The 2010 Jaguar XFR is fast. In fact, it is so fast that it has two tech features to keep its speed in check: a driver-set speed limiter and adaptive cruise control. It is the kind of fast where you cruise down the road listening to music through the excellent Bowers & Wilkins audio system, look down at the speedometer, and realize your speed is approaching triple digits.
Jaguar's XF model may not seem the most likely to get the R suffix. The body lacks the cool sports car edge of the XK. The roofline slanting back toward the trunk lip calls to mind Lexus, and its bulky front fenders give the XF an American look. As Jaguar's low-end sedan model, the XF seems more about purpose than art.
That is not to say the XF is a bad-looking car; it just does not distinguish itself as much as the Jaguar XK does.
Looks aren't everything
Jaguar makes sure the XF earns its R suffix by borrowing engine and performance technologies from the XKR and giving it performance on par with a BMW M5 or Mercedes-Benz AMG. Think 510 horsepower and 4.6 seconds to 60 mph.
The engine putting forth this power is a new one for Jaguar, a supercharged direct injection 5-liter V-8 that, along with the 510 horses, cranks out 461 pound-feet of torque.
In past R model Jaguars, you could hear the whine of the supercharger, an audio cue that made you feel like a fighter pilot. But in the XFR, its cabin insulation damps out much of the engine noise in a lean toward luxury. However, give it enough pedal and you will hear a very satisfying bass growl as the engine revs past the 5,000rpm mark. Turning off its dynamic-stability-control system adds the shriek of tortured tires to the sound mix.
You won't have much time to notice the sound as the car rockets forward. Jaguar came up with the 4.6 seconds to 60 mph figure, but we think the company is being conservative. We barely had time to blink during our fast launches.
Of course, a big engine like this is thirsty, but it is not as bad we would have expected. The EPA estimates the XFR's fuel economy at 15 mpg city and 21 mpg highway. If you baby it, the fuel economy comes close to that of a V-6 sedan thanks to the V-8 engine's direct injection. We weren't that gentle, coming up with 16.5 mpg after many miles of thrashing it around mountain roads.
The engine channels its power through a six-speed-automatic transmission, with sport and manual modes that live up to the performance expectations of an R model Jaguar. As when the car debuted in 2007, you control the transmission with a dial that rises from the console when the engine cranks over. That dial gives the car some high-tech style, an acknowledgement that the shifter linkage, in the XFR and in most cars these days, is electric.
In sport mode, the XFR's transmission downshifted aggressively as we approached turns, sending the engine rpms up to about the 5,000 mark. We were impressed at the transmission's capability to keep the power on, and had many satisfying exits as we gave it gas coming out of a corner. But on damp roads and blind corners where we proceeded more gingerly, taking the car through on quarter throttle, the XFR bucked at the restraint and the power came through unevenly.
Manual shifting with the paddle shifters was a satisfying experience, the ZF-sourced transmission uses clutch plates to tighten gear changes and tamp any torque-converter slush. Though it shifted fast and hard in manual mode, the sport mode worked so well we didn't find self-shifting added to the performance or experience.
The XFR's transmission is part of the reason why it gets a reasonable fuel economy rating. As we cruised down the highway at 60 mph, the high sixth gear let the engine run at an easy 1,500rpm.
The Jaguar's powerful engine and tight transmission make up only part of the R model equation. Like the new XKR, the XFR gets high-tech suspension gear that significantly aids the driver when cornering. What Jaguar calls Adaptive Dynamics and Active Differential Control come into play when you push the checkered flag button on the console. In fact, the XFR is boring until you press that button, so we recommend just leaving the suspension in dynamic mode.
With the Active Differential Control activated, we could feel the extra power pumping into the outside rear wheel during turns, pushing the back end around with extra rotation. It's good technology to have when you have 510 horsepower to play with.