With six new sports models in its line-up, Jaguar is set on making a big dent in the high-performance market for 2014. So just a few months after experiencing the F-Type V8 S (EC 9/13), we’re back testing the XFR-S super-sedan in the Pacific Northwest. Perhaps less exotic than the F-Type, the XFR-S is all business, clawing at the heels of the BMW M5 and AMG E63, looking to attract younger, more enthusiastic buyers to the British brand.
As you know, we’re fans of the “regular” XFR model and you can read the third installment in our on-going XFR+ project build elsewhere in this issue. We got our 2012 XFR just as the XFR-S was announced, so were anxious to see how the factory approached the same task of making the XF more attractive to enthusiastic performance drivers.
It appears as if no stones were left unturned, with the Jaguar engineers attacking every aspect from engine power to chassis, cosmetics and interior trim, creating a desirable package that will start at $99000 when sales begin later this summer, with numbers limited to just 100 in its first year.
The familiar 5.0L V8 gets an additional 40hp and 41 lb-ft over the XFR, making the 550hp XFR-S one of the more powerful sedans money can buy.
The extra urge comes from new software, intake and exhaust, but we also suspect it has a smaller supercharger pulley to increase boost. The exhaust replaces the central muffler with an X-pipe and straight-through rear pipes that create a wonderful engine note at full throttle, providing some pop and crackle when you lift off. This is matched to more induction sound when you get on the throttle thanks to the revised intake.
As a result, the supercharged 5.0L V8 doesn’t possess the flat torque curve synonymous with Root-type blowers. In our experience, it was more like a medium-sized turbo, giving massive mid-range torque and a peakier delivery than Jaguar’s numbers would suggest.
Press the throttle and the Jag lunges forward, climbing rapidly to its 502 lb-ft peak torque figure at 4000rpm, squeezing the air out of your lungs like an affectionate Boa Constrictor, even at our 5000ft altitude.
The ferocious engine was mated to the ZF eight-speed automatic with Quickshift technology to exploit the revised throttle mapping that makes the car so responsive. The transmission will learn your habits and keep the car in-gear if it senses you’re mid-corner thanks to Jaguar’s Corner Recognition and Intelligent Torque Management.
As a full auto, the ZF probably isn’t as capable as BMW’s M-DCT transmission, but purists can select gears with the large paddle shifters if they choose, enjoying throttle blips on downshifts.
The drivetrain gets uprated half shafts and a new torque converter as well as stiffer mounts and bushings to deal with the extra torque. The electronic rear diff was similarly reprogrammed to suit.
The power is put to the ground through 295/30 R20 Pirelli rear tires, which provide copious amounts of grip, allowing the XFR-S to sprint to 60mph in a claimed 4.4sec. In fact, the 20" Varuna wheels are wider by 0.5" front and 1" rear than the regular XFR to increase mechanical grip and track width. That said, we struggled to get the power down in first gear, yet wouldn’t be surprised to see over 120mph trap speed in the quarter-mile at sea level once it hooks up.
Our drive included a five-hour trek around Mount Rainier. During that time it became apparent that the XFR-S makes a few compromises to reach its stellar performance. The first was that while the steering feels alive and precise, the XFR-sized brakes were somewhat touchy around town.
The car also exhibited a chassis stiffness we weren’t prepared for in a Jag. While it has 13 separate inputs to ensure the reprogrammed adaptive dampers can be adjusted up to 500 times per second for optimal ride quality and handling, it can still be best described as “sporty.”
Developed on the Nürburgring (among other places), it’s very composed on smooth surfaces but on the firm side everywhere else. It’s a trade-off we’d be prepared to take, considering its performance ability, but traditional Jaguar owners might need time to acclimate.
Jaguar claims the suspension is 30% stiffer than the XFR, and more than 100 percent stiffer than a base-model XF 3.0. And sitting on its low profile 20" Pirellis, the XFR-S definitely feels more purposeful and communicative.
Should a smooth road make you forget what you’re driving, the large rear wing in the rearview mirror will quickly remind you. Fortunately, it’s optional equipment and one we might forego, but the deeper front bumper looked tremendous, especially trimmed in carbon fiber around its central intake.
The rear wing is similarly carbon in its center, with the material finding its way onto the rear diffuser, engine cover and there’s carbon-effect leather trim inside. All remaining brightwork is finished in gloss black.
The car also gets new side skirts and a deeper rear bumper, with everything contributing to a reduction in aerodynamic lift of 68% – a significant improvement.
We’d personally opt for the smaller rear wing and avoid the French Racing Blue in favor of either Stratus Gray or Polaris White. The car is also available in Ultimate Black and Italian Racing Red, while the wheels can be ordered with grey detailing rather than black.
In addition to the leather trim, the seats get contrast stitching and piping that can be specified to match the paint. The seats are embossed with the R-S logo, while the dash receives Dark Mesh aluminum trim.
With its popping exhaust, extrovert exterior and dynamic performance, the XFR-S is definitely designed to appeal to a different owner than the normal XF. This is a sedan with balls and it’s a blast to drive. On the racetrack, for example, the extra stability, firmer suspension, sharp brakes and wide 265/35 front tires allowed great turn-in, good cornering grip and impressive braking. In short, the XFR-S is a bit of a hooligan and, while it would be a fun commuter, it would also make a great weekend toy.
We’d happily consider the Jaguar XFR-S as a daily driver when it goes on sale this summer, but before we’d make the final decision, we’d want to first check out the new XJR. Excuse us while we switch cars… (Turn the pages to find our XJR review.)
2014 Jaguar XFR-S
Layout front-engine, RWD
Engine 5.0-liter all-aluminum V8, quad cam 32v, direct injection, dual independent variable valve timing, twin-intercooled and Roots-type twin-vortex supercharger, modified intake, exhaust and software
Drivetrain eight-speed automatic transmission, active electronic differential
Brakes four-piston calipers with 14.96" rotors f, twin-piston, 14.8" r
Suspension variable dampers with Adaptive Dynamics
Wheels & Tires 20x9.5" f, 20x10.5" r wheels, 265/35 R20 f, 295/30 R20 r tires
Power 550hp at 6500rpm
Torque 502 lb-ft at 2500-5500rpm
Top Speed 186mph (limited)
Weight 4380 lb
Economy 23/18mpg (highway/combined)