Meet the F-Type R Coupe with a 1,675-litre boot: the world’s most practical performance coupe?
Jaguar XFR-S Sportbrake: summary
Car enthusiasts who would love a new F-Type R Coupe but have a family and a commute to boot, read on: Jaguar may just have answered your dilemma with a 550hp, 186mph V8 estate…What: Jaguar XFR-S Sportbrake (2014 onwards)Where: Nürburgring, GermanyDate: May 2014Price: £82,495Available: on sale nowKey rivals: Audi RS6, Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG Estate, BMW M5, Porsche Panamera
We like: excellent handling, sheer potency, exciting to drive, heart-on-sleeve styling (and sounds), genuinely practical bootWe don’t like: not practical enough for passengers, dated control systems, thirst, doesn’t have an RS6’s all round flexibility
On Bing: see pictures of the Jaguar XFR-S SportbrakeFind out how much a used Jaguar XF Sportbrake costs on Auto Trader
Jaguar XFR-S Sportbrake: first impressions
It is a sign of the growing confidence at Jaguar that it now feels able to challenge iconic rivals head on. Perhaps the F-Type Coupe’s surprise success against the Porsche 911 has buoyed it: because its latest new model is taking a swipe at one of the coolest suburban supercars of all – the Audi RS6 Avant.
There’s no waiting for an explosion here, just an immediate waterfall of intense acceleration
For years, this has been the choice wagon for the rich and enthusiastic who love driving but also have people and stuff to lug. The sort of car that offers mighty performance but which you can also easily use day-to-day without too much pain.
With the latest M5, BMW threw the towel in early and decided not to offer an alternative to the much-loved Audi. Mercedes-Benz does, with the E-Class, but that doesn’t quite hit the spot. To Jaguar then, and the bold, brash XFR-S Sportbrake – a load-lugging version of its hilarious tyre-smoking 550hp 5.0-litre V8 XFR-S.
You can’t miss it. This is a performance car with a capital ‘P’ and an enormous jagged-edge carbonfibre rear diffuser to match the deep front air dam. There are four snarling exhausts, huge wheels (and brakes to match behind them); even the green and red R-S badges are unmissable.
It has the same 186mph top speed as the saloon (and even that is electronically limited). It also has a vast 1,675 litres of load space, more than a Volvo V70. Unlike the all-weather, all-wheel-drive Audi, though, Jaguar channels all that power through just two rear wheels. Does this spoil the RS6’s ‘drive and forget (until you want it)’ potency, or just enhance the F-Type Estate feel? We found out.
Jaguar XFR-S Sportbrake: performance
Performance is superb. It feels immediately so, too, thanks to the supercharger’s linear delivery. There’s no waiting for an explosion here, just an immediate waterfall of intense acceleration. 0-62mph takes 4.6 seconds, but it feels quicker even than this in everyday driving, simply because it’s so easy to access the power.
Steering is sensitive to the tiniest inputs and wrists are enough to guide it neatly through corners
The exceptional close-ratio Quickshift eight-speed gearbox delivers seamless shifts and, on downshifts, wonderful rev-matched exhaust crackles. Indeed, the noise will often be centre stage – the exhausts are loud, rude, brash and wonderful. Maximum fuel-spitting effect comes in dynamic mode; in normal driving, they’re (just) on the right side of social acceptability.
Yes, it often leans on the traction control: you’ll get used to the orange light flashing. Jaguar’s aggressive throttle mapping doesn’t help you modulate it at first either. But because it has the same electronic limited-slip differential as the F-Type R Coupe, it remains manageable. This feeling should enhance the sports-focused driving excitement rather than make it a liability. Just don’t turn off the electronic aids now…
Jaguar XFR-S Sportbrake: ride and handling
Jaguar’s claim that the XR-S Sportbrake uses suspension components and steering bits influenced by the F-Type Coupe isn’t just for headline effect. They introduce some of that car’s lightweight delicacy, precise turn-in and size-defying agility too. It handles very elegantly indeed.
In contrast to the RS6’s stern solidity, the R-S Sportbrake is much more fluid. Steering is sensitive to the tiniest inputs and wrists are enough to guide it neatly through corners (you rarely get the sense it weighs nearly two tonnes). It perhaps needs more thought in the drive, but it rewards thoughtful driving.
Of course, it’s easy to steer it with the accelerator as well as the steering wheel, but such is the amount of feel present, doing this on twisting roads almost becomes natural and certainly isn’t daunting. The front end has bags of grip too, so you can lean on it with confidence.
Suspension is firm – again, stiffer in dynamic mode – but while the big 20-inch wheels will pick out road roughness, particularly at slow speed, the ride itself isn’t too unruly and the fluency of absorption inherent in the chassis means it will breathe on an undulating road whereas an RS6 would jolt and jiggle.
Jaguar XFR-S Sportbrake: interior
This is where the R-S Sportbrake’s all-round credentials start to fumble. Driver fundamentals are good – bolstered seats, great steering wheel – but the dash isn’t special enough, despite a nice beaded leather cover and snazzy carbonfibre trim. A punchy new Meridian stereo can’t save the dated, fiddly infotainment system either.
You don’t expect a supercharged 5.0-litre V8 that produces 550hp to be particularly green, do you?
In the gloomy rear, space is tight. The family won’t appreciate swapping from a vast, roomy RS6 into this. Legroom is much too tight for an executive car and even getting in and out isn’t as easy as it could be. Don’t try to get three in there either, due to the huge transmission tunnel.
The saving grace is the boot, which is brilliantly designed, richly trimmed and extremely practical. Seats up, it has 550 litres of space. Pull a one-action handle and they fold automatically, realising 1,675 litres of flat load-through space.
Jaguar XFR-S Sportbrake: fuel economy, CO2, running costs
You don’t expect a supercharged 5.0-litre V8 that produces 550hp to be particularly green, do you? Good: the 22.2mpg combined average won’t be too much of a surprise then. The CO2 stat complements it, with 297g/km.
This will be an expensive car to run, then (bespoke 20-inch Pirellis, of which you’ll surely need quite a few at the rear, don’t come cheap). But that’s perhaps less of a consequence here than it could be, simply because of the type of car it is: a niche, specialist, high-performance estate whose value comes in its sheer flexibility. And it’s still cheaper than an F-Type R Coupe…
Jaguar XFR-S Sportbrake: price, equipment, spec
The XFR-S Sportbrake really does feel like a big-booted sister car to the vibrant F-Type
The Jaguar XFR-S Sportbrake costs a weighty £82,495, although as this is for a car that’s been extensively re-engineered even over a regular XF Sportbrake – even down to swapping the rear air suspension for a new coil setup – the value in bespoke engineering may justify it to enthusiasts.
Equipment is suitably top-line (you don’t just get leather, but get that carbonfibre-effect leather…) and there’s yet more bespoke personalisation on top. Pity the price doesn’t include a five-star EuroNCAP safety score though: despite being retested a while back, the XF remains a slightly disappointing four-star exec car.
Jaguar XFR-S Sportbrake: verdict
The Jaguar XFR-S Sportbrake feels like an early generation Audi RS: an unlikely combination of eyeball-popping power and cabinet-swallowing space, but without quite the all-round ease of use that today’s RS6 has. However, unlike early RS (and, to an extent, the current one), the Jaguar handles beautifully and at times really does feel like a big-booted sister car to the vibrant F-Type.
Audi probably still has the market for super-estates sewn up: the Jag is too brash and too flawed inside to match its urbane appeal. But, if you want to hark back to what RS used to be like, before they got all polished and precise, here’s your car – one that’s most definitely a driver-pleaser.
On Bing: see pictures of the Jaguar XFR-S SportbrakeFind out how much a used Jaguar XF Sportbrake costs on Auto TraderRead another Jaguar new car review