Day one: I hear it the XJR arrive. It rumbles. It also looks rather excellent. The current XJ has always had a good front and an interesting back but the sides look a bit slabby. The R fixes that with a set of skirts. Add in the black grille and dark wheels and it’s the business. But the kind of business that might extort money from people.
Go for a quick drive. It feels different to normal XJs, even the old Supersports model. The steering is heavier and the ride is firmer. These could be bad things but they don’t feel like it. It all appears to be very good.
Day two: Some light trundling around London. The XJR’s ride is definitely firm but not to the point of irritation, rattles and a back operation. You’d probably find it fine, unless you’re one of those tweed covered twats who insists all Jaguars look and drive like they’re from 1969.
When I get home a nice lady called Barbara from across the road comes over specifically to say how much she likes the look of the Jag. I borrow quite a few cars in the course of my job. Barbara has never felt motivated to leave her house to have a closer look at any of them. So there you are Jag: If your intention with the subtle but rather excellent XJR styling changes was to attract nice ladies called Barbara, job done.
Day three: My wife suggests we ‘go for a drive’. We’re not in our 70s, I promise. But it’s Sunday. We don’t have much on at home. It’s quite sunny out. So we do. Up the motorway and out into the countryside for some light helmsmithery. And here’s what I can report back. For a big car, you can really chuck the R around. At least until you contemplate the prospect of getting into a slither in a car the length of a canal boat. Then you calm down. Even so, the engine is a mighty thing, the auto gearbox is very snappy and it’s good to know if you tweak all the settings you can make this car really quite lively. Although in ‘dynamic’ mode the suspension definitely gets too hard. It doesn’t need it either. In the normal setting it’s firm but there’s the right amount of ‘give’ underneath it, especially at speed. I’m not going to pretend I gave it the full dab of oppo because I didn’t. My wife was in the car, she’s very, very pregnant and I didn’t want to have a crash. But I did have fun. Quite a lot of fun.
Day four: A gentle cruise across London. The XJR is very good at this. It feels comfortable and relaxing. And it has the ultimate luxury of all, aside from heated seats. It has sodding huge reserves of torque. It’s quite nice prowling the streets knowing that if any chancer tries it on in a Boxster, or even certain types of 911, you can smite them with supercharged justice.
Day five: Another day stuck in London. Not that the XJR feels trapped. It seems quite happy. It’s even doing 20mpg according to its own computer which isn’t that bad.Day six: I’m enjoying the XJR enormously but there are a few things that bother me about it. The engine and the chassis seem very well engineered but there’s an underlying crappiness to things like the buttons on the steering wheel and the noise the back doors make when you slam them. The sequenceing of the keyless entry isn’t quite right either, so the locks don’t release until you’re actually pulling on the outside handle which makes it feel like it’s going to come off. When you’re paying over 90 grand for a car, you’ve a right to expect better. Or maybe looking at the car as you approached it, hearing the low rumble as it started and giving it a 543 horsepower bootful would take your mind off these things. I suspect it might.
Day seven: There’s a naughtiness to the XJR that I can’t escape. Although it’s happy with another day in town, part of it seems to be telling me to do a massive burnout or a series of noisy doughnuts. And while walking the dog this morning I spotted the perfect place. A vast, brand new apron of tarmac with not a car, a lamppost or a white line on it. Just a flat, smooth acreage waiting to be smeared with bits of hot Dunlop. Unfortunately, this freshly resurfaced car park is the one outside the local crematorium. So best not.
Goodbye: Bye bye XJR. I used to have an old XJR, one of the V8 ones with the National Trust styling. Technically it wasn’t even close to flawless and yet that didn’t matter because it had charm and presence and a whiff of naughtiness about it. The new one is a much better car in terms of handling and braking and all that technical stuff, but more importantly it’s got the same endearing spirit. I’m sure there are cars that are objectively better than the Jag and there are definitely ones with better dashboard switches and less clunky nav graphics. But subjectively, the XJR is bloody great. It’s a loveable monster and monstrously loveable.
The car talked about here is a Jaguar XJR. It has a supercharged 5-litre V8 making 543 horsepower. Apparently, 0-60 can happen in 4.4 seconds and the top speed is limited to 174mph. It costs £92,370.