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£63,395 when new
Let’s start with a simple truth: no matter what people say, you do not necessarily make a car better by making it faster. Ranges of cars, like sprawling cities, tennis rackets and drunken nights out, have sweet spots. Unexpected, near-perfect moments of goodness where the execution completely marries with the premise, where what you hope for unexpectedly becomes what you get. Want an easy example? The 2.7-litre diesel Jaguar XF with the six-speed automatic gearbox is one of these little moments of quiet brilliance, the gem of the XF range; fast, frugal, a bit swish, comfy, relatively affordable. Which means that the weight of expectation for the Jaguar XFR must be lounging like a sack of cement on the shoulders of the engineers right now. Because for £60k, with an all-new 510bhp supercharged V8, this new super saloon needs to create a new high point in the range, be better resolved than the XF D, be the one people point to when you think about the one you’d buy, money no object. Otherwise, what’s the point? So first we have to assimilate what we expect from this fast Jaguar. First, it needs to look like a Jag with added gumption rather than some tarted-up pretty boy covered in the acne of flashy add-ons. And it does. The XF is a pretty shape in the right colour, and the XFR does nothing too insensitive or peverse. Indeed the modification count makes for a relatively short list upon casual observation. There’s a bigger grille on the front, bigger nostrils, slightly lower stance (it’s been dropped 27mm), quad exhausts, a small, almost vestigial boot spoiler, a couple of sculpted side skirts, a light spattering of ‘R’ emblems - you might even pass it by if it wasn’t for the reasonably sized 20-inch alloys with ‘supercharged’ etched around their centres. Subtle rather than particularly showy then, but with a bit of added brawn. Inside it’s more of the same - the usual beautiful XF interior with some subtle ‘R’ badges and more bolstered seats -if it ain’t broke and all that. Second, we need to assess the performance potential; no good shouting about your forced induction if there’s no speedy ambush to match the signwriting. And that’s pretty much a given when you look at the bare stats; 510bhp, 0-62mph in 4.9 seconds, a limited 155mph top end and in-gear acceleration times to make your eyes water. If you look at the more real-world acceleration between 50 and 70mph, the XFR takes 1.9 seconds. That’s quicker than pretty much anything and delivers it all and with the lowest C02 figure in the class. OK, so 292g/km isn’t spectacular in absolute terms, but for 500-odd bhp? That’s good. In theory then, a British rival to the world of bruising super-saloonery, a kick up the arse for the M5, the RS6, the E63? On paper, yes. In reality? No. Not really.