First Drive : Jaguar XF-R

Mike Humble gets to grips with Jaguar’s latest XF performance flagship. Lucky beggar – here’s what he made of it… 

Subtle, but by no means understated - the XF-R means business
Subtle, but by no means understated – the XF-R means business

The current XF and XJ have been with us for a few years now, yet I still cannot believe what a turnaround has taken place with Jaguar Cars in such a seemingly short space of time. The fondly-remembered Jaguar image of Camel coats, trilby hats and slim-line Panatela cigars washed down with a large V.A.T (on the slate Dave) is as old as Fulham’s finest trader and wholesaler himself – stand on me – but it’s now obsolete. Business and commerce is now a younger man’s game and today’s Jaguar has the right style and brand perception that’s befitting of modern commercial Britain.

Ian Callum’s XF was a good-looking thing when originally launched and, following a minor restyle that’s seen the departure of those slightly bug-eyed headlamps, the XF now looks smart and subtle. We had the opportunity to spend a bit of time with the awesomely powerful ‘R” version to see what us Brits can do against the Fatherland in a class of vehicle that’s usually dominated by ze Germans. On paper at least, the XF-R certainly impresses and promises a good scrap.

5.0-litre AJ133 V8 comes with a twin vortex supercharger. Result? 510bhp and 625Nm of torque.
5.0-litre AJ133 V8 comes with a twin vortex supercharger. Result? 510bhp and 625Nm of torque.

Down in the engine room you’ll find the familiar AJ133 5.0 litre V8 petrol – twin turbo maybe? No, sir – for your special enjoyment and delectation Jaguar have opted to fit a twin-vortex supercharger giving that epic engine an impressive 510bhp with 625Nm of torque. And yet to look at, in a first impression kind of way, the XF-R is business-like and slightly understated in a fashion only the British can do to perfection. There’s no excess bling and chrome and no Howitzer like exhausts – even though the sound that emits from the rear is to die for!

From a short distance, the XF-R looks like… erm… an XF, it’s only once you get up close and personal when all the cues come together warning you that this is really something quite special. The bonnet features a pair of vents to release some heat from the engine bay that look very classy and the 20” wheels are shod with super sticky rubber – both the aforementioned feature the word ‘Supercharged” in a discreet way.


The rear view aspect displays a smart sports aerodynamic lower bumper with a brace of slash effect exhaust tailpipes either side. Even the boot mounted spoiler is small and understated – there is nothing fitted to the XF-R to make it appear brash or brutalistic. But nor does the XF-R come over as all boring and bland either. The same goes for the interior, sure there are some wing backed sports seats but again – it’s a low key affair and boy is it comfortable.

Interior is a classy, understated affair - but sports seats are mega-supportive
Interior is a classy, understated affair – but sports seats are mega-supportive

No chintzy mock carbon fibre or horrible drilled and milled alloy pedals, just a nice pleasant and well laid out interior with the right number of subtle sporting cues and nods towards the extreme machine that lives under the bonnet. The roof lining is trimmed in tasteful Alcantara (always a favourite of mine) and this model had an optional sunroof which sadly robs a fair chunk of useful headroom making you sit lower to the floor than you would like to.

Clutter clad folk will appreciate the storage space inside the cabin from the sensible door pockets, centre armrest cubby box and spacious glove box, but oddly enough nowhere for the Ray-Bans or loose toll change. Rear passengers have a sublime bench seat, just about enough leg room and privacy glass on the windows. All the usual bells and whistles come in the package such as a superb Meridian audio/sat nav system, dual zone climate and hand stitched hide as far as the eye can see.

Excellent build quality is evident in interior detailing.
Excellent build quality is evident in interior detailing

The build quality is a match for rivals too. I heard not a squeak or rattle from the interior and the shut lines of the exterior panels are impressive. There are a couple of minor oddities like the far away positioning of the panel dimmer and rear fog lamp switch panel – the former also feels and looks slightly cheap. The rear seat backrest folding knob is awkward to locate, its buried half way down the parcel shelf base and has a cheap feeling action when in use.

But that’s enough of that – what’s it like to drive? Well, in a nutshell, she’s utterly brilliant in every situation imaginable. Starting the engine has almost the same sensation I remember as a child on a visit to a power station when the turbines were switched on. The burble from the quad tailpipes on idle makes small children gaze and grown adults drool – and that’s an honest fact. Pootling around the town shows the Jaguar to be a docile as a Spring lamb, even the ride, although firm, is on the right side of pliant and comfortable.

The sheer power and torque is of genuine supercar class and once you are away from the bright city lights the power has you almost yelling with ecstasy. They claim that 0 – 60 is sub five seconds, they are correct of course and the (limited) top speed is getting close to three miles a minute. Mid-range acceleration is devastatingly rapid (50 – 70 in 1.8 seconds) and if you use the car in 8-speed paddle shift mode you will never ever want to listen to the radio again – oh the noise!

Road holding is safe yet entertaining even on the upper limits and the front seats feature pneumatic adjustable side bolsters to pin you into the chair. The grip from those massive steam roller wide tyres, even when ploughing out of a mid apex, gives the driver oodles of confidence and the body control is billiard table flat. The steering utilises a traditional hydraulic set up which is sportily firm and provides a feel that’s almost like reading Braille – you can literally read the road through your fingertips.

Ride comfort at speed on most surfaces is reasonably smooth and Jaguar engineers seem to have isolated most of the tyre and wind noise from the cabin while still letting the right amount of engine noise in to tickle the eardrums. One thing is for certain, the XFR’s level of comfort, power and poise makes motorway driving as light and as easy as dreaming – it really is a car for all occasions and breathtakingly effective to boot.

Is there any point of me dwelling on the fuel consumption? Suffice to say she doesn’t so much as sip the fuel, more like bathes in it. I struggled to get much more that 22mpg but that said, Jaguar claim 27 on the combined cycle so I didn’t do that badly. But taking into account the power, the weight and sheer size of the whole package, I don’t think the XF-R does that badly in all fairness and it’s not that long ago your average petrol Jaguar with half the power returned similar fuel figures – that’s progress I guess.

Where the XF-R does give your wallet a hiding almost as good as the interior, is in the RFL. It’s over £1000 a year to tax which, of course, is tear inducing, but with a car like this being aimed at the performance/business driver with initial outlay being offset, the XF-R is a weapon of devastating efficiency that in view is worth ever penny. An AMG Merc or M Sport BMW may also offer similar levels of performance but the British designed, engineered and assembled XF-R is a brilliant machine that takes speed and serenity to a higher level.

There is of course the ‘S” version too that develops a little more power and features track day suspension set up and oh… it’s nearly £15k more. For me, I would take the ‘R” model purely on the grounds of the almost Q-car looks and the ability to cosset and sooth in everyday traffic. Rather cleverly, what the Jaguar has in abundance, is coolness and the ability to turn heads – not only that, it’s alarmingly capable, well equipped, a decent sized trunk, has almost time travelling capability and handles like it’s on rails.

Any old mental images of Jaguar are blown away with the XF-R. This car is 24 carat – stand on me!

The view most drivers will get of the latest XF-R - a beautifully made, beautifully engineered and beautifully British car.
The view most drivers will get of the latest XF-R – a beautifully made, beautifully engineered and beautifully British car

[Editor’s Note: At AROnline, we’d be happy to hear of other readers’ experiences with some of the newer models that have stemmed from the British Motor Industry’s fine heritage – all contributions are welcome, although it should be noted that AROnline is not a new car review site, and that any reviews will have relevance only to models we believe have a significant place in British motoring history. For my part, the XF’s role in the reinvention of the Jaguar brand is pivotal – and that’s coming from someone who owns and adores an X300 XJ6, quite possibly the ultimate in Jaguar retro pastiche…]

Mike Humble


  1. A beautiful purposeful car that shows that the UK car industry can still take the fight to the Germans.

    The MPG isn’t too bad – I get similar in a 2 litre low output turbo 9-3…

  2. A glorious motor. I think following the facelift the XF is aging rather gracefully. Wasn’t a fan of the original look to be honest.

    Role on the ravages of depreciation so that these can drop into my pauper’s budget.

  3. We had a pre production XF-R when the ‘R’ was originally launched, we were surprised, pleasantly how swift it was, and how quick it was to get there.

    My only isues was the rear end, the lack of a rubber cover to the main screw that held the parcel helf in, was open to the elements, meaning that soft luggage or anything that could be damaged would be if pushed far back. The reason for not putting one on, was they didnt want the workers to have to reach that far in to put one on, incase it caused back injuries. Okay……

    It was this car we had when we were invited by Jaguar to the dynamic launch of the XJ at Silverstone, now that was a day and a half, Jaguar do really know how to treat thier guests, unfotunatley after three wonderful days the XF-R had to go back, but i have the report, memories and pictures, especially the pic of three Jaguars on our drive at the same time…. LOL…

  4. Why would you want a bland M5/E65 or a naff handling RS6 when you can have possibly the most beautiful 4 door saloons on sale today? Especially one that can handle and attain warp 9…

    And above all, it’s British.

  5. @ Kevin Clarkson, I was reading the Car Reliability Index and two BMWs come rock bottom. How Jaguar must be laughing and I’d much rather have a Jag anytime.

  6. Any room in the back to fit an LPG conversion? Would make a lot of sense on a thirsty bruiser like this.

    I had a ride in the back of the ‘cooking’ version of the XF the other week. Could have done with a little more room in the back, but it was adequate in that regard. The only thing I’d criticise is that the interior was too Germanic. I guess given the failure of Ford-era Jags to set the market alight means that it might be a generation or two before Jaguar can go back to making classic ‘gentlemen’s club’ style interiors.

  7. An awesome car with tremendous power. A credit to Jaguar. Very expensive to tax but if you can afford this car in the first place… Jag are on a roll with current popularity and investment – the forthcoming XE looks promising as well.

    My brother has a 2009 XF (low mileage) which is a lovely car too.

  8. I love the XF and think it is the best car Jaguar have made . I am not sure, however, whether these ultra high performance , and in the case of the S rather tacky looking , cars do anything for its image. The beauty of the car for me is its understated looks and most particularly its extraordinary refinement in its unsporting guises , a refinement which I regard as unrivalled in modern cars . I am beyond the age where , except on very infrequent occasions , I want to “drool over the noise” or turn the radio off to hear the soundtrack . To put it another way, I regard these R and S cars as a rather dislikeable oddity which give Jaguar an unjustified boy racer image, and detract from the outstanding qualities which it has brought to the market with the stock XF

  9. Good point from Christopher. If I bought a Jag, one of the lesser powered versions would more than suffice. I wouldn’t need the XF-R’s speed capability even if it was legal on UK roads. Of course far less of these will be built and sold than the “mass market” editions.

    I guess Jaguar are making their presence & capability in that market area known to a wider audience. Throwing down a gauntlet to BMW / Audi / Mercedes?

  10. yes looks like it. BMW have one of the biggest engine problems of recent times there hands aswell at the moment dont they/ CAM CHAINS SNAPPING???

  11. read an american survey the other day on most unreliable cars BMW came tops for faults with AUDI close behind gearbox engine and electrical faults, makes BL stuff from the 70s look reliable…

    • German products (in my opinion) have been crap for a long time, it’s just that no one really noticed…

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