What is this, a bright blue…. Jaguar?! Everyone, meet the XFR-S, a different sort of Jag. One that throws away the high society manners in favor of a bottle of scotch, and a line of coke.
It was only around four months ago that Jaguar released the XFR-S at the 2012 Los Angeles Auto Show. However, during my recent trip to Amelia Island, they had them available for test drives. When I asked about video taping my drive the Jaguar representatives told me they couldn’t allow it because the press has not yet driven the XFR-S. After hearing this I made sure to keep my affiliation with this publication to myself, pretending just to be another young guy looking for a joy ride. I guess you could say that this is as much of a scoop as we have yet gotten, and my experience in the XFR-S, while fairly short, yielded some interesting impressions.
I was left feeling a little mediocre when I reviewed the standard Jaguar XFR a few months ago. It had many great qualities, but it sat in an awkward place in the market, priced a little below the BMW M5 and Mercedes E63, yet still far above the bargain Cadillac CTS-V. It was also a little sub par in terms of comparative power and performance.
The XFR-S seems to have changed things up, though. It now matches its competitors in outright performance, and seems to have turned everything that was good about the XFR up to eleven. Sure, at a base price of $99,000, its MSRP is a bit more than that of an M5 or E63, but it is also an extremely limited production vehicle, with a run that will amount to just 300 units total (100 for the US). The overall feeling I came away with was that by turning the XFR into the XFR-S, Jaguar has made a car that is truly worth spending your hard earned money on. In the past I had said that the R-S badge was a bit of a gimmick on the XKR-S, over the standard XKR, but it seems the story for the XF models is different. The XFR-S sits in the context of the super saloon segment, which is very different from where the XKs are placed in the grand touring segment. This change of context makes a big difference for the R-S badge.
Subtle is not the word to use here, especially not for the bright blue car I drove. The XF is a handsome car to start with, but Jaguar seems to have gone berserk with the styling of the R-S model. Even without the French Blue paint, the R-S’s huge vented inlets on the front bumper, the jagged looking wheels, and the enormous carbon fiber rear spoiler make for a car that exudes aggression, in every sense of its being.
This car will get noticed for being “not your typical Jag” in any of its available colors, but I’m sure there will be a special place in the hearts of car spotters and police officers for an XFR-S painted in this bright, French Blue hue. It adds so much flash to the car’s appearance, and will be sure to let everyone in your immediate vicinity know that you’ve arrived. Any incognito aspect of the standard XFR has surely been lost here.
Despite being quite flashy, the XFR-S’s appearance isn’t one of “bling bling”. I find its flavor to be more reminiscent of many ‘60s Muscle cars. Think Hemi Barracuda painted in hot pink. The XFR-S is loud and proud, and seeks to cause a ruckus wherever it goes. It is a car that will make little kids go “WOW!”, and it may give some poor old lady an aneurism, or two. It is properly British, like all Jags should be, but definitely more Keith Moon than Prince Charles.
The cabin of the XFR-S is mostly the same as that of the XFR, except with fantastic blue accents accents that match the exterior. Like in the XFR, the seats are definitely on the sporty side of comfortable, and the driving position is good. Everything is also beautifully finished, like in the other Jags I’ve driven recently, with metal, nice plastics, and piano black trim (carbon fiber is also an option). Jaguar’s build quality is among the best in the industry right now, and the XFR-S naturally embodies all the best qualities of the XF lineup.
Despite its mad appearance, the XFR-S retains all of its functionality as a 4 door saloon car. There’s room for 5, and plenty of trunk space, so it’s great for scaring the hell out of a bunch of your friends at a time. With an XFR-S, you can rest assured that they will never ask you to be the designated driver a second time.
Push the start button, and the 5.0L V8 thunders to life with audible bellow from the exhausts. It lets you know that it means business right from the start. I leave it in Drive as we set off because we will inevitably be sitting in event traffic for the first few minutes. As we roll slowly towards the main road, I can see people’s faces light up as we pass. This blue Jag is a hit for sure, something far out of the ordinary that people can get excited about. Eventually we clear the traffic jam around the event, and get to where I can start to play around with the car. The real fun begins.
The XFR-S comes equipped with Jaguar’s new 8 speed automatic transmission. The ratios are a little closer than the 6 speed auto in the XFR I drove, but functionally the new box is just as good. It is silky smooth when just putting around in Drive, and it livens things up nicely in Sport mode. When using the paddle shifters, it responds quickly and smoothly to inputs, doing what you want, when you want. Shifting speed wise, it could fool you into thinking it is a dual clutch gearbox, however it still has the spongy feel of a torque converter compared to PDK equipped Porsches (I drove a Panamera right after). So while I prefer to have a dual clutch in this sort of car, this new 8 speed box is certainly the best automatic transmission I have experienced. Props to Jaguar on improving something that was already terrific.
The steering in the XFR-S is similar to that of the standard XFR. The car is very responsive to your inputs, and you can very accurately place it on the road. That said, there is little in the way of tangible feedback, and the weight of the steering is on the lighter side… not to the point where it feels entirely artificial, though. Overall, electric steering is the way of the world now, so it is useless to complain about. The steering in the XFR-S works well in execution, but it doesn’t really add to, or take away anything from the driving experience in my opinion.
If you want the last word in driving feel, go find a Lotus Elise. The XFR-S is a super saloon, and the real story is its raw power. Its supercharged 5.0L V8 offers a substantial amount of pull from anywhere in the rev range, thanks to loads of low end torque, 502 ft/lbs from 2500-5500rpm. Passing and merging can be done without even lifting a finger, so if those are your only concerns, then you should go buy one of the lower XF models. The XFR-S is for the sort of people who think they are the exception to the law, because the only way you can enjoy this car’s true performance is to completely disregard the entire philosophical idea of speed “limits.” The only speed “limit” present in the XFR-S is the electronic governor that halts things at 186mph, and I suspect most customers will find a way to do away with that too.
If you really let the revs climb, the imposing V8 growl is joined by a high pitched rush from the supercharger. The low end grunt turns to a genocidal level of brutality as 550hp surges forth. Speed seems to pile on exponentially, as you are hurled back in your seat with no mercy to speak of. Hit the right paddle, and a loud crackle from the exhaust accompanies the resurgence of blurred insanity in the next gear. This type of speed leaves you craving for more, but you will quickly find yourself running out of room if you’re not on a highway. The roads I was on were pretty narrow, so I had to keep slowing down between acceleration runs. There is a truly substantial amount of power to play with in the XFR-S, especially when your on public roads.
When you do need to slow down in a hurry, the XFR-S’s big brakes have the stopping power to do it. It also handles quite well, as to be expected in the super saloon segment. I did not get to test the XFR-S near its handling limits because we were on public roads that were somewhat crowded. However, during the corners I was able to attack with some vigor, the car felt extremely well planted. My Jaguar representative informed me that its suspension is 30% stiffer than that of the standard XFR. I can vouch that the XFR-S will deliver solid street performance for anyone looking to tear up some winding country roads. Its limits are high, so you can have lots of fun, and get to quite a rapid pace before you will really be pushing the envelope. As for the on-limit drifting, and such, we will have to see what the mainstream media thinks during their tests (and hopefully Jaguar will host a track event near me soon).
The XFR-S is definitely a thrill ride when your intentions are mischievous, but I would say it has the same issue as the XFR for daily use, as a normal sedan. The suspension, while quite competent for performance, is going to be too stiff for most luxury minded buyers, and your kids will likely complain about their herniated discs in the back seat. The difference for me between the R and the R-S, is that the R-S can’t really be mistaken for something soft and cushy. It wears an evil smile on its big, blue face, so if you mistake it for a luxury cruiser, that is your own fault. This car is a thrill ride, through and through.
In the market
While the XFR-S starts at a higher price than both the Mercedes E63 AMG and BMW M5, the Jag only goes up to around $106k when loaded up with options. By comparison the M5 tops out around $115k, and the E63 hits $125k. So, in my opinion, that makes the XFR-S a pretty decent value for money. Unlike the XKR, it isn’t down on power compared to the Germans, and when you add in the fact that only 100 will be on US roads, the XFR-S becomes a total bargain, at least in relative terms.
Between the visual and mechanical tweaks, the XFR-S has fixed everything that I was left a bit cold on in the XKR. The added insanity of the R-S changes the appeal from that of a rather run of the mill high performance sedan, into something that is truly special in its own right. Sure, the blue paint, the devilish styling, and the big spoiler are all a bit on the gimmicky side, but I think they add some much needed character, and distinction to the XFR-S. Put it side by side with the M5 and E63, and ask a 7 year old to choose his favorite; it will be the Jag every time. The extra 50hp, and the better suspension also help justify things in a tangible sense, and the sum of it all is a car that simply left me with a much better taste in my mouth than its sibling did.
If the term “Mischief” could be embodied in a car, this would be it, blue paint and all. If Keith Moon were still with us today, I think he would take a special liking to the XFR-S, at least enough to drive it into a swimming pool. This is a rock star sort of car, one that will spit in the face of the law, and make lewd gestures at disapproving members of high society. Jaguars have always been cars for a caddish sort, yet we all seem to love them so much. Lets face it, doing something wrong often feels “oh, so right”, and in life all of the best things are illegal. If you find yourself nodding your head in agreement to that, then the XFR-S is your sort of car…. too bad there will only be 300 of them.
WoM Score: 2014 Jaguar XFR-S
Primary Function: Performance: 2
Secondary Functions: Luxury(1) Practicality(2): 1.5
Visual Appeal: 2
Build Quality: 2
Value for Money: 2
Final Score: 9.5/10