Sure, you can buy a German über-saloon that just about drives itself, with night vision, laser lights, self-parking and gesture control, maybe a twin-turbocharged 12-cylinder. But I took the new Audi A8 for a spin around Valencia and nobody paid me any attention. Who drops half-a-mil on anonymity? Around Zurich earlier this year the Swiss didn’t care for the S-Class either.
But in Porto, for the launch of the 2018 Jaguar XJR 575, I had the windows down, sprawled, basking in admiration. Every moped rider and white van man was eyeing the Jag, with a thumbs up or a respectful nod. Mm, yes, that’s more like it — notice me…
So the Jaguar looks good. In a class full of German Corporate Silber, in fact the Jaguar looks suspiciously good. As in, distractingly, because come on, they couldn’t keep up that form underneath, right? Right.
This generation of Jaguar’s flagship has been with us since 2009 when it was originally launched, and this will be the third comprehensive update for the car going into the 2018 model year. With that XJR 575 badge you get a clue as to the power under the bonnet of the range flagship and the fastest XJ ever. And if you’re a seafaring man you’ll be used to the dynamic sensations. Yeah, it’s a big ol’ thing, this.
That squat, dive, and body roll you get on the move… They really characterise the XJR 575 as this rambunctious (that’s the only word that would do, sorry) car that’s so loud and boorish, but it actually sticks out in the segment as a driver’s car while rival manufacturers keep going on about their Level 2 and Level 3 autonomous features.
In this car you don’t get a rear-wheel steering system to virtually shorten the wheelbase for tight manoeuvring, nor a 48-volt electrical system to power an adaptive suspension system. Jaguar’s 2018 update doesn’t include much night vision or self parking either. It’s just a car, with plenty of aluminium and steel, and a coal-burning 5.0-litre supercharged V8 that produces 575 continental pferdestärke, which is 567 of our regular horsepower. An eight-speed ZF transmission puts it all to the rear wheels, big ones, 20in across, with Pirelli tyres.
Frankly, the rubber is a bit underwhelming, or it could be the tendency for a 567bhp V8 with all the refined delivery of a jackhammer to overwhelm a pair of measly P Zeros off every line. This simple recipe — big engine, big noise, rear-drive, transmission mapping that allows for rev limit hits — is something that’s been missing in the top tier of the saloon segment for a while now, as rival flagships embrace hybrid drivetrains and all-wheel drive.
Down very twisty roads outside of Porto, Portugal, where Jaguar launched the car to the motoring press, the red brake callipers look very nice behind the new Farallon gloss-black wheels, but they command your pace because this is a lot of car to slow. Everything is done a bit more attentively in the XJR 575, and it’s at times almost like driving in the damp because you anticipate your inputs to allow the Jag’s soft chassis to respond.
When it does the car is great to drive, and if you have patience with it (it really is undertyred) the big Jag is even fun, with consistent steering and a pointy response. The V8 engine is never in doubt either, although you don’t get any of that seamless shove in the back like you do from rival twin-turbocharged V8s. The supercharged V8 here isn’t quite that smooth, but it’ll leap in its mounts on the smallest of pedal pressure, and it spits and snarls to put a muscle car in its place.
Over bumpy surfaces the Jag is more on the comfortable side, without the settled composure you get in a BMW 7 Series (that I happened to drive on the same roads) or AMG S 63, let alone a Porsche Panamera, and with way softer suspension than something like its smaller Jaguar XF sibling. Rather than an annoyance, I found the car to be fun to throw around when you can judge its weight balance easier seeing as it’s constantly sloshing about. It’s not this completely isolating experience we’ve all come to expect from ultra-luxury saloons.
Inside the somewhat cramped cabin the offset is an illusion of the car feeling smaller than it is, and decent outward visibility lets you place the front wheels nicely. A special limited-slip differential in the XJR 575 goes a long way to give the car natural feel behind the wheel, with a chassis that responds even if it somehow can’t do exactly what you tell it to. This is still an automobile that’s a fair bit longer than a Panamera, even in the Jag’s standard-wheelbase Dh491,800 guise on test here. You can get a bigger still, pudgier, long-wheelbase XJR 575 from Dh509,200.
I found the car to be fun to throw around when you can judge its weight balance easier seeing as it’s constantly sloshing about.
Another benefit, besides just an involving drive, of its outdated technology is that the Jag isn’t burdened with all the weight that inevitably comes with all-wheel drive and three-chamber air suspension and the many other gizmos in rivals’ cars. The next best is probably the Panamera, again, weighing in at two-tonnes in fairly comparable Turbo guise with 550bhp (and quite a starting price, from Dh691,500…). The others, like the Merc and the BMW are 2.2-tonne monsters. So with a quoted kerb figure of less than 1.9-tonnes Jaguar’s got itself a bit of a superleggera in the XJR 575 — you could look at it as a lightweight, or just a poorly equipped luxury car.
In fairness Jaguar’s added more safety assist technologies for 2018, as well as a new 10in touchscreen that’s nowhere near as snazzy as the mass digitalisation going on in German cockpits. Call it charming, if you’re trying to justify the Jag down at the clubhouse. Otherwise, looking around, the 26-speaker sound system is incredible when you tire of the V8 — I think, to use the Jag’s period vernacular, it’s totally rad. Seriously, this thing is outdated inside…
It’ll come down to an emotional decision with the Jag, but in something like the tester’s Velocity Blue with all the contrasting black details and more XJR 575 badges than I could count, it definitely gets attention. That’s already more than half the job done when it comes to irrational car choices. And that’s what the Jag is, a bit irrational, a bit of a silly indulgence. Go on, smoke ‘em.