Jaguar XF-R is a treat for highway driving
To paraphrase Mark Twain, reports of the demise of Jaguar have been greatly exaggerated. Now owned by India’s Tata Corp, the company has a full range of upscale vehicles awaiting your pleasure, one of which is the XF-R.
When you slide behind the wheel of this mid-sized luxury sedan, one of the first things you notice is that there is no gearshift lever—not on the steering column, not on the dashboard. What you get instead is a large rotary dial mounted on the centre console below the stop/start button. Want reverse? That’ll be one click to the right. How about drive? Two more clicks. You get back to park by dialing to the left. It’s kind of alien and off-putting at first—old habits die hard—but, aside from low-speed, back-and-forth manoeuvres, such as parallel parking, which seems to confound it, you soon get used to it.
It’s certainly less counter-intuitive than Mercedes’ unfathomable steering-column push-button arrangement and BMW’s user-unfriendly stick shift button control set-up and is not as oddball as you might think. I can still remember when Chrysler products had a mechanical push-button gear selector located on the left-hand side of the dashboard, and Edsels had a similar arrangement—located in the middle of the steering wheel. Not that Ford’s disastrous mechanical love child was a car to emulate in any way, shape, or form.
The second thing that strikes you is that this is a very quick automobile. With a supercharged 5.0-litre V-8 nestled in the engine bay, there’s a hefty 510 horsepower on tap, and Jaguar is claiming a zero-to-100-kilometres-per-hour time of under five seconds for the XF-R. Transmission choice is a six-speed automatic only, and the XF-R has a top speed of 250 kilometres per hour, according to the company.
Number three item of note is that the XF-R looks, well, mainstream. In the past, Jaguars have often been kind of idiosyncratic, at least from a stylistic standpoint. But this model looks like just about every other car on the road and is much less striking than the XK series, for example. You could park it beside a Buick LaCrosse and most people wouldn’t know the difference. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, and this is not an ugly car by any stretch, but in terms of visual presence, the XF-R kind of blends into the background.For 2012, three versions of the Jaguar XF are available, with the base model utilizing the same V-8 but sans supercharger. It’s good for 385 horsepower and is a couple of seconds slower to freeway speed than the XF-R, which features the supercharger, of course, as well as some discreet body badging and different exhaust tips. But both models look about the same. There is also a premium model that is also supercharged, but with a lower output: 470 horsepower. And, for 2013, Jaguar has added an all-wheel-drive option to this model.
As far as fuel economy goes, well, fuggedaboutit. While it isn’t voracious, the XF-R likes to quaff premium gas. Natural Resources Canada rates it at 14.1 litres per 100 kilometres in town and 9.3 on the highway. By way of comparison, a Porsche Panamera Turbo S has 14.1 and 8.6 respectively, and a BMW 550 has 13.5 and 8.3.
Inside, you’re clearly ensconced in an upscale car, with all the modcons and extras you would expect. Nicely done leather upholstery, heated front seats, navi system, Bluetooth, cruise control, and so on all come standard, and the R has extras like a back-up camera and blind spot warning. My tester also had an Italian racing red paint job ($1,500), heated windshield ($300), and highlighted brake calipers ($500), all of which bump the price up to just over $92,000.
Like just about every Jaguar I’ve ever been in, the XF-R is a treat to drive. Super responsive, silent in operation, exemplary road-holding capabilities, and prompt braking. This is a car you can drive hard without disappointment; it absolutely soars on the highway, yet behaves itself trolling in town. Sometimes, high-performance prestige cars can be a little uncooperative at slow speeds—I’m thinking of BMW M-models, for example—but that’s not the case here.
One note: the interior controls—power windows, climate control, sound system, stop/start button, et cetera—are a little on the slow side. Everything is relatively easy to understand, but there seems to be a split-second delay before they do what they’re supposed to. The touch-screen controls are particularly irksome and need to be redesigned.
On an emotional level, I like the XF-R and the fact that Jaguar has hung in there through thick and thin while still managing to put out a decent alternative to BMW, Mercedes, and Audi models. But the ghosts of the past are still hovering around this company. Jaguar pretty much soiled its own bed back in the 1980s and ’90s, and buyers have long memories when it comes to reliability and repairs. Even today, Consumer Reports rates the XF series’ reliability as “well below average”. For an automobile with this kind of price tag, that’s just not good enough.