Since being unveiled in 2009, the Jaguar XJ has won fans globally with its combination of striking good looks, luxurious interior and engaging driver experience. Now, however, Jaguar has dusted off its red growler roundels and completed the range with an overtly sporting performance flagship, the XJR.
What is it?
Previously, if you wanted the fastest XJ, you had to plump for the 5.0-litre Supersport. The XJR will replace that model and will be the sole petrol V8 in the range. It shares that car's basic underpinnings, but comes with a mild power hike, revised power steering calibration and new spring and damper rates, resulting in a 30 per cent increase in stiffness. For increased visual aggression, the XJR is fitted with redesigned front and rear bumpers and side-skirts, and a small boot-lip spoiler. It's a subtle makeover, but one that enhances the XJ's sporty characteristics without spoiling its elegant design.
What's under the bonnet?
The charismatic 5.0-litre supercharged V8 is carried over from the Supersport model, too. Power is up from 503bhp to 542bhp, while the torque figures get a similar massaging, rising from 624NM to 680NM. Performance is towering – loosen the grip of the traction control and you'll easily overwhelm the rear tyres. Leave it on, though, and the XJ deploys its grunt to the tarmac effectively, making overtaking manouvres laughably easy and the potential for inadvertently reaching licence-losing speeds worryingly apparent. With a 0-62mph time of 4.4 seconds and an electronically limited top speed of 174mph, the XJR is endowed with supercar humbling performance.
As you'd expect from a flagship limousine from a luxury manufacturer, the XJR is very well appointed. Standard equipment includes everything from cruise control, keyless go, four-zone climate control, sumptuous leather upholstery and a bombastic Meridian sound system with Bluetooth audio streaming. Obviously, Jaguar also offers a range of optional extras, for you to inflate the list price of your car with. Items such as privacy glass and adaptive cruise control are must-haves, but we were left wondering who needs a carbon-fibre engine cover, particularly when it costs an eye-widening £1,295.
However, even if you do without any optional extras, the XJ has one of the most magnificent interiors ever seen on any car, let alone a top-end limo. Passengers are treated to fantastically comfortable seats, soothing blue interior lighting and a supremely cosseting ride. Some of the switchgear can feel cheap in places and taller passengers may find a lack of headroom in the rear, thanks to the low slung roofline, but on the whole the cabin is a triumph, and worlds away from the austere sensibleness of its German rivals.
Buyers in this market are spoilt for choice, with Jaguar's big three German rivals all offering V8 uber-limousines, namely the Mercedes S63 AMG, Audi S8 and BMW 750i. However, while all provide similar levels of performance and pampering, they simply cannot hope to match the XJR as a driver's tool. If ultimate luxury is your thing, then the Mercedes S63 AMG and its ground-breaking levels of refinement, comfort and technology are worth consideration, as it boasts a larger cabin and a more luxurious ride.
What's it like to drive?
Quite simply: astonishing. If you're used to driving cars of this size, you simply won't believe the eagerness with which the XJR gathers speed and changes direction. Its aluminium structure imbues a lightness at the steering wheel that gives the feeling of a much smaller car, giving drivers the confidence to press on and exploit its high dynamic limits. Reign things in and the XJ instantly becomes a statesman-like limousine, the eight-speed gearbox slurring ratios imperceptibly and only a hint of wind and road noise finding its way into the cabin. The ride is noticeably firmer than the standard model, but is well judged - not allowing even severe bumps to unduly disturb the interior tranquility, but being taught enough for the big Jag to be an entertaining steer. It's a lesson that its German rivals –with their multi-adjustable suspension setups – could learn a thing or two from.
The AOL Cars verdict
Another top-class car from a manufacturer that seemingly can't put a foot wrong at the moment. The XJR has all the luxury trappings to compete with its German rivals, but also a sense of style and driving experience which makes us wonder why anyone would choose them. If you're the sort of person who likes to drive your limousine yourself, we'd highly recommend it.
Model: Jaguar XJR
Price: £92,370 (£96,855)
Engine: 5.0-litre, V8, supercharged
Power: 542bhp 680Nm
Max speed: 174mph (electronically limited)
0-62mph: 4.4 seconds
MPG: 16.7 (urban), 32.8 (extra-urban), 24.4 (combined)
Emissions: 270g/km CO2