2013 Jaguar XFR-S Quick Drive

The 2013 Jaguar XFR-S is on the hunt for BMW M5s.

BLUE!

It was our first thought upon laying eyes on the 2013 Jaguar XFR-S that appeared at our doorstep a few weeks back. I could be poetic, saying it was as if a chunk of the sky had broken off and landed its 550-horespower chassis at our feet--something like that. But, no, despite its French Racing Blue paint job and on-paper specs, ultimately the Jaguar XFR-S doesn't quite inspire my muse.

It's undeniably fast, no doubt. The engine roars, the Dynamic Mode gives the suspension extra bite, and the looks, well, if you like your sophisticated European performance luxury sedans with an added dose of Fast and the Furious, you'll love it. But look behind the makeup, and you'll find an aging beauty, one that's struggling to keep up with younger competition. We can see true Jaguar aficionados clamoring for the XFR-S, and since only 100 of these special models will be imported to the U.S., there's no doubt that they'll all find homes. Yet strip the extras away from the XFR-S down to the basic car and you're left with the same proposition: it's pretty, but it's old, and an update can't come soon enough.

Model and Price

The basic 2013 Jaguar XFR-S will cost you $99,895, including the destination charge. That gets you the 550-horsepower, supercharged 5.0-liter V-8 engine and eight-speed automatic transmission, the customizable suspension, leather everywhere, push-button start and keyless ignition, and so on. Our test model threw in a handful of options. There was a $375 heated windshield, undoubtedly helpful if you live in a cold climate. Our car also had a $2,000 carbon fiber engine cover that you'll probably never see--seems pointless--and then there's the $3,500 wing on the trunk. If you want to look like an 18-year-old who just got access to his trust fund, hate knowing what's behind you, or just want to ruin the looks of an otherwise sexy sedan, then go for it. We'd skip it.

A Few Photos of this Vehicle

Click thumbnails for detailed view

Safety and Key Features

Nobody has crash tested the Jaguar XF, so we can't report on how well it survives. But like most modern cars, there are airbags in front, to the side, and in the roof rail as a curtain. It also has stability control, front seatbelt pretensioners, and two LATCH points in case you want to make your kids carsick. That'll be easy thanks to the XFR-S's key feature: its engine. With 550 horsepower on tap, there's no doubt that this big sedan can move. Jaguar says it goes from a standstill to 60 mph in 4.4 seconds--we think it's probably quicker--and an electronic governor cuts off top seed at 186 mph. The dynamic mode offers up a street and high-performance program that turns the gauges red, and stiffens the shocks. Jaguar even says that the big dopey wing reduces lift by 68 percent, although we're still not sure it's worth it.

Family Friendliness and Utility

Since the 2013 Jaguar XFR-S is essentially a hopped-up version of the standard Jaguar XF sedan, it's pretty usable day-to-day. The rear seat's big enough for average-size adults on short trips, and kids have no problem climbing in and settling down. The trunk is plenty big enough for a weekly grocery run; we fit 13 bags no problem, and it wouldn’t be hard to squeeze in a couple more.

The downside, of course, is that this car has a beautifully trimmed interior. Booster seats fit fine, but they also put potentially sticky fingers even closer to the suede-like Alcantara headliner. Sure, leather cleans up fine, but do you really want a juice box spilled on the rear seats? And let's be honest: At 12.2 mpg, this isn't exactly an efficient kid hauler. Maybe the "X" in this car's name should mean the same as it does for movies: adults-only.

Comfort and Quality

This is one of the areas where the age of the underlying Jaguar XF comes into play. See, the original XF was developed when Ford still had a controlling stake in Jaguar, and was in fact built off the same underpinnings as the Lincoln LS from the early 2000s. So despite the leather wrapped dash, French stitching, and other fancy touches, you're still left with a decade-old infotainment interface, the occasional Ford switch, and some creaky-sounding plastics on the dash. There was also a weird delay that was part of virtually every control. You don't tap the ignition button to start the engine; you press and hold it. When it's dark out, there's a slight hesitation between activating the high-beams and the lights actually coming on. It's like using a computer that's not quite powerful enough for the software you're running; a subtle hesitation before executing every command that was noticeable enough for everyone who drove the car.

Those flaws stand out further because the rest of the interior is superb. That leather on the dash is beautifully crafted, with a bright blue bead flanked by blue stitching that mimics the exterior's color. The aluminum trim is rich and upscale, and we still love the way the vents hide themselves when the car is shut off, giving the dash a seamless appearance. The seats are excellent, and despite the commoner origins of the switchgear, it all works well. We liked the piano black trim--a no-cost option--although like all shiny black things it smudges almost as soon as you look at it.

A Few Photos of this Vehicle

Click thumbnails for detailed view

How it Drives

Despite its outward appearance, the acceleration of the 2013 Jaguar XFR-S still surprises. It's fast enough in day-to-day driving--it even has an eco mode that shuts off the engine at stops--but pressing the Dynamic Mode, the car's senses are heighted: the suspension firms up; the engine's response quickens; it even drops down a gear as the lights on the gauges turn red from their usual blue. Mash the throttle and you're at speed right now, with a roar from the engine and kick in the backside. Tap the steering-wheel mounted paddles to change gears for yourself, and the transmission responds quickly, and without hesitation. The steering is a little too light, but it's quick and direct. The suspension, even in Dynamic Mode, remains compliant and even comfortable, although the wide and supportive seats get at least part of the credit there.

In its regular putting-around-town mode, the XFR-S starts to come up short. Don't get us wrong, it's still quiet and comfortable, and there's plenty of power for whatever you might want to do. But just cruising around lets you concentrate more on the car's substandard switch gear, and old-school looking infotainment interface. It's a complaint that extends to every Jaguar we've driven that isn't an F-Type: so much to like, but not quite at the same level of execution as competitors from Germany and Japan.

Summary

The 2013 Jaguar XFR-S is very good at a lot of things. It's fast, it looks outrageous, and its interior boasts some excellent craftsmanship, if you're willing to overlook the parts that don't. So is it worth that six-digit price tag?

No. The truth is that there are better cars for the same money. The 2014 Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG starts at a lower price, offers at least as much performance, has a much better interior, and even comes with all-wheel drive. Same goes for the BMW M5, minus the all-wheel drive. Plus, they aren't limited to 100 vehicles for the U.S., so there's no fear that the car you want is already sold out. Besides, those cars come with features, such as active cruise control, that aren't even available on the XFR-S.

The good news is that there's a new XF coming down the pipeline, and if our recent experience with the F-Type is any indication of the way a Ford-free Jaguar builds its cars, it'll be worth waiting for. Unless you're a die-hard fan of the Leaper and Growler, we'd say wait.

Spec Box

Price-as-tested: $105,770
Fuel Economy
EPA City: 15
EPA Highway: 23
EPA Combined: 18
Cargo Space: 13 grocery bags
Child Seat Fitment, Second Row: Fair
Estimated Combined Range: 331 miles

Notebook Quotes

"One small thing to nitpick, I'd prefer if the there was a physical, easy to access button for the heated seats, so I don't have to switch out of the Media screen, and toggle through the settings on the touchscreen while driving." -Matthew Askari, Associate Editor
"I'd sooner have an E63 AMG or M5. Those cars feel more modern and more solid. While this Jag is a big ol' muscle car, I want something that feels a little more refined and a little more crazy. Somehow the F-Type is very much in that mold. Hopefully, the next XF will be, too." -Jacob Brown, Online Editor

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