No point in being coy, Jaguar is wasting no time showing the world their technologically advanced engineering capabilities and performance attributes. In an auto game with top runners such as Benz AMGs, BMW Ms and Audi Ss, Jaguar’s “R” models now have no problem hanging with or outwitting any of the aforementioned foreigners in a field where soldiers and generals are one and the same.
This is an overstated testament demonstrated clearly by Pro Driver Paul Gentilozzi’s broken Bonneville record, which he took care of in an XFR. His top speed of 225 mph smashed the previous Jaguar production top speed of 217 mph! Jaguar -- a brand I’m highly familiar with stemming from my post collegiate internship days at headquarters in Mahwah, New Jersey, has come a long way to achieve its current greatness. And wait until the totally redesigned XJ flagship hits dealerships. But for now, say hello to the 2010 XFR and XKR go-getters!
The Track: To familiarize Automotive Rhythms with the two “R” newbies, Jaguar invited us to Seville, Spain where we quickly became acquainted with late Spanish nights, cultural dance ensembles and hours of lustful driving. Suffice to say, before disembarking from the States we studied up on the lay of the land as well as the specifications of the vehicles for true preparation, knowing that we would soon throw around 510 British horses.
A great venue for car launches, Monteblanco has 26 different circuit layouts, eight of which can run F1. There, we would take part in four key driving events including handling to discover the Jag’s agility, a wet track to showcase the new rear differential, and speed demonstrations for acceleration. So as the Brits say, “have a go!”
XFR: We began the day familiarizing ourselves with the XFR during a morning drive around town. According to Designer Ian Callum, there’s not much visual change between the XF and XFR outside of the 20” rims, hood louvers, quad pipes, and updated chrome air intakes. The interior features richer textures, different color schemes and sportier race seats. The rest remains the same including JaguarDrive Control and a touch-screen multimedia system.
Automotive Rhythms is also host to a long-term XF supercharged so we were quite assured of what the XFR was to offer, as the “R” is all about performance! It adds 90 horses in the new 5.0-liter AJ-V8, an increase of 23% over the 4.2-liter, and allows you to run with the M5 and E63 AMG on an open road. Furthermore, Eaton’s sixth generation supercharger uses a twin vortex configuration that utilizes 20% less power to push out 510 horses than previous engine did with 420 hp. The problem with the XF is not many consumers know about it.
When Automotive Rhythms is out and about with our custom XF, roughly 80% of those that approach us ask what type of vehicle it is. This is due in part to lack of a large marketing campaign when the XF was launched in 2008 and the other is the missing Leaper on the hood. The unfamiliar “Growler” embedded in the grille is not doing it. Bring back the Leaper Jaguar! MSRP starts at $80,000.
Back on the track, we jumped in XFRs with Pro Drivers to convey the power and speed of the XFR. With three chances at high speed runs I got up to 140 mph on the main straight before hitting the brakes strongly prior to hitting the apex turn. Monteblanco will allow for more speeds but we were electronically limited to 155. Needless to say the experience was exhilarating!
Performance: Besides the supercharged engine, Jaguar also has an all-new 5.0-liter naturally aspirated engine with 385 hp. However, the focus was on the “R.” The all-new aluminum block 5.0-liter supercharged AJ-V8 uses direct injection for optimal performance and fuel efficiency. Mike O'Driscoll, managing director, Jaguar Cars said: The all-new supercharged 510-horsepower XFR and XKR add a thrilling new dimension to the Jaguar line-up. We have sharpened the R models, fine-tuning them to deliver a totally focused experience for driving enthusiasts, with the new AJ-V8 Gen III engines delivering refined power and performance and unmatched efficiency. Many more technologies make the “R” package a powerhouse, including:
• A new ZF Six-Speed transmission: sport gear makes downshifts easier and holds gears longer while allowing the engine to rev more.
• Winter Mode: softens throttle progression and pulls away in second opposed to first gear to avoid wheel slip.
• DSC (Dynamic Stability Control): traction and stability which has two modes. DSC normal and DSC Trac. Trac mode uses less intrusive software and alters the system to intervene later during performance driving. This is for a more enthusiastic driver. DSC is always on unless turned off.
• Dynamic Mode: delivers more torque and holds gears without auto shifting. Driver uses paddle shifters to change gears on preference. Yet, if vehicle redlines acceleration is halted until you upshift.
• New suspension (Adaptive Dynamics) monitors each wheel independently 100 times a second. (XFR only).
• Active Differential Control: works in tandem with suspension to optimize traction under acceleration and steering.
• Dunlop summer performance tires, specially fitted for the Rs.
The XKR: Again both coupe and convertible are offered in the 2010 XKR. We used the Coupes for track demonstrations such as high speed and uphill turns and body roll and agility maneuvers. After a few takes, I got very comfortable and was able to lap the course with precision. Not as close as the Pro Drivers, but I felt pretty good about my runs. Yet, most of it stemmed from the aforementioned technologies Jaguar has instilled in the “R” vehicles. For example, after hard braking before a turn I was able to settle the vehicle and then gradually increase power on exit.
With 461 pound-feet of torque it’s not difficult for the XKR to regain top acceleration. Yet, the fun was saved for day two where Jaguar partnered AR with a soft white XKR with a champagne soft top. Though the convertible market is down in the US there is still a high level of desirability for great products. If anything, the bad seeds will be weeded out.
So we toured slowly through the crowed afternoon streets of Seville pumping Reggae. When in small corridors that created a tunnel affect, I switched on Dynamic Mode so the sporty exhaust would liven up the town. It worked. Outside of town is where I opened her up. The Spanish romance was endearing while it lasted. I still remember that last dance! MSRP starts at $96,000 (Coupe) and $102,000 (Convertible)
Now & Then: Pro Driver Paul Gentilozzi makes a bet over a bottle of wine at Le Mans that he could take the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah. And it was the truth. Paul said let’s go to Bonneville and do 200. The previous fastest Jaguar was a XJ220, which topped 217 in 1992. Paul did 225.
"During my career, I've raced worldwide from the southern tip of New Zealand to LeMans. Along the way, I have been privileged to drive and own so many exciting cars but I've never driven one that was as exciting to drive fast as this Jaguar," stated Gentilozzi.
Jaguar also has partnered with Apex Motorsports where they run an XK with 550 horses in GT3. I took a hot lap with Pro Driver Chris Dymond. Smashing! But this is not a new phenomenon. Jaguar has always raced. They won The 24 Hours of LeMans seven times including 1956 with a D-Type which could reach 192 mph back then! So between my hotlaps in the GT3, doughnuts with Gentilozzi in an XFR and a throwback ride with the D-Type Jaguar brought out to the Monteblanco, I was able to fully realize Sir William Lyons’ vision. What an honor!
Kimatni D. Rawlins is the publisher of Automotive Rhythms.