There’s an unwritten rule in motoring. Luxury cars can’t be good performance cars and vice versa. That rule exists because luxury often means serenity and performance means noise, power and adrenaline.
Advances in technology now mean that luxury and performance can coexist and one of the first cars to master such a blissful unity is the Jaguar XJR.
The latest Jaguar XJ debuted in 2009 and was launched with a range of engines that included naturally aspirated petrol engines, turbocharged diesel engines and a high-performance supercharged V8.
Each engine offering excels in the XJ due to the use of aluminium panels throughout the body. The advantage of using aluminium instead of steel is weight saving, structural rigidity and better fuel economy.
While the XJ Supersport is both fast and luxurious, the XJR takes it one step further. Sporty overtones such as chrome highlights, quad-exhaust pipes and ‘R’ badging front and rear give the XJR away in traffic.
Inside the cabin it’s much the same story with body-hugging seats, suede headliner and ‘R’ badges strewn throughout.
The sporty look doesn’t detract from the quick cat’s luxury side. Expanses of legroom, a panoramic glass roof, leather on almost every surface and exquisitely finished trims set the benchmark in this segment. Standard leather colours can be swapped out for extravagant reds, sunburnt oranges or soft beiges in a bid to offer buyers even more personalisation.
There is also no shortage of space-age technology in the cabin. For example, the speedometer cluster is entirely computerised and displayed using a large LCD screen. To turn the lights on, you simply swipe your finger across the light to activate it. Then there’s the remote control for rear seat passengers to adjust the track or TV show and even a motorised glove box lid.
Audiophiles will instantly fall in love with the epic 20-speaker, 2-subwoofer 825W Meridian sound system. Capable of producing 7.1-surround sound and streaming music via Bluetooth, digital radio, DVD or CD, there’s no end to the hours of quality sound on offer.
Throw in your favourite DVD and the passenger is able to watch a movie while the driver sees the navigation screen. This amazing technology allows two images to be displayed from the same screen; varying only depending on the angle it is viewed from.
Under the bonnet is Jaguar’s renowned 5.0-litre supercharged V8 engine produces a herculean 404kW and 680Nm of torque. These figures translate to a physics defying 0-100km/h time of just 4.6-seconds. To put that into perspective, it’s as quick as a Porsche 911 Carrera S, or even a Mercedes-Benz SL500 — both bona fide sports cars.
On the open highway, the XJR glides along smoothly and soaks up bumps and potholes with aplomb. Even some of the state’s worst roads are no challenge for the XJR’s adjustable suspension and dampers.
It’s not until you prod the throttle or engage the dynamic driving mode that things turn from serene to postal. The sport mode engages dynamic damper control and allows the ride to immediately firm, which helps keep the car flat during cornering and aggressive driving.
Faint supercharger whine is teamed with a devilish exhaust note to accentuate the XJR’s sporting prowess. Sharp throttle response and accurate steering help top off the vehicle’s performance credentials.
Handling isn’t as crisp as it could be, but that can be put down to the XJR’s huge 5.1m length. Rear wheel driven cars this size will always struggle to maintain confident grip during cornering and low-speed quick manoeuvring.
Now you understand why Jaguar has managed to nail the brief — luxury motoring with a switchable performance element. It’s not often that a car comes along that looks so good and feels so right.
The Jaguar XJ range starts from $198,445 and moves all the way up to $298,000 for the XJR tested here. Despite tough competition from the likes of Audi, Mercedes-Benz, Porsche and BMW, it’s hard to match the XJR’s unique style, presence on the road and deep racing history.