By on July 14, 2010

A wise old man once told me: “you can’t just own a Jaguar, you have to have a love affair with one.” The reasons for this were several, the sexy rooflines hampered head room and visibility, trunk space was non-existent, and then there are those reliability woes. Although my 2000 XJ8 has (no kidding) been the definition of a reliable car for the past 120,000 miles, the mantra applied. When Jaguar came out with a new S-Type, the restrained classic styling screamed “this is your father’s Jaguar.” When Jaguar created performance models like the XJR and S-Type R, they were just fast fat cats, not really holding their own against the Germans. But that wasn’t their goal at the time, the goal was to propel an English gentleman’s club on wheels with “swift progress” to quote the XFR’s owners guide. Jaguar styling was the definition of restrained classic elegance. Everyone who saw a Jaguar would gush about how gorgeous they looked in the parking lot. Consumers loved the look in someone else’s parking lot, but put a BMW in their driveway. Like the box of abandoned kittens at the PetCo front door, nobody really wanted to take the kitty home, and that’s a pity.

While beating the bushes at Jaguar over a 2011 XJ test car, I was given the opportunity to sample the 2010 XFR, a car that had been a bit low on my list. I’ve driven the 2010 E63 AMG and the 2010 BMW M5. My kidneys still hurt after only a few hours behind the wheel of the M5. I still have whiplash from the harsh shifting of the E63’s 7 speed contraption. I was therefore somewhat wary of what the XFR would bring to the table especially since the lads in Coventry had decided to compete head on with the E63 and M5 rather than just making a faster cat. Thankfully for the masses, the Jaguar is both worthy competition for the German ‘bahn burners, and a faster cat.

Looking at pictures of the XFR since its release, I was concerned that the XFR would look too bland, too conformist in styling, but in reality the front is expressive and the rear end has an Aston Martinish feel that pictures fail to convey. The only styling let down is the XFR’s side profile, which could stand to be more expressive. Parked next to a BMW or a Mercedes, the XF looks plain, or perhaps I should say restrained. Minimalist styling continues into the interior, which I would swear is more of the Stockholm design school than classic Coventry. Build quality is excellent, save for some nasty plastic on the airbag cover and steering column. Truth be told, the plastic on the airbag cover is competitive with the E-Class and BMW 5 series, but everything else in the XFR’s cabin is so sumptuous that these two parts stick out like a sore thumb. Speaking of those German rivals, the XFR on the whole gets high marks for interior quality and feel compared to all except the Audi RS6.

Bumping up to the XFR from the plebian XF gets the buyer full leather upholstery with more seat bolstering, a stitched dashboard, alcantara headliners, dark oak trim with knurled aluminum accents. And just about every option available in the XF is standard in the XFR, 20-inch wheels, subtle side skirting, extra exhaust tips, and lest we forget an insanely powerful 510 horsepower 5 litre supercharged V8. The 18 way adjustable driver’s seat is very comfortable and just in case your backside needs extra care it is heated and cooled as well. Bolstering is not at BMW levels, but let’s be realistic; with a 4,000lb car you really don’t need them. Sadly the rear seats in the XFR are just a bit less special than the front. Rear thrones in the XFR get neither heating nor cooling, and absolutely no special controls or knobs to play with.

The XF and XFR share the same touch screen navigation system. While the system is fairly simple to use, the system has an annoying delay when switching screens. I appreciate minimalist design in theory, but in practice putting controls like the seat heater/cooler and the steering wheel warmer in the touch screen just seem odd. Jaguar’s voice control system unfortunately receives my harshest judgment, this thing is terrible. Not only are the commands not intuitive, the help feature unhelpful, the system slow to respond, but it also didn’t seem to understand anyone at least half the time. My local Jag dealer tells me it is a common complaint. Adding to voice control’s issues: you can’t control your iPod at all with the voice control system. Jaguar’s previous owner Ford should be blamed for this deficiency, none of Ford’s PAG companies were allowed to use Ford SYNC which is a pity since this means the Ford Fiesta has a better voice control system than an $80,000 Jaguar. For shame. For those into comparisons, fear not: the Mercedes voice command system is just as terrible.

Taken on the surface, the XFR looks like an also-ran in the performance luxury space. The styling is no longer unique or quirky, the exterior is modern, and the interior is Scandinavian chic. What takes this car from average to extraordinary is how it drives. Your average 500+ horsepower luxury car is an odd animal, you get the trappings of luxury but all too often you get a harsh crashy ride, jerky transmissions, and occasionally you are [gasp] expected to row your own gears. The jerky transmission is one lesson that Maserati learned early on with the Quattroporte, installing a ZF 6 speed after massive complaints about its daft transmission. Likewise the E63 could be a great car except the transmission is so herky-jerky when driving in stop and go traffic or trying to drive that the current generation E-Class AMG joins the M5 on the list of cars that are great, but just aren’t daily driver material anymore. The XFR on the other hand is smooth, Lexus smooth, on the highway you might even think that it’s too smooth to be a performance sedan, but you’d be wrong. One firm press on the accelerator pedal and the XFR accelerates with a combination of effortless grace and some seriously aggressive snarl from the exhaust.

On windy back country roads, the XFR is incredibly agile, the ZF 6 speed transmission is lightning fast even in regular Drive mode. Flick the silly hockey-puck shifter in to Sport mode and any desire for a DSG-style transmission vanishes. All automatics should be this good. Shifts are practically psychic, and should the computer somehow get you the wrong gear, the paddle shifters summon that gear up in an instant. Every time. Speaking of the hockey-puck, yes it is a tad gimmicky but it is easy to use and with fast rev-matched shifts I quickly forgave the quirkiness. If you actually decide to exercise all 510 ponies and 461 lb-ft of torque, vanes in the exhaust open up and the XFR goes from house cat to a wild snarling beast, but thanks to an electronic rear diff (and  more processing power than NORAD) the XFR is a wild beast on a short leash.

Over boosted numb steering has been a complaint of high-speed Jags for some time, but the XFR’s steering is quick and communicative and straddles that line by being neither too light nor too heavy. The dynamic suspension is also excellent; it firms up when you’re thrashing the XFR on the twisties and settles down to provide a smooth ride on a rough freeway. The combination of excellent ride and the incredibly quiet cabin belie how fast this beat can be. If you aren’t careful on freeway onramps you’ll find yourself in the triple digits in less than 10 seconds.

After a full week with the XFR I was sad to see it go. At $82,000 as tested, the XFR isn’t exactly cheap, but compared to a similarly equipped M5 or E63 the XFR represents a decent bargain and that’s important in this space. Many shoppers who are buying a car in this price range still care about the “deal”  and an extra $10-15k is still noticed. Many publications will never dare to say something is better than a BMW, but that’s not the TTAC way: The XFR is the better car when compared to the E63 and M5 and given the choice I would take the XFR every time. At the end of the day Jaguar has managed to get the luxury side of the equation balanced perfectly with the performance side. The XFR is a car you can drive every day with a smile, it gets looks from people on the street, and while it may not beat an M5 at the track, it will sure give it a run for its money. The XFR may just be the perfect sleeper, and the best kept secret in the European sports sedan lineup.

For 2011 Jaguar has made some subtle changes to the XFR, including a new front grille unique to the XFR, a real button to open the glove box rather than the proximity sensor, and the radar cruise is now a $2000+ option. The BMW M5 is on hiatus for 2011 returning as an all-new 2012 model.

Jaguar provided the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gas for this review.

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24 Comments on “Review: 2010 Jaguar XFR...”

  • avatar

    Great write-up, Alex. I’ve been wanting to drive one of these, but haven’t been able to wrangle one.

    Then again, Jaguar hasn’t been fond of me ever since TrueDelta was first (by about a year) to provide reliability stats on the XF. They’d gotten nearly all of the bugs out of the older cars, like the one you own, but bred a whole new set with the XF.

    The XF’s reliability has improved considerably since early on, but has leveled off around twice the average. The 2010 is faring no better than the 2009s at this point. Perhaps the 2011 will be better.

  • avatar

    Nice review!

    I test drove the XF last year and the 2011 XJ8L last week. The XF is an OK car, but I’ll take the new XJ, a serious competitor to the S-Class and 7 Series. The new Jag offers the features missing for many years — panorama roof, front and rear heated and cooled seats and a reasonable sized trunk. But why can’t they make rear windows that fully go down into the doors? No soft-close doors either.

    I’m not convinced about the XF styling, however. If you parked one on the street, duct-taped the badges and asked passers by what it was few would guess it’s a Jag (Hyundai, Infiniti,?).

    The XF and XJ will be nice $20,000 used cars in three years.


  • avatar

    “..the sexy rooflines hampered head room and visibility, trunk space was non-existent, and then there are those reliability woes”

    Cramped and tight is what the masses endure in sub-compact econoboxes.
    Such compromises do not belong on a classy or executive sedan.
    It may be part of the package on a small exotic sports car, but it just seems like a budget move on a car that should allow a man and his mate to grandly enter and exit a without stooping or contorting.
    A commanding view of the road should be mandatory.

  • avatar

    And here I thought Clarkson’s comparo of the XFR/M5 was just pro-blighty chest-pounding by that afro-Frankenstein clod…

    • 0 avatar
      Alex Dykes

      His reviews are usually stilted to say the least. If you want the absolute performance sedan, get the M5. If you want the ride that is 98% of the performance with 85%-90% of the budget, then surprisingly enough the XFR is a great choice. Who would have ever thought Jaguar of all marques would compete on value?

    • 0 avatar
      Cammy Corrigan

      “Who would have ever thought Jaguar of all marques would compete on value?”

      Are you being funny? Jaguars have been (at least for the last 6-8 years) very value orientated. Compare a base XF against a base 5-series and tell me which gets more for your money?

      The base Jaguar XF (the cheapest I could find) comes with Bluetooth connectivity, navigation system, Servotronic PAS and Electrically adjustable steering column. With the base BMW 5 series, they’re all paid-for extras.

      Do the same with a Base XJ against a BMW 7-series/Mercedes S-Class/Audi A8 and you’ll probably get the same result.

      I really don’t understand who does the pricing for German cars. They just openly rip you off by de-contenting the car and try con you that the price is made up for by their “driving dynamics”.

    • 0 avatar

      “Who would have ever thought Jaguar of all marques would compete on value?”

      Jaguar made their reputation on value. Mind you I’m talking about half a century ago, but everything from the XK-120 through the E-type represented tremendous values. Essentially the fastest production cars available in the world at their launch, and all cost a fraction of the Ferrari & Aston cars they outran.

  • avatar

    The best endorsement I can find of Jaguars increased reliability is the fact that a SBC conversion company that Jack Baruth spoke of in his XJ write up doesn’t have any kits for any Jag made after 1997 and state on their website they don’t have any plans to develop one. That to me says that Jags are up to the modern reliability standard, sadly (or happily for me) they still suffer depreciation as if they were the Jags of old.

    If I had the money I’d consider one new just cause they are so damn sexy.

    • 0 avatar
      Cammy Corrigan

      Don’t buy a Jaguar new. They depreciate far too quickly. That’s why I bought my X-Type used. Best £7000 I ever spent.

      Now a 3 year-old Jaguar……

    • 0 avatar

      Cammy –

      Interesting that for all of your dislike for Ford, your favorite used car purchase is a Ford (well, Lincoln really I suppose) in a catsuit.

    • 0 avatar
      The Guvna


      Actually, it was the S-Type that shared its underpinnings with a Lincoln. Cammy’s X-Type is actually a Ford Mondeo…

    • 0 avatar

      Guvna –

      Ah, I was thinking the X-type was RWD, but you are right, a quick google would have shown me it was FWD/AWD. I knew it had Ford roots, I was just off by the model.

    • 0 avatar

      Ford brought reliability to Jaguar. Its a shame they had to sell Jag off to TaTa motors cause the XF and XFR are great cars. In fact the XJ is probably the best luxury barge with the most offerings for the price.

      XJ –

      XF –

  • avatar

    “Over-boosted power steering”? In the good old days, there was a medical complaint dubbed “Jaguar Driver’s Syndrome” that stemmed from hauling on the unaided tiller, fighting the weight of that big iron six-cylinder block at low speeds. Also, these days you don’t have to pull the engine to get at the clutch, as in the original 3.4 Saloon (a transverse frame member prevented easy access; the MK II series made that beam removable with a few bolts).

  • avatar

    I like the looks of the XF a lot (which is more than I can say for the new XJ which IMO is a few steps backwards from the great looks of the previous model), and I’d say it is an improvement over the S-type styling-wise. I do wish more automakers would give the full wood trim to the performance models instead of making you take metal accents.

  • avatar

    Speaking of value, the XF Supercharged costs about $12K less than the XFR.

    I question if the XFR really bring that much more to the table over its non-R sibling.

    • 0 avatar
      Alex L. Dykes

      I drove the XF Supercharged and in comparison the XFR is notably faster, notably better handling, it sounds a great deal better, in 2011 will have a new grille to further set it apart from other XF models and the e-diff in the rear is programed much more favorably in comparison. Is that worth the $12K? I’m not sure, if you wan to compete with the M5, then yes, spend the extra $12K If you just want a fast Jaguar, then the XF Supercharged can be made to be almost as special.

  • avatar

    I think this report is a very balance opinion of the XF and consistent with a number of other auto mags in proclaiming the XFR better than it’s main Germanic rivals. I agree with the points made on the styling. I’m looking forward to see how Jag evolve the car, I think it has great potential as a design.

    Interesting to note that Jag has admitted that a tourer and possibly a coupe and convertible are on the horizon. Once you bear in mind that Jag are planning a new baby sportscar and a model (with variants) to fit below the XF then you realise just how exciting Jag is becoming again.

    In the UK the new XJ is also topping the sales charts and has a massive sales lead of the Mercedes S Class and BMW 7 Series.

    TATA is planning to pump 1 billion pounds into JLR every year for the next 5 year to grow the model ranges and develop ‘green tech’. In a few years time BMW, Audi and Merc will be coming under a serious and sustained attack from Jaguar, Land Rover and Range Rover. As a car enthusiast, I’m really excited.

  • avatar

    I don’t think XF/XFR styling is a standout but I do like it. I think it’s the subtlety that I find attractive. I prefer the XF over the E class or 5 series styling and IMO it’s much more distinctive because their are far fewer XF’s on the road (new 5 series notwithstanding). In fact I just saw only the second one on the road since its introduction with a Jaguar dealer one mile from my house. Reading the XF sales numbers explains why I never see them. Nice informative review, my compliments to the author.

  • avatar

    Whenever I see one of these rolling down the street (or it’s sibling, the XF), I cannot help but stop and take it all in. Its a beautiful car from almost every angle. The fact that its a 500 + horsepowere juggernaut with the soul of a dove just adds to its mystique. I can still see some of Ford’s influence on the styling, but in a good way.

  • avatar

    “Your average 500+ horsepower luxury car . . .”

    the fact that we have an “average” 500+ hp luxury car is a testiment to the incredible consumerism rampant today. still, i’ll take one.

  • avatar

    I read TATA is making mulla with JLR, wonder how they could turn around the fortune in such a short time?

  • avatar

    The older Jags as I see it are instant classics.  The old Jag XJ was a beauty.  Even the S-type had old time charm.  The new designs I don’t see at all as Jags and nothing too special.  Actually, save your money and get the Hyundai Coupe, a well balanced beauty on wheels.  The car seems solid and as good if not better looking than the new Jag.

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