.0-liter V8 with direct injection and supercharged boost is, in a word, brilliant, especially when it's free to crank out all 510 horsepower and 461 pound-feet of torque in XFR guise. The overall acceleration feels more urgent than in the high-revving BMW M5, and the fat torque curve complimented by the faint whine of the supercharger makes you eager to stomp on the go-pedal. But while some cars with 500-plus horsepower can often be tedious to drive around town, this kitty can be easily tamed when slumming through heavy traffic. This isn't to say that the throttle is lazy at initial tip-in, though. The accelerator is easy to modulate, and if we're honest, we really enjoy the feeling of putting more weight down on our right foot when the tap really starts to open up.
Even in standard Drive mode, the six-speed automatic transmission swaps cogs quickly and is willing to immediately downshift when asked, but moving the shift knob over to Sport heightens the experience. In its more enthusiastic drive setting, the transmission is more willing to hold gears all the way up to redline, and if you opt to use the steering wheel-mounted paddles (and you most certainly should), you'll be pleasantly surprised with how quick the response time is from paddle tap to gear change. In most instances, it's dual-clutch quick, and that's deeply impressive.
Out on the open road, the XFR is extremely sure-footed and nimble for tight cornering. JaguarDrive Control, which monitors the steering, brake and throttle inputs, adjusts the dampening 100 times per second, allowing the R to remain composed at all times. Turn off the traction control, and the rear wheels can bite you back when pushed cavalierly, but it's all in good fun. You can really work the XFR harder than you'd think, and it doesn't whine or feel sloppy as you inch closer to its limits. The steering inspires even more driver confidence – it's neither numb nor heavy, but provides enough feedback to ensure that sudden inputs are properly managed without issue.
Serious track day enthusiasts will still probably prefer an M5, but there's no doubt that the Jaguar can most certainly keep pace. Our only want is for a more audible exhaust note, though the uncanny cabin quietness is mostly attributed to the design of lesser, naturally aspirated XF models that need to serve the purpose of a luxury car first and a driver's machine second.
In all, the XFR's dynamics are seriously competitive against its German rivals. Comparisons to America's Cadillac CTS-V are warranted, especially if you consider that the Caddy is both cheaper and quicker, and will more than likely pull off better lap times around a track. But when it comes time to drive home at the end of the day, the Jaguar gets our pick each and every time. It's more refined than the offerings from Benz and BMW, and feels substantially more luxurious and higher-quality than the CTS-V.
In all of this praise, though, the one fact we can't forget about is the price. $80,000 honestly isn't that big of a purse for a car like this, considering that it houses one of the best V8s in the world and will do the same work as your Bimmer or Merc in a more chic package. But then there's that XF Supercharged again, with nearly the same amount of refinement and high-power thrills that will keep you happy all day long, all for $12K less. Don't get us wrong, we absolutely adore the XFR, and have no doubt that Papa Bear could have easily ripped Goldilocks to shreds if she had been caught during her breaking and entering escapade; but the safer XF Supercharged isn't too hot, isn't too cold, and is indeed, "just right." Ah, hell. Who cares if we burn our tongues?
Photos by Steven J. Ewing / Copyright ©2010 Weblogs, Inc.