Who says all new cars have to be green? This one is white… and rather good. Mike Humble finds out more…
Despite how nonchalant or low key some of us try to be when going about our daily motoring escapades, if you are into your cars, you cannot help looking at your own reflection in shop windows when driving through busy town centres. I don’t mean as obvious as John Revolting with his two tins of non-drip gloss in the famous street walk scene of the ’70s movie Staying Alive, but sometimes you just can’t help having a good look can you?
After all, what’s the point of having a prestige or luxury car that has the visual glamour of a Blackpool hen night? An executive car not only has to hit the spot on the inside but do the same party piece on the outside for the benefit of bystanders – anyone who denies this notion is only fooling themselves. Some cars are indeed over the top to some – especially your typical “Supercar” for instance, but the prestige end of the market has so many aspirations to fulfil. Not many cars can pull off the trick of being a luxury vehicle without the increasing sad 21st century trait of public bitterness or jealousy.
Jaguar has always been rather clever with its vehicle styling. Look back to the ’60s and you’ll find the E-type was often regarded as being the most beautiful car in the world while the classic XJ saloon from 1968 soon became one of the most instantly recognised cars on the road. They are skilled with what I have often called “restrained opulence” which in layman’s terms relates to a luxury and prestige car that’s instantly adored and respected from all walks of life without appearing flash or over the top. Back in 2009, Jaguar re-invented their flagship model that followed no previous path of XJ series beforehand… but the ability to turn heads and gain instant respect has continued.
I have just had one of the most enjoyable and expensive weeks behind the wheel of a car thanks to the sporting version of the Jaguar XJR. Upon arrival at my office, the car soon drew a small crowd of admiring people who are well aware of my automotive exploits and it drew as much attention as the F-Type R did a couple of months ago. Though not as big as the XJ-L sampled earlier this year, it’s still a rather large and imposing sight once up close with all the right curves in all the right places. It took a little while to get used to the current XJ shape but I am hooked on the styling that offers no homage to any previous shape or generation of Jaguar.
At first sight, the XJR looks cool and restrained – every inch an executive board room on wheels. There’s little to warn you of the shattering performance from the 550Ps V8 5.0 litre supercharged energy station that resides under the large humped bonnet said for the impressive quad slash cut tailpipes and rear tyres (295/30/20) as wide as a the front wheel on a Garrett steam roller. A discreet tail spoiler and circular “R” badge only add to the discretion but, when viewed side profile, the XJR looks like a slightly lowered Jaguar. Of course, if you look really hard, it’s all there to see from the splitter type front bumper to the heat dissipation vents in the bonnet.
Exterior fit and finish is pretty good with nice close shut lines, very high quality glazing and careful application of the brightwork – the white paintwork shines well with almost millpond reflections in the gloss. Pull open the weighty doors and your nose is treated to that mesmerizing smell of high grade carpet with leather and the standard of presentation makes you nod in appreciation. Jaguar has rather cleverly blended traditional craftsmanship with modern technology with the XJ, you’ll find the balance between the use of leather, chrome and piano black satisfying, impressive and soothing – it really is a very special world to explore.
Equipment leaves little for the wanting, front and rear dual-zone climate, heated front screen, cruise control, digital TV and DVD player with incredible sound quality are all there plus so much more besides – you won’t feel short changed. The Bluetooth system connects without difficulty and people with first-hand experience of JLR products will find the Sat-Nav and general head unit functions familiar, though the appearance and font on the LCD screen is getting a little clunky and could do with refreshing. The driving position is inch perfect but the test car came fitted with a panoramic roof that robs headroom for taller drivers – I sat much lower in the car than I would have liked.
There is confidence inspiring brakes with massive discs all round shrug off the momentum with aplomb; no amount of high speed braking could induce any fade or loss of confidence. Superb handling in the apexes allied to the wonderful ride almost make the Jaguar shrink in size – this is a true driver’s car after all, you will not be disappointed with the poise, balance, ride and handling of the XJR… it really is stunning to chuck around on a sweeping country road. Great steering feel too thanks to Jaguar currently opting to use a traditional hydraulic power steering system and the rim is chunky with a sensible small diameter – oh, it’s heated too!
But when you have tired of the refined feeling of a large luxury car, a little press on the throttle pedal brings a whole new world of faster heart rates and dilated pupils. The muted thrum of that creamy smooth V8 changes to a metallic rasp and whine, select “Dynamic mode” and the steering sharpens while the suspension is monitored constantly to fine tune the driving experience. The only way to sum up the performance is in one word – devastating. The noise, the sensation and the sheer way it devours distance is utterly breath-taking and yet it’s all very safe and controlled, but in warp speed mode this car demands respect and requires both care and a little skill.
For sure the traction control and limited slip “active” differential takes the sting out of its tail happy habits, but there is still an immense amount of power to lay down. Be warned… it will catch you unaware if you daydream with a heavy right foot. Fuel consumption is another factor of course although motorway cruising should see the right side of 25mpg – which, to be fair, is more than reasonable for an almost two tonne rocketship. Once used to the bulk and the power, the Jaguar XJR is one of the finest long distance touring cars I have ever experienced in over 25 years driving – the refinement, the power and the enjoyment are truly… first class.
So it’s well equipped, well styled and disturbingly rapid with an amazing chassis and a presence to command instant respect from adults and excitement from small boys… what’s the catch? It doesn’t come cheap at £96.000 (as tested), it simply wont fit in the average garage and, in the wrong hands, will either bite you hard or cost you your driving licence. Drive it like you stole it and the XJR will drink you out of house and home too, not to mention making rubber confetti out of its rear tyres. Items such as the central display/computer could be a touch more modern, too and it would be nice to see a smidge more practicality in the boot, but a very mild facelift is due sometime later next year to add a little freshness.
It’s excess with style and a car befitting its title… it is pure Jaguar – an elegant and sleek creature of beauty and yet stealthy and wild when you want it to be. Minor issues aside the slightly mental XJR is quite remarkable and very hard not to fall in love with.
- Price: from £92,000
- Power: 550Ps & 680Nm of torque
- Performance: 0 – 60 4.4 seconds with (limited) top speed of 171mph – Manufacturers Data
The full review can be read by CLICKING HERE