Hands-on: Jaguar XFR-S first drive

Fancy starting 2014 with a bang? Then you could do worse than get yoursel a seat in a Jaguar XF-RS, one of the most insane models the company has created.

When we say "bang", we mean metaphorically of course, although the first time you gun the starter button, the eruption as the snarling V8 wakes up is reminiscent of distant gunfire.

This is a hedonist, crackpot of a car. It's the fruit of Jaguar’s new special vehicle operation, which is overseeing a new era of race-bred products. If you want lazy shorthand, we'll say that the Jag R and RS models are competing with BMW's M and Audi's S and RS lines.

Except that's really the role of just the R models. The RS models are a bit like Audi's RS models, except with about 10 per cent more power and 20 per cent less sanity applied.

In bald figures, this means 550 horsepower and 680nM of torque from a supercharged V8 strapped into the front of the regular XF's shell. To tie it all down (or attempt to), Jag has fitted 20-inch alloys, wheel arch and sill extensions, a whopping great new front bumper with integrated spoiler partly picked out in gloss black and a rear spoiler that looks like it has been borrowed from the back of something you’ll find parked at an RAF base.

None of which prepares you for the violence with which the thing will hurl you down the road when you properly step on the loud pedal. You’d better make sure the road is straight and not wet when you do it, too (or make sure you've the stability control switched on and are ready if it’s not), because the Jag's one of those cars that can spin its wheels in at least the first four of eight gears, if you turn all the systems off and it's wet.

Which isn't to say it's dangerous or bad. Quite the contrary, it feels almost American in its brutishness, but with a sprinkling of British manners thrown in. And the V8 holler is overlaid by a crazy, buzz-saw supercharger whine. Which is great in isolation, but we suspect might get annoying over time.

Still, you can burble around on practically no throttle and make good progress all day long and then just bury the throttle when you want to pass one, two, three… oh, let's just make it the entire line of cars.

In French racing blue and with that great picnic table spoiler out back, it's not exactly subtle. And the spoiler is positioned just perfectly to intersect your rear view mirror view and hide that police car tailing you. Still, it kind of suits the car's altogether hedonist demeanour.

Inside, it's the usual XF story (leather, comfy, rubbish touchscreen), but with a few extra bits of carbon-like trim and blue-piping and stitching on the seats. And while the XFR-S is happy to play dragster on the straights and bucking bronco on the twisties, we're fairly certain it would trundle down to Sainsbury's or the South of France with little to annoy you other than its impressive ability to drain a fuel tank.

READ: Jaguar XF 2.2D Premium Luxury review

Of course we'll sound like we're getting old, but its speed is frankly out of this world for UK roads. Things do quite literally start getting in your way. Like corners. The diesel is a far better real world proposition, but who wants to live in the real world?

It might get you in trouble quicker than a stag weekend in Vegas, but just like sin city, we're really rather happy it exists.



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