2010 Jaguar XFR review: 2010 Jaguar XFR

2010 Jaguar XFR

Wayne Cunningham

Wayne Cunningham

Managing Editor / Roadshow

Wayne Cunningham reviews cars and writes about automotive technology for CNET's Roadshow. Prior to the automotive beat, he covered spyware, Web building technologies, and computer hardware. He began covering technology and the Web in 1994 as an editor of The Net magazine.

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2010 Jaguar XFR

The Good

With 510 horsepower and advanced road-holding tech, the 2010 Jaguar XFR is suitable for the track. It has a Bowers & Wilkins audio system that delivers well-defined sound and adaptive cruise control that handles boring roads.

The Bad

The XFR's cabin tech interface is tedious to use and slow, and its navigation system is average at best.

The Bottom Line

Despite an annoying cabin tech interface, the 2010 Jaguar XFR works well as an everyday driver and a weekend racer, pampering drivers with a luxurious cabin.

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.

This R badge means a supercharged 5-liter V-8 engine and adaptive suspension tech.

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.

As a subtle performance reference, Jaguar embosses the hood vents with the word "supercharged."

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.

The checkered flag button, near the dial shifter, put the car's suspension into 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.

However, its Adaptive Dynamics are a little harder to sense. According to Jaguar, this system changes the response of the suspension to suit the driving style. Our driving style was white knuckle slewing around corners whenever possible, so we assume it was the Adaptive Dynamics working to keep the car under control as we crushed turn after turn. But the XFR still showed some lean, as the suspension didn't completely counteract the centrifugal force working on the body.

We also found that the car's stability control came on a little strong at times, even when running over centerline reflectors in the road, resulting in a sudden loss of power. When you really want to get nuts, preferably on a track, you can turn off the stability control with a button on the console. With it disabled, a mere quarter throttle at start made the rear tires burn.

Although the XFR handled extraordinarily well during fast cornering, it wasn't the most comfortable ride during freeway cruising. With all the performance gear off, the suspension is still fairly rigid, not exactly floating over bumps and grinds in the road.

Creature comforts
We reveled in the XFR's road performance, but were less thrilled with its cabin tech. The XFR's interior, with its metal, wood, and leather, is a beautiful place. We especially like that Jaguar virtually eliminates plastic surfaces from the cabin. Mercedes-Benz, BMW, and Audi could learn a thing or two about coachwork from Jaguar.

We also like the show put on by the XFR when you get in and start it up. Similar to the standard XF, the start button pulses with a red backlight when you get in. Push that button, and the transmission dial rises up from the console while the air vents open up. To complete the picture, Jaguar should really make the LCD flip over or open up, as it just sits there as the most obvious piece of technology in the cabin.

You must return to this home screen to access any of the cabin tech applications.

The LCD is also where most of this car's problems start. Its touch-screen interface is awful, with a sliding left-side menu reminiscent of Web site design from the '90s. Looks aside, the interface requires you to go back to the home screen to access each cabin tech function. If you are in the audio screen and want to look at the map, you have to hit the home button, then hit the navigation menu item. We would prefer buttons for direct access to each of the main cabin tech functions.

The navigation system itself is mediocre, merely providing basic route guidance on 2D maps. There is no traffic or weather information, and the system's reaction time isn't quick. Given the wonderful sport driving characteristics of this car, terrain information would be nice for the maps.

On the other hand, the XFR's audio system is exceptional. There is an MP3 compatible six-disc CD changer in the dash, but we mostly relied on the iPod connection in the console, mounted next to a USB port and auxiliary jack. However, the touch-screen interface remained problematic and we found it required too much attention to select music from our iPod library.

The 440-watt Bowers & Wilkins audio system reproduced music from our iPod with excellent definition. It uses 14 speakers, including a subwoofer and center fill, set around the cabin. We could feel the light thumping of bass in the door panels, but it didn't rattle. At high volume, this surround-sound system flooded the car with well-balanced frequencies, doing a good job of separating each instrument. It fits into the top tier of premium audio systems alongside THX, Mark Levinson, and ELS.

Rounding out the cabin tech suite is a solid Bluetooth phone system imports contact lists from paired phones. We had no problem pairing it with an iPhone, although we did have to reconnect it with the car on subsequent trips.

The rearview camera includes obstacle warnings and trajectory lines.

The XFR seals its luxury tech credentials with driver aid features. Its adaptive cruise control works easily, activated just by pushing the speed adjustment button on the steering wheel. Along with being able to set the gap between the XFR and traffic ahead, you can increase or decrease the set speed increment by 1 mph at a time.

Its blind-spot-warning system is also effective, flashing an icon in the sideview mirrors if another car is in the blind spot. The rearview camera is also one of the more advanced we've seen, showing distance warnings and trajectory lines.

In sum
Jaguar's XF is one of the better values in a luxury car available today. The 2010 Jaguar XFR is substantially more expensive than the base model, but its level of performance and standard equipment makes it worth it, especially as an alternative to a BMW M or Mercedes-Benz AMG. We were very happy with the power and efficiency of the engine and the driving dynamics. However, the XFR suffers a little from its humdrum cruising performance, where its ride quality lacks the level of luxury we would expect.

Despite the mediocre navigation system, its cabin tech is mostly good. The iPod connection works fine and the Bluetooth phone system does most of what we expect it to do. Add to that the fine-sounding Bowers & Wilkins audio system and the driver aid features, and the XFR scores reasonably well. However, the touch screens poor interface design, which is neither very pretty nor functional, is a major let down. The only thing propping up the design score are the XFR's cabin appointments, as its exterior is unremarkable.

Spec box

Model2010 Jaguar XFR
Power trainSupercharged direct injection 5-liter V-8
EPA fuel economy15 mpg city/21 mpg highway
Observed fuel economy16.5 mpg
Bluetooth phone supportStandard
Disc playerMP3 compatible 6 disc changer
MP3 player supportiPod integration
Other digital audioUSB drive, auxiliary input, Satellite radio
Audio systemBowers & Wilkins surround sound 440-watt 14-speaker system
Driver aidsAdaptive cruise control, blind spot warning, rearview camera, speed limiter
Base price$79,150
Price as tested$80,000

2010 Jaguar XFR

Score Breakdown

Cabin tech 7Performance tech 9Design 6