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September 17, 2009

News & Features

Auto Review: Jaguar's fastest XF handsome, seductive, powerful

The Associated Press

Jaguar XFR

AP Photo / Jaguar

The 2010 Jaguar XFR is what a Jaguar should be -- sleek, fast and handsome.

It's also seductive, with a 510-horsepower, supercharged and intercooled V-8 and constantly adjustable chassis serving up a ride that's both smooth and thrilling.

The XFR's quick, 0-to-60-miles-an-hour times -- which some enthusiast car magazines have clocked as low as 4.3 seconds -- have even prompted comparisons with the BMW M5, which is rare praise for a Jaguar in recent years.

All this will cost you, though. The XFR, a sport-tuned version of the 2010 Jaguar XF five-passenger, luxury mid-size sedan, has a starting manufacturer's suggested retail price, including destination charge, of $80,000. This is $32,000 more than the base 2010 XF with non-supercharged V-8 that puts out 300 horsepower.

BMW's 2010 M5 sedan with 500-horsepower V-10 has a starting retail price of $89,325, while the Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG sedan with 507-horsepower V-8 started at $90,275 for a 2009 model.

In both wastefulness of gasoline and price, Jaguar's new XFR is politically incorrect in these times.

The U.S. government rates the XFR's gasoline mileage at just 15 mpg in city driving and 21 mpg on the highway. This is the same rating as a Ford Explorer sport utility vehicle.

Note, though, that the XFR does not fall under the U.S. gas guzzler tax, the way the Mercedes E63 AMG does. This Mercedes is rated at just 13 mpg in city driving and 20 mpg on the highway.

Still, in today's economic meltdown, with job cuts and health care worries, an $80,000 car like the XFR can seem unnecessary and inappropriate.

But there's something exciting about a sedan that has so much power it can hit nearly 70 mph while still in second gear. There's something satisfying about riding in a car that can hustle in a graceful and composed manner on twisty mountain roads.

All the while, passengers in the test XFR rested on fine leather seats, with thick, suede-like Alcantara material above their heads on the ceiling.

2010 Jaguar XFR
  • BASE PRICE: $51,150 for base XF; $56,150 XF Premium; $67,150 for XF Supercharged; $79,150 for XFR.
  • AS TESTED: $80,000.
  • TYPE: Front-engine, rear-wheel drive, five-passenger, mid-size, sport sedan.
  • ENGINE: 5-liter, double overhead cam, supercharged and intercooled V-8.
  • MILEAGE: 15 mpg (city), 21 mpg (highway).
  • TOP SPEED: 162 mph.
  • LENGTH: 195.3 inches.
  • WHEELBASE: 114.5 inches.
  • CURB WEIGHT: 4,400 pounds.
  • BUILT AT: England.
  • OPTIONS: None.
  • DESTINATION CHARGE: $850.

The 5-liter, double overhead cam V-8 is a version of Jaguar's long-running AJ-V8. But just about every bit of the engine is reworked and revisited so this supercharged powerplant can purr like a kitten at slow speeds and growl like a wild cat during hard acceleration.

Peak torque is 461 foot-pounds at a low 2,500 rpm, so it's no surprise that passengers feel their heads and backs pressed against seatbacks at times.

Helping boost the palpable power is an Eaton supercharger that has a maximum boost pressure of 11.6 pounds per square inch.

Compressing the air going into the engine for more power per cylinder, the Eaton twin-vortex blower with dual intercoolers made the acceleration feel magical, as it came on through the six-speed automatic transmission in smooth, strong fashion. The power makes this 4,400-pound car that's more than 16 feet long seem very light on its feet.

Time after time, before I knew it, or could remember to look down at the speedometer, the XFR was racing ahead and, alas, was way above the speed limit, even on highways.

This is an issue for the XFR: where to drive it legally at high speeds. After all, this car's mph limit, as set by an onboard speed limiter installed at the factory, is 162 mph.

There was a bit of road noise from the big, standard 20-inch tires on the XFR. But I mostly noticed some wind noise coming from around the outside mirrors while I was at highway speeds.

Otherwise, the cocoon-like interior and responsive steering and throttle worked to make me feel "at one" with the XFR in a kind of Zen-like mode. The power and sense of speed are just so deceptive in a well-mannered, rear-wheel drive car like this one.

There is one weird thing that I couldn't adapt to easily: a gearshift in the center console that's a knob that a driver turns to find "drive" and "reverse." I kept looking for the traditional gearshift lever.

And try as I might, I couldn't shake the feeling that from certain angles, the styling on the XFR is reminiscent of that of lesser cars.

The mesh grille in front, for example, has the look that too many custom shops put on other cars as a cheap way to jazz them up.

Other drivers also don't seem to notice that they're coming up on a Jaguar when they approach the XFR from the back. The tail-lamps seem a bit too much like those on other cars.

The XFR's three-person back seat can feel snug for even two big-sized adults. Rear-seat legroom is just 36.6 inches. Honda's Accord sedan has more than this.

But thankfully, even with the XFR's sloping roofline, back-seat headroom is a decent 37.6 inches.

The test XFR replaced the usual Jaguar wood trim inside with silver-colored aluminum pieces that convey a techie feel. But I would be just as happy with Jaguar's fine woodwork.

All safety equipment, including six air bags, traction control and electronic stability control, is standard.

Trunk space is a full 18 cubic feet, though the smallish opening to the trunk limited the sizes of boxes I could get in there.

There was a safety recall involving 34 XF cars in July to fix a placard that had the incorrect tire pressure information.

A last note: The XFR isn't the only Jaguar to get the 500-plus horsepower, 5-liter, supercharged V-8.

In the 2010 model year, the engine goes into a sport version of the Jaguar XK coupe that's called the XKR.

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