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Jaguars Wilder Cat


Jaguar’s smart, contemporary XF series has been a dramatic success for the company that had appeared to be stuck in a design theme that worshipped the proud marque’s early history. Although Jaguar attributes have skewed toward the comfort end of luxury (imagine the vintage real estate person pulling property signs from a Jaguar trunk), the company has also offered performance versions of its lineup.

Up until now, Jaguar’s R- performance branding was a softer version of its German rivals’ M, AMG, and S designations. To be sure, Jaguar R-badge cars have been fast and powerful, but not as much so as their BMW, Mercedes, and Audi counterparts. The new XFR changes that dynamic, throwing down a 510-horsepower gauntlet with handling capability that’s equal to the engine’s performance.

For most buyers, the standard XF, with its 4.2-liter, 300-horsepower V8 delivering decent fuel economy at a reasonable price, is more than adequate. Those who wish for more can opt for the XF Premium, with a 5.0-liter, 385-horsepower engine on tap. If that’s not enough, there’s a supercharged sport sedan that pushes 470 horsepower to the rear wheels. In the recent past, this was the level that the cat-builders deemed sufficient. But even the standard supercharged Jaguar wasn’t super enough to fully compete with Europe’s most muscular luxury sedans. However, the new XFR is more than capable in every department. It’s more powerful with better fuel economy, looks great whether parked at the curb or showing its LED taillights to a rival, and the interior is an expression of youthful British fun.

Jaguar could have stopped at simply outgunning its competitors in the performance and fashion departments, but it wants new buyers in this lofty category. So the XFR has taken a page from Audi’s S6 playbook and added value to the equation. Now I’ll concede that an $80,000 sedan doesn’t sound like a steal to some readers. But if you compare that sticker to BMW’s M5 or Mercedes-Benz’s E63 AMG, especially with similar equipment, it’s a genuine deal. The Bimmer will approach $100,000 with equal equipment and the Benz will shoot right past the century number. And I like the fact that Jaguar has included everything — the only option is special paint.

Our XFR test car was finished in Ultimate Black with a Red Zone interior and I was instantly smitten. Years ago, I owned a black Jaguar XJ with red leather inside and it was quite a hit. The same is true today. Of course, my Jaguar on its best day didn’t stand a chance in a contest with an AMG Mercedes or BMW M. My, how things have changed.

When pushed, the XFR howls under the hood while it growls out its four exhaust pipes. But it’s not an untamed beast, rather a very dialed-in sports sedan that is just as comfortable taking the family to church as it is heading to track day. It even ekes out enough fuel economy to avoid the dreaded guzzler tax, so you could even take it to the local Sierra Club gathering. But don’t expect fellow members to hug this cat.    BRIAN DOUGLAS


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