Few cars have aged as gracefully as the Jaguar XJ. With its flowing body lines and stylish face, Jaguar's big sedan looks as fresh now as it did when it first hit the scene in 2009. That's a good thing, since the aging XJ needs to contend with the much newer Audi A8, BMW 7 Series and Mercedes-Benz S-Class.
What's an automaker to do if they have the senior citizen in one of the most hotly contested segments? If you're Jag, you send it to the gym. Meet the new range-topping XJ: the XJR575.
A stronger heart
The XJR575 replaces the XJR in Jaguar's lineup, using a massaged version of the company's well-liked 5.0-liter, supercharged V8. As its name suggests, this XJ produces 575 horsepower -- up from 550 in the XJR -- while torque output increases 17 pound-feet, to 517. Together with a ZF-sourced eight-speed automatic transmission and rear-wheel drive, the XJR575 hits 60 miles per hour in 4.2 seconds and tops out at 186 mph. Those are both nice improvements over the XJR's 4.4-second 0-60 time and 174-mph top end.
That's definitely quick, yet the Jaguar isn't quite as sprightly as its all-wheel-drive German counterparts. The 600-horsepower BMW Alpina B7 sprints to 60 mph in 3.6 seconds and tops out at 192 mph. The 603-horsepower Mercedes-AMG S63, meanwhile, is even quicker, reaching 60 in 3.4 seconds, but mirrors the Jaguar in the top speed department with a 186 mph showing. Not that you'll hit any of these top speeds on US roads, of course.
To that end, the XJR575 packs more power than you'll ever really need day to day. It forcefully bursts off the line and slingshots past slower traffic on the highway. There are no lulls in the rev range, just a delicious wave of thrust throughout, complemented by seamless shifts from the automatic transmission and a thunderous roar from the sport exhaust.
Under normal driving conditions, the powertrain has no problem settling down, with smooth power delivery under light throttle applications. Go easy on the throttle and you might hit the EPA-estimated fuel economy ratings of 15 miles per gallon city and 23 mpg highway.
The Jag's most impressive trait remains its handling prowess. A healthy diet of aluminum and lack of all-wheel drive means the XJR575 tips the scales at 4,156 pounds. That makes it more than 600 pounds lighter than both the Alpina B7 and AMG S63. Add in firmer springs, more aggressive adaptive damper tuning and sticky 26535ZR20 front and 295/30ZR20 rear Pirelli P Zero tires, and you've got one of the best-handling cars in this segment.
Body motions are kept in check with little dive under braking and small amounts of roll through turns. The Pirellis hang on tight while rounding corners and help change directions effortlessly with instant turn-in bite. The steering is light on center but offers pleasing amounts of feedback while turning, and the big brakes rapidly kill speed, letting you stop securely under short distances.
For such a big sedan, the XJR575 is a surprisingly eager machine. It's far more entertaining than any of its big-time German classmates.
The downside to the Jag's great handling chops? A firm ride. In Comfort mode, the XJR575 does transmit impacts from medium bumps and potholes into the cabin. It's far from terrible, but will likely turn off someone in search of a car that can transform between being a wicked performer and comfy cruise ship at the push of a button.
Dialed-up looks and tech
To help the XJR575 look a little more sinister, it wears a new twin-louver hood, as well as a redesigned front bumper, stretched-out side sills and trunk lip spoiler. A tasteful slathering of gloss black is also added on the front splitter and around the front intakes, and the dark-painted, 20-inch wheels contrast nicely with the red brake calipers housed within. Special 575 badges round out the exterior tweaks.
For the cabin, the comfortable and supportive seats are covered soft leather with quilted inserts, while a black suede headliner and piano black trim make the aging interior look a bit more premium. And just in case you forget how much horsepower is under the hood, 575 logos are everywhere, including on the door sill plates, center dash and embroidered into every seatback.
Unlike the new InControl Touch Pro Duo systems that I've recently experienced in the Jaguar I-Pace and Land Rover Range Rover, the XJR575 uses an older incarnation of the Touch Pro system with a single 10-inch touchscreen. Surprisingly, system response is excellent, and immediately transitions between various pages and menu screens, which is far cry from the setup's laggy behavior in past samplings. The XJR575's setup features navigation, a crisp 20-speaker Meridian audio system and 4G Wi-Fi hotspot. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capabilities are also finally available, though they're part of a $300 package.
On the safety front, forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking, blind spot monitoring with rear cross traffic alert, lane departure warning with lane-keep assist and a handy traffic sign recognition system come standard on the 575. Adaptive cruise control and a 360-degree camera are optional.
How I'd spec it
Building my perfect XJR575 is easy. Beginning with the $123,395 base car, including $995 for destination, I'm going to cough up $4,080 for the Velocity Blue paint job because it looks awesome. From there I'll add the $815 surround view camera to make maneuvering the long sedan in parking lots easier. Sign me up for the $300 Smartphone package, too, for CarPlay and Android Auto, which really should be standard. That brings the bottom line of my Jag to $128,590, just barely undercutting the $129,915 test car you see here.
Performance flagship bargain
It's odd to say that a six-figure car offers pretty good value, but the Jaguar XJR575's $123,000 starting price tag sort of does when you compare it to its aforementioned direct competitors. The BMW Alpina B7 begins at $140,000, while the Mercedes-AMG S63 will shake you down for $150,000 right from the rip before you start checking option boxes.
What would I do? Save money and get the Jaguar. The nearly decade-old car is still a looker in my eyes both inside and out, but it's the more involving and satisfying driving experience that really win me over. So much so, in fact, that I don't mind living with slightly harsher daily ride quality and having the graybeard of the class.