It's not often you could call a high-performance Jaguar a bargain, but I think the latest XFR qualifies.
It's not often you could call a high-performance Jaguar a bargain, but I think the latest XFR qualifies. This is a proper extreme machine, as befits the R-brand: it has a supercharged 5.0-litre V8 that makes 375kW/625Nm and will accelerate to 100km/h in under five seconds (just).
The XFR has always been relatively inexpensive compared with German rivals such as BMW M5 and Mercedes-Benz E 63 AMG, but earlier this year Jaguar New Zealand cut another $10,000 off the price. For $160,000, a specialised car of this ability and size is, well, a bargain.
The XFR is fairly subtle, granted. The body kit is low-key, although the gaping front intakes and bonnet vents are quite aggressive. The R wears unique 20-inch alloys, although they're more pretty than purposeful.
The cabin is cosseting like any other XF but doesn't exactly shout about its R- status, save sports seats and some discreet badges.
None of this is an indication that the XFR is half-hearted. Rather, it shows that Jaguar still values good taste and subtlety. But the XFR is an intricately engineered executive rocketship, make no mistake. Aside from the monster engine, the XFR boasts redesigned steering and suspension, heavily uprated brakes and a sophisticated computer-controlled active differential.
The beauty of the XFR is that it's a practical pseudo-supercar, because it's very easy to drive when you're not pressing on. The big V8 is docile at low speed, the six-speed automatic transmission gets on with business unobtrusively and there's absolutely nothing intimidating about the car from behind the wheel.
Quite the opposite, in fact. It rides astonishingly well for a high-performance car on sports suspension and massive rims, and the interior ambience is still every bit as luxurious as you'd expect of a Jaguar. Any Jaguar. The XFR plays luxury car so well – better than its hard-core German rivals.
And performance car? The XFR is packed full of powertrain character, thanks to the throb of a V8 and the satisfying whirr of an old-school supercharger. Dynamically, it's every bit as capable as its rivals but also keeps things pretty simple: there are no powertrain settings or suspension modes to play with, which is a good or bad thing depending on how much you like to customise the driving experience.
For this car, Jaguar has simply set it up as it sees best for a wide range of driving conditions and it has done a brilliant job. It lacks very little for the enthusiast driver (as opposed to the one who wants to merely show off) – save the new eight-speed automatic transmission that is working its way into the Jaguar range. It's certainly coming for the XFR. To be perfectly honest it doesn't feel like it's desperately needed, but it's still disappointing that the entry-level four-cylinder XF has the eight-cog unit and this flagship model doesn't.
But in all other respects the XFR is an astonishingly complete super-sedan.