First Drive: Jaguar XJR

Under the bonnet of the oh-so-suave looking Jaguar KJR lurks a rabid 542bhp V8

Under the bonnet of the oh-so-suave looking Jaguar KJR lurks a rabid 542bhp V8

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Jaguar’s stylish and luxurious XJ saloon is already a hit, but now it’s been given the “R” treatment.

This is the first time the current XJ has worn the “R” badge, which elsewhere in the Jag line-up means thunderous performance, spectacular noise and sensational handling, which does sound slightly at odds with the XJ’s luxury saloon brief.

Still, it looks the part with a tasteful bodykit, massive alloy wheels and a serious dose of menace. Underneath the bonnet there’s a hugely powerful supercharged V8, and the suspension and brakes have been enhanced to cope with the power. Inside there are tasteful details and some extra toys too.

Where the standard XJ is clearly good enough for the well-off and those blessed with good taste, the XJR is that bit more sinister. It looks like the kind of car you’re only allowed to own if you have fight scars or a bit of previous. But it’s all in good taste and, despite the steroid injection, the XJR is no less classy for it.

The XJR is no shorter than a standard XJ so the space inside is generally excellent. Up front there is plenty of lounging room for everyone, while in the rear it’s very comfortable even with the standard wheelbase. Headroom is reduced a little with the panoramic glass roof option, but other than that it’s spacious and comfortable. The boot is also very generous with 520 litres.

Be in no doubt that the XJR is still a comfortable and luxurious saloon, it’s just that with a rabid 542bhp V8 under the bonnet, it demands restraint. Leave the transmission in Drive and you can sail around on barely a tickle of the accelerator, such is the torque available.

But what you really want to do is use the manual paddle shifters and introduce the throttle pedal to the carpet. A torrent of acceleration is unleashed, accompanied by a terrific snarl from the exhaust. This is a ludicrously quick car.

The brakes are strong too and the handling is excellent: the steering is keen but not too sharp and the balance between composure and ride comfort is deeply impressive. Switch off the traction control and it will go comedically sideways too.

The XJR isn’t what you would call cheap, with a list price of £92,370. But as it is the flagship of the Jaguar range it is groaning with toys and trinkets: there’s a high-end Meridian audio system, satellite navigation, soft-door closing and the Adaptive Dynamics system as standard. You can throw more money at it too, but there’s no doubt you get plenty for your cash.

Who would buy one? Someone well-off of course, but the XJR makes a bit more of a statement than the marque’s key German rivals. It has style, substance, comfort, terrific performance and is enormous fun to drive. You could spend less and get something more sensible, but the XJR has the knack of making you feel like a superhero (or at the very least a villain) whenever you get behind the wheel.

VITAL STATS

Car Jaguar XJR

Price £92,370

Engine 5.0-litre petrol, 8 cyl, supercharged, 542bhp, 501lb ft

Performance Max speed 174mph (limited); 0-62mph 4.6s

Economy 24.4mpg

CO2 emissions 270g/km

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