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Road Test: 2014 Jaguar XFR-S
The Jaguar XFR-S, alongside the new F-Type R Coupe, is the most powerful Jaguar model currently on sale. You would expect that to be the case if you glanced upon it for the first time. With the dominating rear spoiler and the aggressive front bumper vents, the Jaguar XFR-S seems to have one purpose; hooliganism! We took a week long test to work out whether its worth blowing your hard-earned savings.
Before we get into the nitty gritty of our review, we have to let you know that we first drove this car in Seattle last year which is where the majority of the photos came from. We got a second experience just last week, as followers of our social media will know. As a result, we have had quite a bit of time to mull over the XFR-S.
As you have probably already guessed, the XFR-S builds upon previous top of the range Jaguar’s XFR. The XFR-S moves to the top of the tree whilst the XFR remains available to those that prefer more sedate looks. The entire front facia gets a different look on the XFR-S. The front bumper is deeper, lower and provides better cooling to the engine. The bonnet retains its supercharged air vents but the power bulge appears to grow noticeably in size; probably the effect of a model-wide mid-life facelift.
Towards the sides, the XFR-S features near-identical side skirts and side brake vent. The fenders also appear to carry more muscle – probably due to a reduced ride-height and larger wheels. Towards the rear, the most noticeable change is the inclusion of a new carbon fibre rear diffuser. This perfectly frames a quad exhaust pipe setup.
Customers have a choice of two spoilers. The large rear spoiler comes fitted as a standard unit, the smaller spoiler is available as a no-cost option. The XFR-S ditches the chrome trim in favour of painted gloss black; a signature touch to sign off another Ian Calum masterpiece. This car is cosmetically superior to the XFR in almost every area.
Our car came fitted with the small rear spoiler, finished in Stratus Grey to match the bodywork. I have to admit, the larger spoiler adds more presence so I was a little disappointed with the subtle substitution. Those that prefer the small spoiler will obviously be pleased to hear that it is a no-cost option. As a substitution, the spoiler still looks very good. It isn’t quite a lip spoiler so there is no trouble differentiating it from the unit fitted to the XFR.
Under the bonnet comes Jaguar’s normal 5.0 litre V8 powerplant, fitted with dual superchargers. With 550 hp and 502 lb-ft of torque released through a blend of engine-management controls and a new exhaust system, the XFR-S has enough credentials to back up the imposing new looks. Various other modifications have been made to ensure that the extra power is reliably. Our car had over 15,000 miles on the clock and felt as good as new.
So, rear wheel drive, 550 hp, wide rear tyres, the Jaguar XFR-S is a car that’s probably more at home on dry, summer roads. Perfect then for a week-long loan in southern England during mid-February at a time when wide-spread flooding dominated the headlines. Jaguar thoughtfully left us with a set of snow socks for the rear tyres though. We never felt the need to use them…
My first experience of the car (as ever) is the drive home from work. With 550 hp on tap, summer tyres and a seemingly endless cycle of storms flooding the roads, our first steps were tentative. Driving home in Auto mode, the car barely breaks a sweat. At junctions we get a small amount of traction control intervention as the rear wheels struggle to find grip. A lightly, lightly approach to the throttle is essential in the wet, although the traction control in most modes is quick to gather any sideways action. The rain in the UK has been particularly bad this year, in dry weather, traction isn’t normally a problem.
On the dual carriageway and at normal cruising speeds, the growl of the 5.0-litre V8 is relatively quiet. It still penetrates the cabin, yet it isn’t obtrusive. So you can use the XFR-S as an everyday car.
The XFR-S comes fitted with the same multi media system as the rest of the Jaguar range. If you’ve read any of our other Jaguar reviews (or even experienced a modern Jaguar model), chances are that you will probably know it isn’t the best system. Compared to similar systems fitted to rival cars, the Jaguar system feels slow and cumbersome. It has a touchscreen, yet it requires a little more pressure than you would expect to operate.
What I really like about the Jaguar XFR and the Jaguar XFR-S though is the supreme balance and excellent ride quality. My first experience of the Jaguar XFR was on the Nurburgring alongside the XJ Supersport and the XKR-S. Particularly in the presence of the XKR-S, I was dubious as to the sporting credentials of the performance oriented ‘bulk model’. I needn’t have worried as for me, I found it more enjoyable than either of the other two.
Having found the XKR-S a little stiff for my liking, I worried that the XFR-S would suffer from the same treatment. I need not have done. Despite noticeably stiffer dampening and sharper steering, the ride still retains that excellent balance and superb feel that endeared me to the XFR in the first place. In Auto mode, the steering is weighted a little heavier so as to give the XFR-S a superb cruising feel. The ride is firm but not uncomfortable in any sense of the word.
Having turned off the dual carriageway, I tested Sport mode for a stretch before pushing a button with a finish line flag to activate dynamic mode. Short of completely switching the traction control off, the combination of sport and dynamic modes gives the most aggressive feel possible. The steering becomes razor sharp and the rider a little firmer than in Auto mode.
Personally, the difference between this drivetrain setting and Auto mode seemed oceans apart although I suspect that had something to do with the torrential weather conditions. A few days later the weather would provide a brief window and the road would dry out. Testing sport mode together with dynamic mode once again, the added sharpness in the steering is evident, as is the firmer ride, but not to the same extent as it was in the wet. I put this down to the relaxed traction control and reduced friction between the wet tyres and road.
None of the above can be seen as a criticism though. The Jaguar XFR-S genuinely impresses in both the wet and the dry. Far from being a flat out racer, it is a car you can hustle through corners at 7 or 8/10ths of the speed you would on a race track. On a road, this gives a fantastic feeling. It is a combination of the balance, the steering feel and the stability that inspires confidence gives that fantastic feel. The exhaust adds an extra sense of occasion in dynamic mode too as you get the baffles crackle off-throttle.
Inside, the dash gets high quality leather. Our example features off-white accent stitching. I was a little indifferent to the carbon fibre effect fabric used to accent the door and the seats. Alcantara roof headlining also gives the car a sporting feel. Facias and panels are treated to black veneers or carbon fibre inserts optionally.
In terms of refinement, the Jaguar XFR-S doesn’t quite peak at the levels we are used to with the Mercedes-Benz E 63 AMG or the BMW M5 (which would be considered its nearest rivals). In many ways that is a positive. Whilst both its German rivals are extremely capable, the Jaguar stands distinct, proud to be different.
So, I guess I now have to draw conclusions from my experience. As i’ve already mentioned, the XFR was already up there as one of my favourite all-time performance sedans. The balance an poise of the package is what swings it for me. The XFR-S builds on a package i’d already fallen in love with. It really is a car from a revived Jaguar and a very strong offering when compared to its nearest rivals.