If you fancy yourself a law-abiding citizen, under no circumstances should you grab the key to a 2014 Jaguar XJR. That’s a lesson we learned after our first passing maneuver in Jaguar’s 550-horsepower flagship 4-door. Stuck at 45 miles per hour in a 55 mph zone, we signaled politely to the dawdler in front of us and squeezed the gas — and by the time we pulled back in, the speedometer was pushing triple digits.
"But Officer, isn’t it safer to pass as quickly as possible?"
Fortunately, we didn’t have to make that rather dubious plea. Jaguar chose the lightly traveled roads of central Washington state for the new XJR’s media introduction, and local law enforcement was nowhere to be seen. But the temptation to dip into that massive power doesn’t go away, and we found it virtually impossible to resist. Make sure your driving record can handle another ticket or three before you sign up for this lovable lunatic of an ultra-luxury sedan.
Where the Magic Happens
Even for a 5-liter V8 engine, 550 hp is a lot, so the XJR employs a supercharger to make ends meet. It’s a rather anachronistic touch, as superchargers tend to take a toll on fuel economy, though the XJR’s rating of 15 miles per gallon city/23 mpg highway isn’t as abysmal as we expected. But with the blown V8 at full song, the XJR is a captivating creature. Unlike the antiseptic twin-turbocharged V8s that are so in vogue these days, the Jag’s motor feels alive, lunging for redline with the kind of gusto that used to be the exclusive province of exotic sports cars. The estimated 4-second blast to 60 mph only begins to tell the story. We’ll remember the XJR less for its stoplight sprints than for its incredible roll-on acceleration at speed. We’d just ask for slightly sharper, quicker responses from the otherwise superb 8-speed automatic transmission.
At a glance, the XJR’s interior is as much a work of art as its avant-garde exterior, boasting hand-stitched leather, a sweeping wrap-around dashboard and such trademark touches as a rotary shift knob that rises dramatically from the center console at start-up. But if you look closely, this cabin comes up short in some respects, and that’s a big deal in this high-stakes segment. The virtual gauges, for example, have a slow refresh rate that prevents the digital tachometer needle from keeping pace with the free-revving V8 at full throttle. The touchscreen infotainment system is another hiccup, as its relatively small screen and simple graphics hark back to older technology from former parent company Ford. We wouldn’t call these deal breakers, but they do show that the big Jag has room for improvement.
Phenomenal Driving Experience
Once you’re out on the open road, though, you’re liable to forget about such details. It’s not just about the XJR’s prodigious power, either. This big cat is every bit as poised and balanced in corners as Jaguar would like you to believe. We repeatedly flogged an XJR around the demanding racetrack at Washington’s Ridge Motorsports Park, and we were amazed by how adeptly it danced from apex to apex. Remember, the XJR competes with land-yachts like the BMW 7 Series and Mercedes-Benz S-Class, cars that have no business turning hot laps for fun on weekends. Not that most XJR owners will actually sign up for track day, but it’s nice to know that the capability’s there.
AutoTrader says: In a world where cars increasingly feel like chips off the same computer-designed block, the passionate 2014 Jaguar XJR speaks to us like few luxury sedans can. It’s imperfect, yes, but it’s also sleek, fast and a downright indecent amount of fun to drive.