Not enough car manufacturers pay attention to British roads while they’re developing their cars, and those that do appear not always to know what to do with the results. The Germans are often the worst offenders, producing cars that track arrow straight at 150mph down the Autobahn and handle beautifully on smooth, constant radius curves that vary by not a single degree in camber or surface from entry to exit, but which rapidly come to grief when confronted with the somewhat sterner challenge presented by our road network.
The strange thing is, the opposite does not apply. Set a car up to work in the uK and, without exception, it will work everywhere else too. These thoughts came to me during one of the many joyous 4am airport runs that come with this job as standard if you happen to live 130 miles from Heathrow. I was in the new Jaguar XFR, flinging it down the roads I know best and marvelling at how composed an 1891kg four-door saloon can be made to feel by those who understand not just chassis dynamics, but also the different environments in which they must work. It’s true that the 5-litre supercharged engine does challenge the traction of its rear tyres, but I’d prefer that to making it softer at the back and less incisive at the front. that’s the thing with all modern sporting Jaguars – they resist understeer with impressive determination but never feel in the least twitchy.
But while I can’t think of another car that’s been more successfully face-lifted recently this is not one I could live with. You have to try quite hard to persuade it to do much more than 20mpg, and even if the cost of the fuel didn’t matter, the under-250-mile range afforded by the lousy sub-70-litre fuel tank would. The diesel XFS will still pull a sub-6sec run to 60mph, handles just as nicely yet uses exactly half the fuel. and it’s over £20,000 cheaper.
ENGINE: 5-litre, eight-cylinder, supercharged
TOP SPEED: 155mph (limited)
POWER: 503bhp at 6000rpm
FUEL/CO2: 22.5mpg, 292g/km