First Drive : Jaguar XJR

Who says all new cars have to be green? This one is white… and rather good. Mike Humble finds out more…

Looking for a living room that can cover three miles a minute? Step this way!
Looking for a living room that can cover three miles a minute? Step this way!

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.

From digital T.V to pneumatic seat bolster adjustment, it gets you almost within reaching point of the horizon with style and good taste.
From digital TV to pneumatic seat bolster adjustment, it gets you almost within reaching point of the horizon with style and good taste

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.

The UK produced V8 features a twin vortex supercharger and 550Ps. The progress can only be described as alarming!
The UK-produced V8 features a twin vortex supercharger and 550Ps. The progress can only be described as alarming!

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.

The XJR is typically restrained as only the English can do. In the wrong hands its a widow maker... in the right hands its incredibly agile with a genuine Jekyll and Hyde nature. The noise on full cry stirs the soul.
The XJR is typically restrained as only the English can do. In the wrong hands it’s a widow maker… in the right hands it’s incredibly agile with a genuine Jekyll and Hyde nature. The noise on full cry stirs the soul

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.

Quick Stats:

  • 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

Mike Humble


  1. This really is a good car, and has moved Jaguar away from its sixties obsession into the 21st century. In the last few years Jaguar have moved on from pretending it’s still 1968 and produced some very contemporary and excellent cars. Also the move away from wood, which might annoy some purists, is right for the supercar like XJR.

  2. I must admit that I took time to get used to the new (21st century) Jaguar look but fingers crossed 2015 will see the return of a big cat in my drive… will be an XF preferably black, met BRG or caviar with either black or dove trim. 09/10 in portfolio S 3.0d, pity so few have the glass roof. Wish I could blow 40K on a new one to my spec…

  3. @ Chris, when was the last time you saw a big BMW, these seem to have become invisible in the last ten years?

    • 7 series BMW another terrible failure, and S class Mercedes going the same way . Neither, however, are quite as devoid of taste as this Jaguar , I am sorry to say ( as the owner of 3 classic Jaguar products of the Lyons era )

      • The S-Class a tragic flop?! (quoting you saying it was going the same way as the XJ).

        Have you actually seen the S-Class sales figures? No really- have you?

        • The answer to your question is no. Perhaps you will tell us. The only figures for UK registrations in 2014 that I have been able to find suggest that the number, even of the 350 Diesel models, is negligible . I took what figures I could from How many left ? , which whatever its deficiencies, gives at least some model by model information . The overall picture in the UK is that UK sales of all these large cars have virtually dried up

  4. Well, not many people in the UK buy this sort of car anymore. USA, China, a different story. I really can’t agree that it is devoid of taste, unless you mean driving such a big car is a tasteless statement in the first place. The man was right. You can’t keep rehashing the first XJ styling. 40 years of it was enough. People thought Jaguars were young and brash in the 50’s and 60’s and then gradually the age of buyers increased as they never designed anything new. Those days are over, for good I hope.

  5. Quite right, Richard. Those people who are commenting, moaning about how modern it looks and why can’t it look like a “real” Jag, are missing, perhaps, a wider social point. Affluent people in the 60s might have worn three-piece suits, dined at formal hotels and listened to classical music, but affluent people today wear jeans, dine in restaurants with a relaxed vibe and listen to house music, even if they play golf. Jaguars never caught up with this and were for many years designed for a 60s image of affluence, which is why the horrible last-generation XJ looks like it was owned by Toad of Toad Hall- every one of those that I see dotted about my city is driven by somebody in tweed- so a well-off person aged under sixty-five might love classic E-Types and Mark Xs, but still buy a BMW. This is a recipe for a slow decline to bankruptcy- just like the sad cautionary tale of our friend, Rover.

    The new ones however are COOL: they combine the famous Jag badge (and the faintly raffish connotations contained therein) with cutting-edge looks far superior to ever-blander Mercs and Audis, and with the best build quality available. I can see many better-off people in their twenties buying the new XE over the 3-series or A3. The models remain distinctly Jaguar; they just embody “grace, space, pace” for the 2010s, not the 1960s. I think this is more faithful to the spirit of Sir William Lyons than slavishly rehashing his design.

    • Spot on.

      Got to say they really looked the part in black with darkened windows cruising in Moscow.

      Everybody gave them a wide birth, as whilst the A8 and S class usually contained some jumped up Goverment official, the Jag said very much “non” state approved business activities.

      You knew that the body guard in the front seat was also there to resolve any insurance issues that might arise with his 9mm.

      To me it seemed right, as in the 60’s and 70’s we know thanks to UK B movies and ATV that the only way to rob a bank was with a Jag.

  6. I think Al & Richard have it right.

    The caddish image of Raffles and Arthur Daley are long long gone. The series 3 et al served Jaguar well but the present captains of industry are a younger beast and Jaguar are reflecting that with the current XJ.

    It has the right balance of style and flair with a hint of menace… a good little trick to pull off!

  7. All I can say in response is that I do not know a single person with an XJ. I know dozens, however, with XFs, which in my view are the finest cars of their generation . The XJ in my view is a manifestation of the breach of a golden rule : ( and which is mentioned in many commentaries about BLMC in the 70s ) never produce something which competes with your own product

  8. I saw one parked on a London street recently and thought it looked great. The awkward rear window trim (on some colours) has been tackled and the overall styling looks menacing in a positive way. I was struck just how large the car was – shades of the 1960s Mark X. Far too large for UK roads unfortunately.

    Jaguar need to get their act together with a range of cars that are suitable for UK roads. I’m bored of waiting for the XE to appear and there needs to be a smaller model as well which is the size of a 1990s 3 series (not the much bigger 2010s 3 series).

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