Velocity Blue is a shocking and unlikely color for such a large sedan; it also happens to be the only color of 2018 XJR575 Jaguar decided to bring to Portugal for the press launch. It looks amazing, gleaming, and jewel-like in the sun. I'm last in a caravan of supercharged 5.0L V-8-powered monster-limos stuck in traffic surrounded by puttering diesel Seats and Renaults in various shades of metallic-boredom. The entire city block's worth of transportation appliances don't add up to the engine displacement, or much less, the horsepower of the three English imports. A gaggle of school kids on the sidewalk gawk and point at the spectacle; twist the rotary shifter to N, boot the throttle, and the exhaust pipes holler and snort then crackle and bark when the throttle body slaps shut. The kids loose their minds jumping and screaming in Portuguese, what I assume roughly translates to "That's awesome!" and "Do it again
The XJR575 does come in other colors, even a Satin Coris Grey, guaranteed to make it nearly as boring to look at as any of the econo-boxes surrounding it in Portugal—or anyone of the other uber-fast matte-painted supersedans from Ze Germans. Aside from a more subdued color palette, all the comparable Germans offer the latest in all-wheel-drive traction, and even the least powerful, the BMW M760i has a conservatively rated 601 hp. The Audi has the lowest starting price at $116,875 compared to the Jaguar's $123,395 but comparably equipped, it quickly surpasses the Jag. The Mercedes starts at $148,495 while the BMW tops the list at $157,695, and obviously both will require a few options to get them to the point you find acceptable for a car like this. The only options available on the XJR575 are a heated windshield at $385, Adaptive Cruise for $1,625, and Surround View for $815. In fairness, many of the optional features that can get the competition's cars to 170 grand and beyond aren't available on the Jaguar.
We started our day at Monte Verde Hotel in the Amarante Municipality. Throughout history, battles in this area have played a significant role in some of Europe's wars and conflicts; it's now known mostly as a golf and wine tourism destination—ironically for travelers from all of the once warring nations. I'm not much of a golfer and although I have my fair share on these trips, I'm not much of a wine enthusiast, either. For me, it's tough to decide if the mountain roads or the views they provide are more amazing in Portugal.
The XJR575 is not a small car; it's roughly 17 1/4 feet long and a hair short of 7 feet wide. Portugal's roads are small by American standards, which is to say normal for Continental Europe; still, the car only feels oversized when on back roads staring into the grille of an oncoming truck. In most circumstances, it feels closer in size to an E-Classe or 5-series. Part of that might be that while it is definitely 7-series in footprint, it is in fact 5-series in weight, roughly 4,200 pounds according to Jaguar—thank you, aluminum.
For the life of me, I couldn't figure out launch control on the car. It likely doesn't have it and to be honest, I've always wondered why a car like this would. Are there really super sedan owners street racing on the way to the opera? If you're one of those people, please email me; I would love to meet you. Instead of a perfectly executed tire-chirping launch, holding the brake and throttle together results in a big, smoky brake stand—err, I'm told. For whatever reason, I find this more relevant to this car than a perfect holeshot launch. Once under way, the ZF eight-speed transmission is silky smooth, actually better than the same gearbox found in the XF Sportbrake. It reacts quickly and snaps shifts as needed; the programming feels more natural—maybe it's just the extra power and torque of the V-8.
If you're wondering why the XJR575 has 567 hp, it's that pesky metric system again. Don't worry, we'll get there someday; we're inching close year by year. Even though we may see a few less horsepower, it still translates into big thrust. The M760i might be rated at 601 hp, but it's also pushing around an additional 800 pounds while the last AMG S-Classe we tested was 700 pounds heavier than the Jag. Audi's S8 is closest in weight, being a mere 400 pounds heavier. Apparently all-wheel drive and night vision cameras pack on the pounds.
The supercharged Jaguar doesn't have the giant swell of torque in the midrange like the turbocharged competitors, but it never feels wanting, either. The transmission just drops a gear and goes. The V-8 also has a more legitimate sound than Jag's supercharged V-6s, which is a very good thing. All the muscle car sounds are there, just like the F-Type, but maybe not quite so exaggerated.
On the open road, that exhaust rumble can all but disappear, along with most other noise. Even the big 295/30-20 Pirelli P Zeros on the rear perform near silently at highway speeds. Unlike anything else in this class, I found myself wanting to drive with the windows down. In most of these cars, you make an effort to be isolated from the world; in the XJR, you want to feel the wind in your hair and smell Portugal's vineyards. This is a driver's car. The rear seats might be enormous and even more luxurious than the quilted leather thrones in front, but you would miss out on all the fun. This is the car Alfred dreams of driving Master Bruce around in.
That's the difference between the Jaguar XJR575 and the other options in this category. Something like the Audi S8 is a technological wonder and is very good to drive also. The Mercedes is a bank vault on wheels that spoils occupants with gluttonous luxury. The BMW is fast. This car however does all of that nearly as well as the others, but it adds real driving joy. When you drive something like an AMG S or M760, you find yourself looking for opportunities to pull up next to the guy in the non-AMG Merc or Bimmer without an M just to be a jerk. The XJR is the anti-jerk car in this group. Yes, it is covered inside and out with badges reminding you exactly what it is, scrape them off. Yes, it is still loud and could be considered obnoxious, but only in Sport Mode. This Jaguar has a quality to it that's obvious not only to drivers but even people on the streets—it's fun. So much so, you might even find yourself jumping around, shouting "Awesome!" and remembering why you love cars.