A Twist on the Fast Sedan Formula
Let's cut right to the chase. The 2010 Jaguar XFR is one of the best sport sedans in the world today.
If you're surprised, consider that the Jaguar XF sedan upon which the XFR is based is one hell of a car in its own right. And lest you forget, these are the same guys who created iconic cars like the C-Type, D-Type and E-Type. Hey, carmakers around the world are still trying to capture the magic of the original Jaguar XJ sedan.
Sure, the company has turned out some stinkers in the intervening years, but the point is that there's a pattern of excellence. It's been obscured now and again, but the XFR reminds us that the heart of Jaguar still beats strongly.
A Delicate Balance
The 2010 Jaguar XFR is more than simply an XF overstuffed with power; it's an XF overstuffed with power, colossal brakes and a lot of chassis wizardry. It's possible to spoil a good thing by simply adding "more" — the Porsche 911 Turbo comes to mind — yet the XFR succeeds beyond the sum of its parts. But we're getting ahead of ourselves.
At $80,000, the XFR is the mightiest version of Jaguar's XF sedan series. No options are found on our tester, yet the XFR is loaded with everything a sybarite could want — navigation, premium audio, multiadjustable seats, parking-alert sensors, you name it.
The external cues are relatively subtle. The 2010 Jaguar XFR wears discreet rocker sill extensions, tweaked fascias, quad tailpipes and hood vents trimmed in not-so-subtle chrome. In the white paint of our test car, the ocular jewelry looks like it would play better in Miami than in New York City. With that said, the wheels exclusive to the XFR are far less heavy-handed in design than the standard XF's visually clunky dubs.
The Main Event Lies Underhood
It seems the Coventry gang (well, the headquarters used to be in Coventry, anyway) reckons horsepower is like sex or single-malt Scotch — the right amount works out to be just a bit more than you really need. Any more than the XFR's 510 horsepower and 461 pound-feet of torque would be, well, improper, as flooring the throttle in the lower gears already makes the stability control light flicker.
With the stability control switched off, the supercharged and intercooled 5.0-liter V8 chucks the four-door XFR forward like a child does a toy. Sixty mph comes up in 4.5 seconds (4.2 seconds with 1 foot of rollout like on a drag strip) and the car storms the quarter-mile in 12.6 seconds at 113.7 mph. This kind of thrust pips the BMW M5 and puts the Jaguar in a dead heat with a Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG, though the mighty Cadillac CTS-V still holds an edge by a couple tenths.
Truth be told, this engine is plenty powerful, and it'd be a shame if extracting even more meant spoiling the Jag's sweet part-throttle demeanor. It's always smooth and tractable, and the direct-injection V8 — said to be an all-new engine save for just two components — responds crisply to throttle inputs without raising a ruckus. Thanks to a four-lobe Eaton supercharger so refined that its characteristic blower whine is inaudible within the cabin, only the V8's characteristic muted woofle spills in when you flex your ankle with serious intent.
Special Is as Special Does
You already know most of what there is to know about the cabin, as the 2010 Jaguar XFR doesn't stray far from the cool elegance found in the XF. Its jewellike buttons and the old-world leather converge in a way that is wholly contemporary without abandoning the traditions of the marque.
Although the interior is high on style, some functional shortcomings we've noticed in the XF remain in the XFR. In addition to the blinding reflections from the chrome-trimmed console (apparently the sun shines more in Los Angeles than in London; who would have guessed?) some of the secondary controls are labeled cryptically and can be hard to decipher in low light. The multimedia interface is a step or two behind the current offerings found in the Germans and the Cadillac, and you'll be using the home button as if it were control-alt-delete on a 10-year-old laptop.
Giving It a Challenge
So we're taking pictures about midway along a ribbon of tarmac bliss that wanders and sometimes slices across the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains in Southern California. Though we've driven it for years, the turns are so numerous that memorization of each crack and camber is elusive.
Even when we think we know what's ahead, the exits of the blind corners can hold surprises, like patches of gritty scree that have tumbled down the slope in the summer or snowmelt runoff in the winter. These surprises can be nonexistent or plentiful depending on the whims of Mother Nature.
Clearly, working well on this road places a priority on a car's ability to communicate and adjust, in addition to the basics of shedding speed under braking and biting into the bitumen while cornering. That it's mostly 2nd- and 3rd-gear stuff means that we're placing the beefy 4,400-pound Jag on its back foot from the word go.
The 2010 Jaguar XFR takes a bit of fiddling to prepare it for fast driving. Twist the transmission knob to "S," press the checkered flag chiclet to sharpen the throttle response and recalibrate the shift program and then hold the stability control button for what seems like forever to turn it off. Forget the "Trac DSC" setting — it's too timid and clamps down intrusively at the slightest hint of slip from the rear tires.
A Versatile Feline
Ready to rock, then. Right away it is apparent that the XFR's full-whack power is more than ample for this road. The ability to modulate it is the more critical aspect here. Fortunately, power can be fed to the rear wheels with precision, as the XFR's throttle is as linear as a rheostat.
Changing up and down among the lower gears, it is obvious that this six-speed automatic transmission is really a boon for fast driving. In Dynamic mode, your current gear position is represented by a large digit in the instrument cluster that changes from amber to red as you approach the rev limiter. Click the left-hand shift paddle on the steering wheel to downshift and the XFR spits out quick rev-matched downshifts. It'll even skip gears in response to several rapid tugs of the paddle.
There's a light touch in the steering at low speeds that at first feels like numbness. The steering is precise when exercised, though, and it sharply pivots the XFR's nose toward the apex of the corner. A quicker-ratio steering rack than that of the standard XF certainly helps, but we reckon it's the active differential that really shapes the XFR's cornering character, opening up for quicker turn-in and progressively locking to provide better traction as you exit a bend on the throttle. The active diff is seamless in operation — the only thing you notice is that the XFR is far more athletic than you anticipate.
Stirred, not Shaken
Yes, it's easy to underestimate the big cat since the ride never beats you up, and compliance of this sort normally spells a chassis that goes limp when shaken hard. The 2010 Jaguar XFR has another trick that explains this special poise — its active dampers help iron out road harshness that would fluster the standard XF and yet also provide better control than the standard XF.
You still have to be deliberate with your inputs on this road, as the XFR isn't some kind of stiffly sprung racecar and you need to help the chassis take a set in the turns. We found that the relatively soft underpinnings limit the Jag's slalom speed to 65.5 mph, while a modest skid-pad performance of 0.83g indicates that outright cornering grip isn't the XFR's strong suit. Yet despite these numbers, the XFR really inspires confidence in the driver and the way the XFR can make time on a twisting road like this is really impressive.
Monstrous 14.9-inch front rotors are a key part of this ability. They dissipate heat like a Taj Mahal-spec space heater and haul the heavy XFR down to a stop from 60 mph in a short 108 feet. It will take a more committed driving style or a track to fade these binders.
Putting the Pieces Together
The degree of driving involvement offered by a sport sedan is often inversely proportional to its technological complexity — simple hardware lets the driver play the dominant role, not the technology. The XFR turns this proposition on its ear, however, as the inclusion of active chassis goodies that expand the breadth of the XFR's skill set actually enhance the inherent goodness of the XF while limiting its shortcomings.
With this newfound versatility, the 2010 Jaguar XFR puts together the dynamic pieces of driving in the real world even more cohesively than the XF. It's entertaining and predictable all the way up to its limits — even if those limits aren't quite as breathtaking in abstract numbers as some other sport sedans — without upsetting the luxury balance.
A better real-world example of a sport-luxe sedan than the Jaguar XFR is difficult to find not in spite of the fact that it cheerily concedes the status of Ultimate Road Missile, but because of it. Simply put, the XFR has a universal appeal that's missing in some of its harder-edged rivals.
With the XFR, the XF-Series has fulfilled its promise of a new, old kind of Jaguar.
Edmunds.com Executive Editor Paul Seredynski says:
The Jaguar XFR is the final break with the old Jaguar. Gone is the classic look of long and low decks, replaced with a clean and modern design by Aston Martin alum Ian Callum that's been crafted to meet global regulations and stake out a new direction for the company. The break has been successful, providing a new, modern direction for the marque as a whole. Though the look has been all-new, the aging 4.2-liter V8 has remained. And while adequate for most drivers in the luxury set, this engine (whether normally aspirated or supercharged) did not measure up to the XF's styling — an old heart in a new cloak.
Jag's new supercharged, direct-injected 5.0-liter V8, however, adds a whole new dimension to the XF. With 510 horsepower and plenty of torque across the power band, the XFR flat moves, and the sounds it makes while doing so will make you crave the next run up the tach. Few mills provide the stirring turbinelike baritone of a blown V8, and your inner Mad Max is sure to rejoice as you rocket around in a sedan that's suited for any corporate parking slot.
The XF can use all the horsepower it can get, as this solid chassis still feels hefty, making the thrust generated by your right foot all the more impressive. Suspension tuning feels tailored to account for that heft. In the XFR this is successful in creating a well-snubbed ride, but one that lacks the suppleness of its Bavarian counterparts. Impact harshness from freeway joints is muted, but the XFR feels as if it's lost a few inches of suspension travel to flatten its cornering attitude.
The brakes felt strong and I found the steering accurate without being twitchy, while offering decent feedback from the ludicrously sized wheels. I never pictured Jaguar owners needing a cat this fierce, but the XFR should slot in well between the more hard-core BMW M5 and the less stylish AMG offerings.
The manufacturer provided Edmunds this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.