While driving the XJR fast along backroads, it was almost tough to choose whether to listen to the stereo or the engine. Almost.
In normal driving, crawling through city traffic or buzzing down the freeway, the purr of the XJR's supercharged 5-liter V-8 was inaudible, mostly because the transmission and engine control software kept the engine speed down to around 1,500rpm. Stopped at red lights, the XJR's idle-stop feature turned off the engine entirely.
Idle-stop features are still a bit controversial, as all but hybrid drivers get a little anxious when their engines turn off while stopped in traffic, but I think Jaguar has this system tuned well. The company says that the engine comes back to life more quickly than you can move your foot from brake and accelerator, which proved true during my time with the car. It never delayed my starts, and I appreciated that gas wasn't wasted when I was stuck at a light.
However, this system showed a couple of quirks. First, the engine would kick up again after about 2 minutes if I was still stopped, bumping the cabin and frightening nearby pedestrians. I assume it restarts to power the air conditioning and other cabin electronics. Second, when I put on the parking brake the system would occasionally just turn off the car completely. I couldn't find any consistency to this behavior, although sometimes it suited the situation, as I was going to get out of the car anyway.
A button on the dashboard let me easily turn off the idle-stop feature.
Helped by this idle-stop feature and the eight-speed automatic transmission, the XJR scores fuel economy of 15 mpg city and 23 mpg highway on the EPA's tests. I was more impressed that after a tour of fast cornering, tedious city traffic, and speedy jaunts down the freeway, the fuel economy came in at 19.1 mpg.
That real-world fuel economy figure may not sound like much, until you consider the XJR is Jaguar's most powerful car, its V-8 tuned up to 550 horsepower and 502 pound-feet of torque. That's 40 more horsepower than the XJ Supersport, the next model down in the lineup. Jaguar says the XJR hits 60 mph in just 4.4 seconds, an impressive feat for a 4,200-pound car.
Almost more impressive is how drivable the XJR is in everyday traffic. Not all car companies make it easy to handle cars with this kind of power. Some show uneven acceleration while others have a throttle that wants to tear off the tires at initial tip-in. Not the XJR. Taking off from a stop, it gracefully regulated its power, letting me modulate the accelerator for any traffic situation.
Like just about every other new car, the steering rig uses electric power boost, leading to very even and direct response from lock to lock. Jaguar programmed nominal heft into the steering so that it felt like I was doing something. When I pushed the Dynamic mode button, the steering got a little heavier, but not much.
Even in my fastest cornering, I never had to fight with the wheel.
More technology, in the suspension, adjusts the damper response based on sensor input and the drive mode. I didn't find the suspension settings particularly aggressive, as the active dampers didn't keep the car entirely flat when cornering. Likewise, the ride quality changed little between normal and Dynamic drive modes.
Despite its big, luxurious look, the XJR's ride never felt soft. Outside of Dynamic mode, it was comfortable and competent, although I would definitely feel the bumps in the road.
For the long highway cruises, I would have appreciated the adaptive cruise control option, but this car didn't come so equipped. It did have Jaguar's blind-spot monitoring system, a very useful safety feature, along with a very good backup camera, capable of showing trajectory lines.
I'm a little baffled about the audience for the 2014 Jaguar XJR. Obviously, this car is meant for the well-heeled buyer, considering its around-$116,000 base price, but that buyer must also desire power, or, at least, the ability to brag about owning the most powerful XJ available.
From Jaguar's perspective, the XJR gives it a big performance sedan to put up against the AMG cars from Mercedes-Benz.
There is some pretty remarkable technology in the drivetrain and suspension. I was particularly impressed to note that, despite the car's 550 horsepower, the highway fuel economy sits at 23 mpg. While cruising at freeway speeds, I noticed the trip computer showing high-20s fuel economy.
Then there's the performance story. I found the XJR very satisfying to drive fast on the right roads, mostly due to the excellent transmission and engine note. However, I wouldn't want to get in a pink-slip race with a.
Jaguar's cabin electronics remain anchored on an exceptional audio system, but don't push any boundaries in navigation or connected features. In fact, you will find more advanced cabin electronics in a Kia.
However, what Jaguar includes works well, an important factor sometimes overlooked by other automakers.
One of the coolest electronics features is the LCD instrument cluster, with context-sensitive features that make it more useful than any other panel I've seen.
|Model||2014 Jaguar XJR|
|Power train||Supercharged direct-injection 5-liter V-8 engine, eight-speed automatic transmission|
|EPA fuel economy||15 mpg city/23 mpg highway|
|Observed fuel economy||19.1 mpg|
|Navigation||Standard hard-drive-based navigation system with live traffic|
|Bluetooth phone support||Standard|
|Digital audio sources||Bluetooth streaming, iOS integration, USB drive, HD Radio, satellite radio|
|Audio system||Meridian 825-watt 17-speaker system|
|Driver aids||Adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitor, rearview camera|
|Price as tested||$121,275|