Jaguar: The Present


The F-type might have made the most headlines of late, but the XJR is the most representative car of what modern Jaguar is all about.

The Jaguar F-type is the brand’s first two-seat sports car since the E-type, first launched over half a century ago, and although it’s a great sports car and will sell as fast as Jaguar can make them, it’s an atypical Jaguar: surprisingly edgy and aggressive. The Jaguar XJR instead marries two traits that are very ‘modern Jag’. The first is simple modernity.

Much of Jaguar’s recent success is down to Design Director Ian Callum, who unlike most car design bosses has been left in place long enough to see his vision of a complete, coherent line-up through into production. He abhors ‘retro’. His forebears didn’t have the courage to break the look that Sir William Lyons set in 1968 with the first XJ, and but their homages looked increasingly chintzy and absurd. Callum points out that the first Jaguar XJ was an incredibly modern car, and to be true to its spirit you need to ignore its look, and do something fresh. That’s Callum’s XJ. It’s a controversial car, but it should be: it’s not chasing the global ubiquity of the S-class so it can – should, even – be a bold, distinctive, divisive design. I love it. You might not.

And now into this striking body goes Jaguar’s most powerful-ever production engine to make the XJR, the quickest XJ and a return for the badge that first appeared 25 years ago and marked the debut of Jaguar’s ‘R’ performance badge.

The motor is a supercharged V8 making 550 horsepower and until now only seen in the built-to-order RS-badged Jaguars. This is the other Jaguar ‘theme’ the XJR represents: a new-found love of berserk performance without kippering the ease and refinement that ought to characterise a Jaguar. I’ve driven the XJR. Not many people have, yet. It will still cruise like a limo. But it also goes like a dragster: at 4.7sec to 60mph it’s faster than the smaller (and seriously good) XFR because its aluminium construction means it weighs about the same, but has 50 horsepower more. It handles as well too, despite its extra size, because its aluminium stiffness gives it more precision and control. And it sounds like an F-type, with a very naughty, un-limo-like pop and crackle on the over-run from the equally naughty-looking, slightly upturned quad tailpipes that Callum, a hot-rod fan, has allowed to be three-quarters of a inch longer than they really need to be.

The XJR is as charismatic as it is fast as it will be rare at £92,370, and it’s the heart and soul of Jaguar.