WHERE THE WILD THINGS R
There's no shortage of big numbers that bear witness to the mind-bending power and performance of Jaguar's new rocket ship XFR saloon.
The 510PS (503bhp) that's delivered by its brand new supercharged 5-litre V8, for example, and the fact it can hit 60mph from zero in just 4.7 seconds (0-100kph: 4.9 seconds). And its mighty, electronically limited, 155mph (249kph) top speed. And an advanced new suspension system that monitors the position of each wheel 500 times every second for truly sensational handling.
Yet, arguably the Jaguar XFR's most impressive number is small – 1.9. That's the time, in seconds, it takes for the ‘R' to kick down, spool up and leap from 50mph (80kph) to 70mph (113kph). This is a level of thrust you normally associate with the world's most exotic super cars.
And this towering level of performance by the XFR's 5-litre engine is achieved with comparable economy and better emissions than the previous 4.2-litre engine. This is real-world performance, too. Yes, it'll explode away from a standstill, but it's this magical mid-range punch, coupled with an even faster-shifting version of the XF's familiar six-speed automatic, that really sets this new ‘R' apart from the competition and makes driving it so intoxicating.
The car's searing velocity doesn't come at the expense of daily drivability, however – there's a dual personality here. The car feels wonderfully refined, tractable, docile even, in everything from daily stop-start commutes to runs to the shops. Point the XFR's new, more aggressive nose along a twisty back road and the XFR will dazzle even the most accomplished driver with its breathtaking agility.
The standard XF's already highly acclaimed chassis has been extensively re-engineered to sharpen its focus. Its springs are 30 per cent stiffer front and rear, and the previous CATS adaptive damping has been replaced by a new, sophisticated Adaptive Dynamics System. This monitors wheel movement up to 500 times per second (see panel, page 10), and adjusts the dampers to ensure rubber stays firmly in contact with the road. Add to this the XFR's brilliant new Active Differential Control – an electronically controlled alternative to the traditional, wholly mechanical differential – and this new ‘R' sets a new benchmark in sports-saloon agility.
What this new, technically advanced active differential does is vary the degree of lock, from zero to 90 per cent, enhancing cornering ability and dramatically improving acceleration and control in the wet. Find yourself a swooping, snaking stretch of blacktop and the Jaguar will demonstrate a composure, an athleticism, an agility that's hard to comprehend, especially for a four-door, five-seat saloon.
You approach curves at a breathtaking pace, brushing the brakes to shed speed and pulling back on the steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters to drop down one or two gears. The standard XF's variable-ratio steering does not lack in feel, feedback and precision, but sharpening its action by 10 per cent has transformed it from exceptional to sensational. The car turns into curves with seemingly endless, leech-like grip. You can sense the new Adaptive Dynamics System continuously adjusting the dampers to give tauter body control, cancelling out body roll and reacting instantly to mid-corner lumps and bumps.
It's the same when the XFR fires out of the curve and blasts down the road. There's no floatiness or imprecision, no nervousness or jitters; the car feels totally planted.
While rivals resort to over-firming their suspension, which often results in a bone-jarring ride, the XFR retains its ride quality. Even if you select the ‘Sport' setting, which firms-up the suspension even more, the XFR always feels refined, always comfortable.
The rich, deep-chested V8 burble you hear from those four rear tailpipes could have been made more vocal, but what may be spine tingling when driving at a pace usually becomes wearing on a daily commute. There's that dual personality again – drivers get to savour this driving excitement in a cabin that oozes sporting luxury. New, body-hugging front sports seats with power-adjustable side bolsters provide terrific support in the twists.
See the new XFR on the road and there's no mistaking it as anything other than the ultimate expression of Jaguar's sporting saloons; a truly beautiful, fast car. The front design features a larger lower grille with black mesh, along with air-gulping, chrome-edged front-fascia side vents. There are also distinctive louvres on the top of the bonnet. You'll also spy subtle, yet striking, side-sill extensions, while at the rear the re-sculpted bumper adds a unique, body-coloured lower panel incorporating four over-sized tailpipes. A small, yet distinctive boot-lid spoiler and a stunning new design of 20-inch alloy wheels complete the bold, yet restrained look.
This is a groundbreaking car for Jaguar; a true sporting saloon that delivers an unparalleled blend of thrilling, rewarding driving excitement without the compromises usually associated with hard-driving performance. What you're looking at is without doubt the new ultimate driving machine.
XFR MOVES UP A GEAR
It's fast. As in zero to 60mph in 4.6 seconds fast (0-100kph: 4.8 seconds).
That's what happens when you combine the all-new, direct-injection 510PS (503bhp) supercharged V8 that's in the new XFR with the lightweight, all-aluminium body of the XKR. This is Jaguar's latest and greatest XKR. It's still the stylish, sophisticated grand tourer. But now its sports-car heart beats harder, and a lot faster.
This new AJ-V8 Gen III R engine delivers a whole different kind of driving experience with its massive reserves of usable, low-down torque for acceleration. And as with the XFR, this new XKR shares the same groundbreaking chassis technologies that transform its handling abilities. There's the remarkable new Adaptive Dynamics suspension that is constantly varying the damper settings to sharpen the handling and improve body control. Plus the new Active Differential Control that improves stability and allows the XKR to more effectively lay down its towering power. Select the new Dynamic mode function and you get even sharper throttle response, more urgent gear shifting, and the kind of throaty exhaust rasp that excites true driving enthusiasts. To accompany this extreme new level of performance and handling, both the XKR Coupé and Convertible get a bolder exterior design and an interior featuring the innovative JaguarDrive Control. It's no wonder the UK's BBC Top Gear magazine described it as “The best sports GT in the world. And maybe even the best sports car.”
ADAPTIVE DYNAMICS: WHAT IT MEANS FOR THE DRIVER
While the new supercharged 5-litre V8 and its massive 510PS output transform the performance of the XFR and XKR, it's Jaguar's brilliant new Adaptive Dynamics System that helps transform their handling. The system replaces the previous Computer Active Technology Suspension (CATS). CATS offered two damper settings – soft and firm – the Adaptive Dynamics System provides continuously variable damper adjustment.
One hundred times every second, the system takes information from sensors around the car and adjusts the dampers to control body roll and the fore and aft body pitch you get during acceleration and braking.
And to ensure a trademark Jaguar-smooth ride, the system monitors the movement of all four wheels up to 500 times a second, adjusting the dampers to keep each wheel firmly planted on even the most pockmarked roads.
When drivers press the Dynamic-Mode button next to the cylindrical Jaguar-Drive Control selector, not only do they get quicker gearshift responses and a more responsive throttle, they get firmer, sportier suspension courtesy of Adaptive Dynamics.
Mike Cross, Jaguar's chief engineer, Vehicle Integrity, and the architect behind the new XFR and XKR's driving dynamics, explains the benefits when he says: “Both of these new cars set new standards in dynamic balance. They succeed in being both potent and rewarding, yet balanced and accessible at the same time.”
[Issue 1, 2009]