We're hurtling down Ridge Motorsport Park's front straight, a blind-crest-infested racetrack nestled in Shelton, Washington. The speedo in the 2014 Jaguar XFR-S is nudging 140 mph, the supercharged V8 bellowing and the exhaust cracking as we flick the right-side paddle shifter through the gears.
We stomp hard on the brake pedal for the left-hander at the end of the straight, yet the big sedan stays perfectly planted and stable. There's no squirming from the suspension or chattering from the brakes. It takes it all in stride as if we were slowing down for a freeway off-ramp.
Clearly, this XFR-S isn't your average Jaguar sedan. Sure, the XFR-S can play the part of a nice car if you want, puttering slowly around town without a problem. But provoke it and this more aggressive version of the already capable XFR can unleash its rage at any time. At a time when some of its rivals have become heavier, softer and less precise, the 2014 XFR-S has turned into the meanest Jaguar sedan ever built.
Faster Than an M5?
Not that those proper Brits would admit they've created something mean. But we were told in no uncertain terms that the goal with the 2014 Jaguar XFR-S was "to create the fastest, most powerful and agile Jaguar sport sedan ever."
Our seat-of-the-pants impression says they have succeeded, thanks in no small part to an upgraded version of Jaguar's familiar 5.0-liter supercharged and direct-injected V8. A little ECU tuning and improved airflow result in an extra 40 horsepower and 41 pound-feet of torque over the XFR, bringing total output up to 550 hp at 6,500 rpm and 502 lb-ft at 2,500.
This is a true, pull-a-muscle-in-your-neck kind of car. Jag says it'll hit 60 mph in 4.4 seconds. That's 0.3 second quicker than the XFR and a half-second better than the XF Supercharged. In comparison, when we tested a six-speed manual M5 it hit 60 in 4.5 seconds, or 4.3 with a 1-foot rollout. If you have enough road and guts to verify it, Jaguar says the XFR-S tops out at a scenery-blurring 186 mph.
But the XFR-S isn't just fast. It also sounds the part, especially so at full-throttle. It's a melodic concoction that's equal parts burly V8, tuned quad-tip exhaust and what Jag calls a "symposer." It sounds high-tech, but it's actually just a means of channeling induction noise into the cabin. It works well with the supercharger, which adds its own unique sound to the mix. Driven casually, however, the XFR-S is a properly subdued British gent.
Same goes for the ZF-built eight-speed automatic transmission. It's smooth and lurch-free with a supple throttle calibration in Drive mode. But turn the shift knob to S and/or select the Dynamic mode and the XFR-S comes alive. The small, oddly chintzy plastic paddles call up stirring throttle blips on downshifts, while a huge gear indicator pops up in the center of the instrument panel for aggressive driving.
100 Percent Stiffer Than a Standard XF
An uprated chassis is responsible for the XFR-S's new on-track composure and abilities. The double-wishbone front suspension gets new knuckles from the XKR-S coupe, along with wheel bearings and steering valving from the F-Type convertible. There's also a new rear subframe that allows for revised geometry for the multilink suspension.
Spring rates are up 30 percent versus the XFR, or a whopping 100 percent versus the standard XF. There are also thicker antiroll bars and the variable dampers have a sportier tune. Although the dampers are constantly varying, pressing the Dynamic button moves the dampers to the firmer end of the available range. The finishing touch comes from 20-inch forged-alloy wheels wrapped with sticky Pirelli P Zeros, 265/35ZR20s up front and 295/30ZR20s at the rear.
The changes add up to a stiffly sprung but planted ultra sport sedan with a perfect stance. The steering is precise and there's mega grip with little body roll. The XFR-S can be hustled far more easily and more quickly than you'd ever guess was possible of a 4,100-plus-pound car.
Understeer is still the prevailing attitude through most corners, which makes the car controllable and forgiving. But when you've got 550 hp to tap into, steering with the rear is just a throttle prod away. For those who would rather not take a chance spinning off the course backward, the car's Dynamic mode allows you to feel some degree of corner-exit slide before it cuts the throttle.
With such big gains in roll stiffness, it doesn't take a genius to guess that comfort will suffer. And yes, the XFR-S is stiffer than any Jag sedan we've driven before. Even with the variable dampers set to normal, you're keenly aware of each road imperfection. Drive for a few hours on two-lane roads and the jiggly ride gets old. And those high-performance Pirellis aren't exactly quiet.
The XFR-S's 15-inch front and 14.8-inch rear brake rotors clamped by sliding calipers are mechanically identical to those on the larger and also 550-hp-equipped 2014 XJR. The difference is that the XFR-S has better cooling via small plastic flaps (visible in the wheelwell) that duct air from underneath the car toward the brakes.
You Can Match the Stitching to the Paint
Just firing up the 2014 Jaguar XFR-S and its throaty V8 might be enough for some, but not for Jag. The designers added some additional visual appeal to the interior as well. There's a soft Alcantara headliner and optional exterior color-matched stitching on the dash, doors, center armrest and seats.
The front seats are thickly padded and go a long way toward damping the car's stiff ride, while offering side-hugging lateral support. There's fine-smelling leather everywhere, but it's mostly unpadded. The center and door armrests, for instance, are almost painfully hard. And as special as the cabin feels, there's no masking the dated look of the center stack and instruments.
The exterior features numerous aero tweaks intended to keep this jet of a Jag rubber-side down. Up front there's a deeper bumper with a splitter made from carbon fiber. Along the sides are thick, heavily contoured rocker panels, while the rear end gets a diffuser on the bottom and a ludicrous spoiler on the trunk. Jag says together these elements reduce lift by 68 percent.
Only 100 Cars a Year
The 2014 Jaguar XFR-S isn't for everyone. In fact, Jag only plans to sell 100 of these cars a year in the U.S. starting at $99,000, so it knows the limited appeal of such an aggressive sedan.
This car is more about making a statement. It's an unabashed attempt to kick the uninspiring new BMW M5 in the teeth, while laughing in the face of the all-wheel-drive-only 2014 Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG.
The XFR-S sounds right, looks right and it'll do block-long burnouts. If Jaguar can't find 100 people in the U.S. that will sign up for it, then it might have to reevaluate its whole philosophy. We doubt that will be the case.
|Year Make Model:||2014 Jaguar XFR-S|
|Vehicle type:||XFR-S 4dr Sedan (5.0L 8cyl S/C 8A)|
|Estimated MSRP:||$105,375 (as tested)|
|Assembly location:||Birmingham, England|
|Configuration:||Longitudinal, front engine, rear-wheel drive|
|Engine type:||Supercharged, direct-injected, intercooled V8, gasoline|
|Valvetrain:||Double overhead camshaft, four valves per cylinder with variable intake and exhaust valve timing|
|Compression ratio (x:1):||9.5:1|
|Horsepower (hp @ rpm):||550 @ 6,500|
|Torque (lb-ft @ rpm):||502 @ 2,500|
|Fuel type:||91 octane|
|Transmission type:||Eight-speed automatic with paddle shifters and Sport/Competition modes|
|Transmission ratios (x:1):||I = 4.714; II = 3.143; III = 2.106; IV = 1.667; V = 1.285; VI = 1.000; VII = 0.839; VIII = 0.667; R = 3.317|
|Final-drive ratio (x:1):||2.56|
|Differential(s):||Electronic active rear differential|
|Suspension, front:||Independent double wishbones, coil springs, driver-adjustable variable dampers, stabilizer bar|
|Suspension, rear:||Independent multilink, coil springs, driver-adjustable variable dampers, stabilizer bar|
|Steering type:||Electric-assist, speed-proportional rack-and-pinion power steering|
|Tire make and model:||Pirelli P Zero|
|Tire type:||Summer performance|
|Tire size, front:||265/35ZR20 (99Y)|
|Tire size, rear:||295/30ZR20 (101Y)|
|Wheel size, front:||20-by-9 inches|
|Wheel size, rear:||20-by-10.5 inches|
|Wheel material:||Forged aluminum|
|Brakes, front:||15-inch ventilated discs two-piston with sliding calipers|
|Brakes, rear:||14.8-inch ventilated discs single-piston with sliding calipers|
|0-60 mph, mfr. claim (sec.):||4.4|
|Fuel economy, mfr. est. (mpg):||18 combined (15 city/23 highway)|
|Fuel tank capacity (U.S. gal.):||18.5|
|Stereo description:||AM/FM/CD/MP3 Meridian audio system with 835 watts and 17 speakers|
|iPod/digital media compatibility:||Standard USB port and aux-in jack|
|Satellite radio:||Standard Sirius/XM with three-month trial subscription|
|Hard-drive music storage capacity (Gb):||Standard with 30GB|
|Rear seat video and entertainment:||Optional|
|Bluetooth phone connectivity:||Standard|
|Navigation system:||Standard hard-drive-based with 7.0-inch touchscreen|
|Telematics (OnStar, etc.):||Not Available|
|Smart entry/start:||Standard doors and ignition|
|Parking aids:||Standard front and rear sonar, rearview camera. self-parking not available|
|Adaptive cruise control:||Optional|
|Lane-departure monitoring:||Not Available|
|Collision warning/avoidance:||Not Available|
|Night vision:||Not Available|
|Curb weight, mfr. claim (lbs.):||4,134|
|Track, front (in.):||61.0|
|Track, rear (in.):||61.5|
|Turning circle (ft.):||37.7|
|Legroom, front (in.):||41.5|
|Legroom, rear (in.):||36.6|
|Headroom, front (in.):||39.0|
|Headroom, rear (in.):||37.6|
|Shoulder room, front (in.):||56.9|
|Shoulder room, rear (in.):||56.4|
|Trunk volume (cu-ft):||17.7|
|Bumper-to-bumper:||4 years/50,000 miles|
|Powertrain:||4 years/50,000 miles|
|Corrosion:||4 years/50,000 miles|
|Roadside assistance:||4 years/50,000 miles|
|Free scheduled Maintenance:||1 year/16,000 miles|
Edmunds attended a manufacturer-sponsored event, to which selected members of the press were invited, to facilitate this report.