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2011 Jaguar XFR - Road Test Review

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2011 Jaguar XFR

A lovely machine - passes everything but a gas station; comes with everything but diplomatic immunity


SEE ALSO: Jaguar Buyers Guide

If you believe the Germans, they invented and perfected the sports sedan, particularly the sports-luxury sedan. Eyebrows might be raised at Jaguar after hearing that, though, as that company's Mark II, produced from the late 1950s through the late 1960s, combined luxury and performance in the manner of few cars of its day, especially in 3.8-liter form with a twin-cam inline six similar to that of the E-Type sports car. The Mark II was not just successful as fast luxury road transportation, it had numerous competition successes in both Europe and the US, at a time when race cars were actually minimally-modified (by today's standards) road cars and Germans sedans were known more for luxury or economy than performance.

The Mark II was reprised in style in the S-Type, from 1999 through 2008. Nostalgia ruled in those days, and the S-Type did well. It did even better, performance-wise , with the 400-hp supercharged S-Type R variant, a 2002 introduction. But after a near-decade run, it was time for a change.

That change was the XF. It looked to the future, not the past. For its styling, designer Ian Callum the best lines from his recent Jaguars to the next step. While most similar to the second-generation XK coupe, even to the windshield rake, the XF is, despite its near-fastback roof line, a four-door sedan. And, although it's well-hidden by the sleek lines, the XF is a touch larger than most direct competitors, inside as well as out. "Grace, pace, and space" is a descriptive statement attributed to Jaguar founder Sir William Lyons, and the 2011 XF embodies that statement quite well. With more pace.

The XF is the only car in its class with an all-V8 lineup, and that V8 is now a 5.0-liter AJ Gen III variant in all models. The standard XF has a naturally-aspirated, direct-injected version with 385 hp and 380 lb-ft of torque, a substantial boost over the 300/310 of the previous 4.2 liter engine. The XF Supercharged gets its name from its supercharged and intercooled engine, boasting 470 hp and 424 lb-ft. More boost and other modifications gives the XFR 510 hp and 461 lb-ft. Both supercharged models share the Active Dynamics damping system and Active Differential Control; the XFR also gets a performance setting for its Dynamic Stability Control system and unique exterior and interior trim. A six-speed automatic transmission with manual-shift mode routes the power to the rear wheels in all models.

Other changes for model year 2011 are typical mid-product cycle enhancements, minor changes to trim details, colors, and options. Side mirrors were redesigned to decrease wind noise.

There have been plenty of changes at Jaguar in recent years, but if my recent week with an XFR is indication, the company is headed in the right direction. The XFR is, technically, an executive sedan. But step, even gently, on the throttle, and it's more like an executive jet, with the feeling of immense power and the ability to cover ground quickly, in luxury comfort. It has everything expected in a contemporary European luxury sports sedan, and looks and comfort that could only be Jaguar.

Click PLAY to watch the original XFK/XFR introduction video

APPEARANCE: While immediately identifiable as a Jaguar, and as an Ian Callum design, the XF's lines are not just from the (virtual) drawing board. The development process utilized computational fluid dynamics to minimize aerodynamic lift and drag before final wind tunnel testing. Despite all the high-tech development, the result is, to me anyway, an instance of the old aircraft maxim "if it looks right, it is right". The XFR has looks, and gets looks. Differences from lesser models are, appropriately, relatively subtle, with distinguishing front bumper fascia with chrome-trimmed lower intakes and black mesh grille, aerodynamically-functional side sills and tail spoiler, "Supercharged" hood louvers, and quad exhaust pipes.

COMFORT: Fittingly for its high-tech flagship status, the XFR eschews burled wood trim for textured aluminum, changing the mood from gentleman's clubroom to Office of High Performance. Premium leather is, of course, still the material of choice for seating and trim. Press the start button, and the JaguarDrive ™selector knob rises from the console whilst the climate-control vents swing open. The curtain opens, the performance is about to begin… And it's a performance to be enjoyed in superb comfort thanks to well-designed front seats that are power-adjustable for all possible parameters, even bolstering and driver's cushion length. They are both heated and cooled. A power-adjustable tilt-and-telescope steering wheel allows the perfect control position, with cruise and auxiliary audio controls on the arms and shift paddles behind. Instrumentation is easily visible, and while phone, navigation, climate, and audio systems are controlled through the touch screen at the top of the center stack, main climate and audio functions can also be done the old-fashioned quick way, by knobs below the screen. There is good space for the two outboard rear passengers; a large central tunnel means the center is a short-term, small-person spot. Rear passengers have storage, vents, and a power point, and a center folding armrest. Unusually for its class, the XFR's rear seatback folds 60/40 for outsized cargo. The trunk is large enough that it should suffice most of the time without need to fold the seat.

SAFETY: The XFR surrounds its passengers with a strong steel safety cell, and further protects them with fine handling and response to driver inputs, strong four-wheel vented disc brakes with antilock, electronic brake assist, electronic brake-force distribution, traction and dynamic stability control, cornering brake control, and understeer control logic. For protection in daily traffic, it has a backup camera and blind spot monitoring system.

RIDE AND HANDLING: Here is the "grand touring" concept at its best. The XFR shares the basic design of its aluminum-intensive double-wishbone/multilink suspension with the XF, but it's tuned more firmly and features the Adaptive Dynamics active damping system to automatically vary the damping rate to optimize handling. In standard mode, the ride is firm but supple, a well-damped example of sports-luxury. Press the "dynamic" button and it becomes much firmer -- not harsh, but definitely sports, not luxury. The huge tires mean correspondingly gigantic contact patches, so grip is excellent, at least in dry conditions.

PERFORMANCE: Behind the "growler" logo in the grille lives an appropriately ferocious engine, a supercharged and intercooled version of the Jaguar AJ-V8 with 510 horsepower (at 6000 through 6500 rpm) and 461 lb-ft of torque (from 2500 through 5500 rpm). Direct fuel injection and variable cam phasing on both intake and exhaust camshafts helps create that wonderfully broad spread of power. There is the feeling of veiled power when dawdling about town, and although this cat will put up with that, it lets you know that that is not its natural habitat. It's civilized but would rather not be… Besides firming the suspension, Dynamic Mode increases shift points and throttle response in D. Manual shifting normally reverts to automatic in a short time. When the JaguarDrive selector is turned to S, shifting is completely manual via the paddles behind the wheel. Short-shifting is plenty quick and if you run to redline beyond second gear, you'd better talk fast - second is all you really need in the land of speed limits. It's a wonderfully flexible engine as long as car is over 35mph. Driven moderately (mostly) and with a mix of highway, city and too little backroad fun, I got 17mpg. Which is not bad considering the power available, although more use of that will lead to more stops at the gas station.

CONCLUSIONS: With the XFR, Jaguar does what it does best -- build a first-class sports-luxury sedan with a fine balance of civility and power.


• Base Price $ 79,600
• Price As Tested $ 80,475
• Engine Type supercharged and intercooled DOHC 32-valve aluminum alloy V8 with direct fuel injection and variable cam phasing
• Engine Size 5.0 liters / 305 cu. in.
• Horsepower 510 @ 6000-6500 rpm
• Torque (lb-ft) 461 @ 2500-5500 rpm
• Transmission 6-speed automatic with manual-shift mode
• Wheelbase / Length 114.5 in. / 195.3 in.
• Curb Weight 4306 lbs.
• Pounds Per Horsepower 8.4
• Fuel Capacity 18.4 gal.
• Fuel Requirement 91 octane premium unleaded gasoline
• Tires Dunlop SP Sport Maxx F: 255/35ZR20 97Y R: 285/30ZR20 99Y
• Brakes, front/rear vented disc all around, ABS, EBD, BA standard
• Suspension, front/rear independent double wishbone with active damping / independent multilink with active damping
• Drivetrain front engine, rear-wheel drive

PERFORMANCE EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon
city / highway / observed 15 / 21 / 17
0 to 60 mph 4.7 sec

OPTIONS AND CHARGES Destination charge $ 875