The firm has some great products, but might be pushing the XF too far
It’s all happening over at Jaguar. After the warm reception granted to the F-type earlier in the year, it showed its first SUV at Frankfurt in September and didn’t get shredded for it, a result Aston Martin and Bentley would have begged for after their similar efforts were rightly mauled in the press. And now we learn that even before the SUV there’s to be a new small saloon that will spearhead Jaguar’s mission to become once more a volume manufacturer.
But in the meantime it has other, older cars to sell. The XK is now in its ninth year, which is dotage for such a car, while even the XJ is no longer as loose-limbed and useful as once it was. But it is the mid-sized XF, under whose still modern skin lies engineering that dates back to the last century, that most needs a lift.
And this is it, the XFR-S, an XFR with the power of its 5-litre supercharged V8 increased by 40bhp to 542bhp with a commensurate additional slug of torque. Much work has been done to the suspension and steering to provide not just a stiffer springing medium but also a more stable platform through which the greater loads may be more capably transmitted. Cosmetically there’s the usual upgrade in body kit and equipment while the biggest change of all, inevitably, is the price. Jaguar is asking £79,995 for the XFR-S (an increase of £14,580) and I am struggling just a little to see where the value might lie.
I’ve long been a fan of the XF as a business tool that is also uncommonly good to drive, but you don’t need to spend Porsche 911 money to benefit from it. It should surprise no one that a basic four-cylinder diesel XF is a far better balanced and sweeter-steering car than this tumescent range-topper, and can be yours for less than half the price.
If that’s not the point, then the fact that the Mercedes E63 AMG S reviewed last month is faster, and more powerful, civilised and spacious undoubtedly is. True, it’s around five per cent more expensive, but easily worth the extra.
This Jaguar does have its strengths: its engine has better throttle response than the turbo units in rival Mercedes and BMWs and a slightly more interesting sound. Also, right on the giddy limit where only road testers are likely to take this car, it slides more cleanly and reacts more accurately to the throttle than the opposition.
But it is undone by the feel of the cabin, which no amount of Meridian hi-fi, acres of leather or contrast stitching can make feel like anything other than that of a car from a different class and, indeed, a different era. And thanks to its prodigious thirst and the pathetic fuel tank, its range is unacceptable too.
Jaguar is doing good work at present and I don’t blame them at all for making existing product sweat as much as it can before the new wave arrives. But in this case and this case alone, it has pushed farther than the car cares to go. The result is a car that fails to justify the additional money being asked for it.
Engine: 5.0 litres, 8 cylinders, supercharged
Power: 542bhp @ 6500rpm
Torque: 502lb ft @ 2500rpm
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic, rear-wheel drive
Top speed: 186mph