FERAL CAT: JAGUAR XJR575

IT’S JAG’S MOST POW­ER­FUL LIMO EVER, BUT THE XJR575 MARKS A TURN­ING POINT IN THE XJ’S 50-YEAR HIS­TORY

Motor (Australia) - - POWER. PERFORMANCE. PASSION. | CONTENTS - BY SCOTT NEW­MAN + PICS ALAS­TAIR BROOK

As the XJ closes the book on in­ter­nal com­bus­tion we cel­e­brate in the men­tal V8 R, smokey style

JAG’S CHIEF EN­GI­NEER IS VERY FA­MIL­IAR WITH OP­PO­SITE LOCK – THE XJR IS THE CON­SUM­MATE DRIFTER

SHE’S THE LAST OF the V8s... it’s the duck’s guts... 600 horse­power through the wheels.”

Forty years ago, the roads west of Mel­bourne rum­bled to the sound of a Cleve­land 351ci V8 as Ge­orge Miller com­pleted film­ing Mad Max. Its plot ex­am­ined is­sues of vi­o­lence, grief and re­venge, but it’s best re­mem­bered as a cel­e­bra­tion of horse­power, pri­mar­ily thanks to the scream­ing, su­per­charged, nitro-fu­elled Pur­suit Spe­cial driven by Mel Gib­son in his role as Max Rock­atan­sky.

Mel­bourne’s ur­ban sprawl is ex­pand­ing rapidly, but the roads and scenery be­tween Lit­tle River in the south, Bac­chus Marsh in the north and Mered­ith in the west have changed lit­tle since 1978. Ruler-straight B-roads dis­ap­pear into a heat-hazed hori­zon, in­ter­sect­ing the vast, straw-coloured fields that gave

Mad Max its semi-apoc­a­lyp­tic vibe.

It might seem an odd place to test the Jaguar XJR575, but Coven­try’s lat­est su­per­charged V8 limo is al­most cer­tainly its last. Jaguar head of de­sign, Ian Cal­lum, is on record as stat­ing the new XJ, ex­pected to ap­pear in early 2019, will be big­ger, roomier, filled with cut­ting-edge tech and look rad­i­cally dif­fer­ent to the tra­di­tional li­mou­sine. It’s also ex­pected to be pow­ered purely by elec­tric­ity, us­ing tech­nol­ogy trans­fer from the i-Pace cross­over. The XJR575, then, is the last of the V8s.

The XJ’s flag­ship sta­tus makes it the sen­si­ble choice to, i-Pace aside, lead Jaguar’s elec­tri­cally pow­ered charge. Af­ter all, the X350 XJ (2003-2009) was Jaguar’s first all-alu­minium car and the cur­rent X351 a stylis­tic game changer, tak­ing the ‘new Jaguar’ look de­buted by the XF and de­vel­op­ing it with a large, square grille and ver­ti­cal tail-lights, in­tended to mimic a cat’s claws. In de­sign terms, it was like re­plac­ing the Queen Mary with the Star­ship En­ter­prise.

As you’d ex­pect, the bold looks po­larised at the time, but the ben­e­fit is a de­sign that still looks fresh to­day, es­pe­cially in the vi­brant 575-ex­clu­sive Ve­loc­ity Blue of our test car. If you’re colour-blind, you can spot an XJR575 via the re­vised rear spoiler, side sills, bumper, split­ter and lower air in­takes, which also fea­ture gloss black sur­rounds. Twenty-inch wheels of the same hue shel­ter vivid red brake calipers, or you could just look at the badge. The un­usual shapes and squinty head­lights won’t be to ev­ery­one’s taste, but it is dis­tinc­tive and its size – 5.1m long and 1.95m wide – lends it plenty of pres­ence.

In­side, there are more badges on the sills, dash and di­a­mondquilted sports seats. The in­te­rior of an XJR575 is a quirky place, but I love it. Some de­tails frus­trate: the touch­screen isn’t the world’s slick­est, fig­ur­ing out the dig­i­tal dash’s sub-menus takes prac­tice, the ro­tary gear se­lec­tor is great un­til the first three­p­oint turn and why is the steer­ing wheel rim split into two sec­tions? Nonethe­less, the ma­te­ri­als are lovely, glossy car­bon

IT WANTS TO IN­VOLVE RATHER THAN ISO­LATE; IT'S UN­APOLO­GET­I­CALLY A DRIVER’S CAR

weave, acres of leather and the fluffi­est Al­can­tara known to man, the roof and pil­lars cov­ered in what feels like shag­pile bath tow­els. Best of all, though, is the enor­mous cres­cent that en­cir­cles the dash and joins the tops of the doors like the rim of a gi­ant leather-trimmed bath­tub.

Ac­cord­ing to Jaguar, one of the big­gest bug­bears of cur­rent XJ own­ers is the lack of in­te­rior space, par­tic­u­larly those in the far-east who pre­fer to be driven than drive. To be hon­est, the XJR575 isn’t the ideal chauf­feur ve­hi­cle. The ride is com­fort­able enough on smooth roads, but busy on bro­ken tar­mac to the point that se­lect­ing Dy­namic for stiffer dampers al­most feels to im­prove mat­ters – it’s firmer, but some­how more co­he­sive. Such is the con­tra­dic­tion of the sport­ing li­mou­sine: the XJ, par­tic­u­larly in R guise, wants to in­volve rather than iso­late in the man­ner of the equiv­a­lently priced Mercedes-Benz S560.

Thank­fully, it’s not all straight roads out here. To­wards the town of Mered­ith a se­ries of sweep­ers curve steeply down­hill, each a lit­tle tighter than the pre­vi­ous. A Ford Fo­cus RS would eat it up, but it’s a stern test of some­thing weigh­ing two tonnes. The Jag’s steer­ing is ac­cu­rate, re­spon­sive and well-geared, but a lit­tle mute in its feed­back, mak­ing cau­tion the bet­ter part of val­our for ini­tial dy­namic ex­plo­rations. Quickly it be­comes clear the XJR575 has much deeper re­serves than ini­tially ap­par­ent. In fact, it comes alive as the tyres start to squirm, edg­ing onto its tip­toes rather than sink­ing into an un­der­steer­ing sulk.

Grip lev­els are very strong. The XJR575 wears plenty of rub­ber, Pirelli P Ze­ros mea­sur­ing 265/35 at the front and 295/30 at the rear, though it leans on them very hard, the pil­low-soft tyres show­ing early signs of wear af­ter even our lim­ited stints of hard driv­ing. Nonethe­less, there is tremen­dous bal­ance; at the limit of grip it feels poised and gives the driver op­tions. Gen­tle un­der­steer can be quelled with a lift of the ac­cel­er­a­tor, while a neu­tral stance can eas­ily be­come one of slight over­steer with more throt­tle, an­tics the TracDSC mode is happy to al­low, sit­ting with its feet up un­til ac­tu­ally re­quired.

With the elec­tron­ics de­ac­ti­vated the XJR575 is the con­sum­mate drift car. Jaguar Land Rover’s chief en­gi­neer, Mike Cross, is an ex­tremely ac­com­plished over­steerer and his fa­mil­iar­ity with op­po­site lock is ev­i­dent in the pro­gres­sive way the big Jag loses trac­tion. Ul­ti­mately, the XJR can’t es­cape its weight. The brakes work hard, though it stops from 100km/h in a very re­spectable 34.79m, and even in Dy­namic the sus­pen­sion is quite soft, so in­puts need to be tele­graphed early as there’s the slight­est de­lay be­fore a re­sponse oc­curs. There’s also the oc­ca­sional au­di­ble clunk from the front end, which isn’t ideal in a $300,000 car.

A much more fre­quent noise is the bur­ble from the V8 un­der

SPORT­ING LIM­OU­SINES ARE BY DEF­I­NI­TION A CON­TRA­DIC­TION, BUT THIS JAG IS EASY TO FALL FOR

the bon­net. Un­like Max’s In­ter­cep­tor, the XJR doesn’t man­age 600bhp, but 567bhp isn’t far short and it doesn’t need nitro to do it, just 5000cc and a su­per­charger. In Aussie-speak, that’s 423kW backed by a fat 700Nm in the mid-range. There isn’t the shove from just above idle typ­i­cal of the lat­est tur­bocharged Ger­mans, but Jag’s blown bent-eight coun­ters with a seam­less surge of grunt that builds from a torrent to a flood as the nee­dle sweeps across the dial.

As ever with a su­per­charged en­gine, the lin­ear na­ture of the power de­liv­ery some­what dis­guises the XJR’s po­tency. It’s a very, very fast car, as the 12.45sec quar­ter mile at 191.79km/h il­lus­trates. It’s fairly easy to launch, too, record­ing 4.46sec to 100km/h, within frac­tions of the 4.4sec claim, and it mon­sters the mid-range over­tak­ing test, blitz­ing from 80-120km/h in 2.34sec. The smoother power de­liv­ery also makes for an eas­ier, more re­ward­ing driv­ing ex­pe­ri­ence than that of­fered by harder­hit­ting, but more un­pre­dictable turbo’d ri­vals. Equally, the eight-speed auto is the per­fect part­ner, smooth and un­ob­tru­sive in daily use yet quick enough in its man­ual changes for any sup­posed speed dif­fer­ence com­pared to a dual-clutch to feel a bit ir­rel­e­vant.

The big­gest dis­ap­point­ment with this oth­er­wise gem of an en­gine is its noise out­put never reaches the same in­ten­sity as its ac­cel­er­a­tion. The iden­ti­cally pow­ered Range Rover Sport SVR bel­lows and snarls and crack­les, yet the Jaguar is al­to­gether more po­lite. It’s a sound­track that feels en­tirely ap­pro­pri­ate for the more mild-man­nered XJ Au­to­bi­og­ra­phy, but the ul­ti­mate XJR surely de­serves more at­ti­tude? Those who don’t ap­pre­ci­ate the racket could al­ways turn the ex­haust but­ton off.

Sport­ing lim­ou­sines are by def­i­ni­tion a con­tra­dic­tion. Most sac­ri­fice out­right abil­ity for greater com­fort and re­fine­ment; the Audi S8, BMW M760Li and even the Mercedes-AMG S63L feel built more for the au­to­bahn than the Alps. Jaguar takes a dif­fer­ent tack; the XJR is un­apolo­get­i­cally a driver’s car. As such, it’s ob­jec­tively flawed: the oc­ca­sion­ally terse ride is an ev­ery­day an­noy­ance and it’s al­most hi­lar­i­ously short of trac­tion in the wet. Yet it’s also an ex­tremely easy car to fall for – a Panam­era Turbo is bet­ter in vir­tu­ally ev­ery area bar price, yet per­son­ally I’d rather have the Jag. It’s liv­ing on bor­rowed time – in fact, in Europe the XJR575 is al­ready dead thanks to the in­tro­duc­tion of the new WLTP emis­sion reg­u­la­tions. It’s a shame Jaguar is un­likely to make cars like this any­more; it’s very good at it. Ian Cal­lum prom­ises the elec­tric XJ will still be a driver’s car, but it won’t be like this one. This one’s the last of the V8s, it’s the duck’s guts. LEFT In­te­rior uses ma­te­ri­als beau­ti­fully and there’s al­ways some­thing new and in­ter­est­ing to look at

ABOVE XJR575 is bru­tally ef­fec­tive on your typ­i­cal Aussie coun­try road, with mas­sive grunt, lots of grip and true bal­ance

FAR RIGHT Brakes are ef­fec­tive but work hard in rein­ing in the Jag's 1875kg with the pedal some­times feel­ing a bit hard

RIGHT The ul­ti­mate XJ is the prod­uct of JLR’s Spe­cial Ve­hi­cle Op­er­a­tions unit

ABOVE The need to cut emis­sions looms large over the XJR, with the su­per­charged V8 al­ready dis­con­tin­ued in Europe

FAR RIGHT With­out fail, ev­ery pas­sen­ger at­tempted to make the clock sit flush with the dash, but it stead­fastly re­fused to move

RIGHT Sports seats pro­vide an ex­cel­lent blend of com­fort and sup­port with a hint of Bent­ley in the quilt­ing

TOP ECU tweaks lib­er­ate an ex­tra 18kW/20Nm com­pared to pre­vi­ous XJR; could use more V8 noise

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