Say you have been very successful in your chosen career, and you are ready to treat yourself to a really nice set of wheels. Many die-hard car enthusiasts, like myself, would rather have a collection of a few different cars on a six-figure budget, but many folks still opt for just one car to suit all of their needs and desires. In truth, if you have a high-level executive job, you probably don’t have much spare time to spend cruising around just for fun in multiple, superfluous cars, so having one car that really knocks the ball out of the park is the only way to go.
Obviously, with such a large budget, you can basically have anything you want from a car without even straining yourself. That said, such a budget does allow you to get yourself something that is truly extraordinary, should you so wish. This is where a car like the new Jaguar XJR comes in.
What is the Jaguar XJ-R?
The XJR is the ultimate version of Jaguar’s flagship XJ sedan, the “big daddy” cat in the den, if you will. I have had the pleasure of sampling most of Jaguar’s current range of cars, and other than arguably the F-Type, the XJ is probably the best car Jaguar makes. But, you know, if we are gonna test one, we might as well go ahead and test the biggest and baddest XJ they make.
The history of the Jaguar XJR goes back to the late 1980s when british performance tuner, TWR, helped make a high performance version of the Jaguar XJ. It had a 4.0L inline six engine that produced around 250hp. Since then, the XJR has continued to claw its way further, and further up the food chain, and it now totes a massive 550hp from a supercharged 5.0L V8. Surely the car we have today is a very different animal than the original version, but like BMW M-Cars and Mercedes’ AMGs, Jaguar R-models can trace their lineage back to some skillful tuners who wanted to make a mundane sedan into something much more interesting.
What is the new XJR like to drive?
550hp is an attractive figure, however, the merits of the Jaguar XJR go far beyond just power alone. The XJR is actually more the sports car within its segment, which is made up of big, heavy limousines. At around 4100lbs, thanks to its advanced aluminum construction, the XJ-R is a few hundred pounds lighter than all of its main competitors. Also, on an interesting note, the XJR is quite a bit lighter than the mighty Jaguar XFR-S that I drove last year, however it shares the exact same 550hp engine. What all of this means is that the Jaguar XJR will surprise you on the road.
From behind the wheel, encompassed in the immaculately appointed cabin, the XJR feels lively and responsive. It doesn’t feel big on the road like a BMW 7 Series, despite being a similar sort of luxo-barge. The Jag’s steering is quick and its handling is nimble and well composed through turns. There isn’t much tactile connection to the road, but what it lacks in “feel” it makes up for with accuracy and sheer competence.
In the BMW 760Li, there was a feeling of unwillingness when it came to cornering. The car was very competent at handling, but it felt like it would only “tolerate” aggressive driving on winding roads. The Jag, on the other hand, seems to “encourage” such excitement. It is a car that takes pleasure in both raising and lowering your heart rate, depending on what you ask of it.
When seeking adrenaline, you are no more than a prod of the throttle away from a thrilling rush of speed. That supercharged V8 makes every bit of its claimed 550hp, and it gives a sense that the car is leaping forward rather than merely speeding up. One aspect of the supercharged V8 that I especially love is its sharp responsiveness. All of the XJR’s competitors are turbocharged at this point, and while turbos surely have their own merits, there is something to be said for not having to wait for boost to hit.
The XJR comes fitted with Jaguar’s 8-speed automatic transmission, and I stand by what I have previously said about this gearbox: it is one of the best automatics on the market. Shifts happen quickly and smoothly, but it does give enough of a jerk during hard shifts to feel satisfying to the driver.
All in all, the Jaguar XJR is surprisingly good to drive from a dynamic standpoint. It looks big, but it is a lot lighter and tighter than it may appear from the outside. The XJR’s chassis is well tuned and its supercharged engine provides an eager willingness to shatter speed limits.
How does the XJR compare to the XJ Supersport it replaces?
The XJR comes as a replacement for the XJ Supersport, which I reviewed (and loved) in 2012. The XJ Supersport had the same 510hp version of this 5.0L V8 under its hood that can be found in the Jaguar XKR and XFR. The XJ Supersport was a lovely car to drive, however Jaguar has seemingly decided to take everything that the Supersport offered, turn it up a notch or two, and fit it with their infamous R-badge.
In terms of dynamic differences, the thing that stood out the most to me was the XJR’s handling composure. It just felt tighter and more responsive to steering inputs than the Supersport did, with a bit less body roll in corners as well.
I’d be lying if I made a big deal about the difference in horsepower between the XJR and XJ Supersport. In a car weighing two tons, 40 extra ponies doesn’t really change things in any noticeable way. Sure it may be good for bragging rights, but if the Supersport is “really fast” then consider the XJR a half notch up on whatever arbitrary scale you are using.
Does the R badge work on the XJ?
In my article on the XJ Supersport I actually praised it for not being an “XJR”. I went on, and on about how this top-tier class of luxury cars should be above relying on such a juvenile appeal, and how restraint and taste were of the utmost importance. I stand by what I said in that article, but to Jaguar’s credit, they managed not to ruin the XJ by putting the R-badge on it.
I was really worried the XJR would drive like a bigger XFR, which I found to be too hard and unrefined. By contrast, I loved how the XJ Supersport rode with its rear air suspension, which seemed to soften things to just the right degree. Happily, I found that the XJR’s ride quality was pretty much just as good as that of the Supersport. I was told by Jaguar personnel that the XJR still has the rear air suspension, however I couldn’t confirm that for myself in online research. Either way, the XJR’s adaptive suspension works beautifully to grant you both comfortable and sporting dynamics.
Next is the sound of that raucous V8 engine. It is quite loud, and all-encompassing in the likes of the F-Type and XKR, which is great for a sports car, but inappropriate for a luxury limousine, such as the XJ. I was worried Jaguar would over-do it here, but they didn’t. Much like in the Supersport, you can hear the roar of the V8 and a very distinguishable whine from the supercharger, but the exhaust itself doesn’t shout to an excessive degree.
Overall, I found that Jaguar kept everything that was brilliant about the XJ Supersport in tact for the XJR. They didn’t go and ruin it’s balance of performance and refinement. Save for the tacky bright red seats in the car I drove, I think the XJR has only improved on what the XJ Supersport started.
Is the XJ a Villain’s Car?
Yes, this one is directly inspired by Jaguar’s Superbowl commercial, and I make no apologies.
You know in movies, how the bad guy always has the coolest stuff? The Jaguar XJR is definitely such a car, and would suit an endlessly taunting Bond villian well. In fact, remembering back to Casino Royale, when James Bond crashed his Aston Martin while trying to save his lady-friend, it was a Jaguar XJ that he was thrown into after being beaten up and insulted by the bad guy, Le Chiffre.
The Jaguar XJR is surely a car for people you love to hate, not the mindless axe murderers, but the “Sorry about your water supply being contaminated, but our shareholders are quite happy. Oh, and by the way, your wife and I will be going on a little holiday together this weekend to celebrate.” sort of bad guys.
The XJ is sleek, it is sexy, and its “aura” is provocative. It is not bland and it won’t just blend into the sea of mediocrity on the road. An XJR is part status symbol, part super performance sedan, and totally immaculate in every facet of its existence. This Jag is an object of raw desire, and one that is not self conscious about it. Let’s be honest, we are talking about a 550hp car that costs as much as some homes here. It isn’t exactly a car for people overly concerned with social responsibility, and “following the rules.”
Top Gear sums it up well in their famous “Jaaag” routine:
Is the Jaguar XJR worth the money?
The Jaguar XJR I sampled came in at around $125,000 with options. Considering the XJR LWB starts at $119,000, that is not a bad value at all. Many companies nickel and dime you to death with the options list, but Jaguar doesn’t. That alone makes this car a great value.
Overall, the XJR is a car that feels well worth its price tag. The build quality is superb, and all of the materials are right. The car I drove is pretty much the specification I would want to buy, with most of the options fitted. However, this car was not equipped with the “Premium Rear Seat Package”, which adds around $10,000 to the price. Even at $135,000, this car would not be a bad value, but unless you are using your XJR as an actual limousine, you might as well save the $10 grand.
What would you cross shop with the XJR?
If it were me looking to buy an XJR, I would be cross shopping it against the following:
It can be had for about the same price as the XJR, and offers the same mix of luxury and performance. The M6 is also quite a bit more powerful than the XJR, with around 600-650hp shown in real world dynamometer tests. Also, while I maintain that the Jag has one of the best automatic transmissions around, the dual-clutch gearbox in the M6 is still a lot better — there’s just a more connected, mechanical feel to it. Having said all that, the BMW is less practical and quite a bit heavier than the Jag, so for many the XJR may make more sense.
If it were me buying a car in this segment, it would be a tough choice between the BMW M6 Gran Coupe and the Jaguar XJR.
Also bests the XJR in horsepower and straight-line performance, and it is a little cheaper (not that it matters too much at this price point). It is just as practical as the Jag in terms of space, and comes with all wheel drive, which helps a lot in bad weather. That said, the Audi S8 doesn’t have the same sporting dynamics as the XJR, nor the sleek, sexy styling.
In many ways I see this as the most similar to the XJR because both Maserati and Jaguar have their roots in sports car racing. The Maserati is a lot more expensive than the Jag, though, with a starting price $15,000 more than the XJR I drove here, and a list of brutally expensive options. The Jag is a better buy for those who understand the value of a dollar.
Some of you may be asking, “but what about the Mercedes S63 AMG, or the BMW Alpina B7” Honestly, while those cars are all fine and great, and the new S Class is incredible, I don’t think I could justify their $130,000-140,000 starting prices (before any options) when I could have a loaded XJR for less money.
If I’m honest, while 550hp is surely impressive on its own, it is actually a good bit less horsepower than the 600+hp of the BMW M6 GranCoupe and Audi S8. The German cars are all vastly underrated on paper, and real world tests prove it. The Jag on the other hand, does make an honest 550hp, and frankly, that is plenty in a car like this, especially considering the XJR weighs a lot less than its German rivals.
What are the advantages of the Jaguar XJR?
Basically, for me, the question comes down to value for money. Every car at this level is a “nice car” from an objective standpoint, but when you spend six figures on a car, it needs to be inspiring as an object. The Jaguar XJR has a lot of flavor, an extra, alluring appeal that makes it more than just a well-fitted mode of transportation. Its sleek lines will turn heads, and people will compliment your taste in automobiles. The XJ has a large dose of that “special” factor.
The fact that the Jaguar is on the sportier end of the limousine class will also be a nice bonus for enthusiast-minded drivers like myself. As much as I liked driving the BMW 7 Series siblings, I would buy this Jaguar over each of them because of its handling alone. It feels lighter and more nimble on the road because it is, in fact, lighter and more nimble.
For me, the XJR is not an all-new car or an all-new formula for Jaguar at all. The XJ Supersport that preceded it was a phenomenal car and it left quite an impression on me after I drove it. With the XJR, Jaguar has taken everything about the Supersport and improved it to fit better in the market of high performance limousines.
Let’s face it, if all you wanted was luxury alone, you could spend $80,000 on a standard XJ with options and be perfectly happy. If you are springing for the XJR, with its $45,000 price premium, then you are doing so because you value the extra 200hp and sharper handling. In hindsight, with all this in mind, the XJ Supersport may not have raised the bar quite high enough, and I definitely feel that the XJR now has.
The 2014 Jaguar XJR is a brilliantly executed machine. It is not only the car the car that it needed be, but also the car that I had hoped it would be.
WoM Score: 2014 Jaguar XJR LWb
Primary Function: Luxury: 2
Secondary Functions: Performance(2), Practicality(2): 2
Visual Appeal: 2
Build Quality: 2
Value for Money: 2
Final Score: 10/10
-Article by Nick Walker