Jaguar's purr-fect trio

By Matt Greenop

Jaguar is flexing its muscles with three very fast models that are on their way to our shores

Jaguar F Type. Photo / Ted Baghurst.
Jaguar F Type. Photo / Ted Baghurst.

There are many Jag owners - past or present - that would prefer noise and pace over the "cheesecutter" and 'tache" models. The problem is, those beautiful fast classics of old are a bit rich for most buyers, and the new ones aren't exactly pocket change either - although they are stunningly quick.

And anything fast in between the two was often associated with troubling words like "bang".

Jaguar has dragged itself away from death's door at the hand of businessman Ratan Tata. And while one has to stifle a snigger at the irony of India owning two of the great showpieces of the British Empire - Jag and Land Rover - the rub is that Tata is doing it better than anyone else has for decades.

And the latest trio of Jags to hit our shores is no different. The XF, which has been here in various guises from the 2.2-litre diesel to the grumpy R version; the all-aluminium XJ which is available in either small capacity diesel or supercharged V8 form; and the gorgeous F-Type, which was released last year and promptly cleaned up our Performance Car of the Year Award due to its pace, handling and sheer beauty.

Jaguar F Type. Photo / Ted Baghurst.
Jaguar F Type. Photo / Ted Baghurst.

The sportscar simply gets a less powerful engine than the V6S and V8S versions, at 250kW, but does come with a bit of retail relief, with pricing at $140,000 for the convertible (we'll ignore the upcoming coupe because it hasn't arrived yet). That's $15,000 less than the V6S and $40,000 less than the 364kW V8S. There's also an F-Type R coming, which will be running the same supercharged V8 monster as in the XFR-S and the XJR featured here. After driving the two current models, the tamer and cheaper option isn't necessarily a bad one, except when it comes to bragging rights. The V6S, while it has another 30kW out of the same supercharged six-pot, does also have better suspension, a limited slip diff and a bit more "oomph", but the new one does sound the business, screaming like a banshee and letting loose barrages of pops and cackles on gear changes.

The lighter V6 does also make for handling better suited to some of our more, er, textured, road surfaces than the much, much faster V8.

Now, to V8s - the two other cars pictured here both use the same engine. It is the same base mill as the five-litre supercharged V8 that is in the F-Type V8S, but is now even faster. The 404kWs aren't particularly necessary, nor is the mammoth 680Nm - but it is a whole heap more fun, or fear, depending on your perspective.

The XF and XJ, despite the family resemblance, are quite different beasts - there's aluminium underpinning the luxury XJ, which obviously makes it lighter. It does improve its handling to a point that it feels about the same size to drive as the smaller, steely XF. If it, too, were made from the same light and extremely strong formula, the XFR-S would be staggering. It is quite terrifying now, with the power delivery like a ball-peen hammer to the face, reined in only by willpower and an agreeable right foot. Any tight corner will see the traction light strobing madly until you back it off by engaging dynamic mode, giving the driver more freedom. But as they say, with great power comes great responsibility, and the XF does have a tendency to snap when you push it too hard.

The Jaguar XJR has just been launched in NZ.
The Jaguar XJR has just been launched in NZ.

The XJR obviously has some of the same issues, but feels more stable on the road, courtesy of the longer wheelbase. Grip and direction change is exceptional at the front end of the big limo, where there's a tendency for the XFR-S to understeer when pushed hard in the wiggly stuff. On wide open, flowing corners it's relaxing while still managing to be incredibly fast. Both cars are shod with 20-inch rims, and while the smaller machine could probably do with going down a size, they look good when driving sensibly. Get a little less sensible, and you're invariably met with the smell of smouldering tyres on exit - satisfying in a slightly naughty way, but when you consider the cost of replacing such big shoes, not ideal.

The XJR is listed at $220,000 - its 3.0-litre diesel stablemate is just $155,000 - but it is pure luxury, beautifully appointed and with such flashy extras as an active diff and a bone-shaking Meridian 7.1-channel surround system.

The Jaguar XFR-S has just been launched in NZ.
The Jaguar XFR-S has just been launched in NZ.

The XFR-S gets what it needs the most - really, really large brakes. Occasionally it imparts a sense that it's taking you for a ride - so being able to haul it up in an emergency situation is most welcome. It too gets the R-spec sports suspension and that awe-inspiring 17-speaker audio system, and at $185,000 is a cool $25,000 more than the XFR. The base XF - the 2.0 i4, is $75,000.

There are far too many tricks, toys and luxury features to go into here, but this very English, very Indian triumvirate are doing a bit of a royal-style tour over the coming months - check with your local dealer on when you can take one for a spin ... which, in both of the supercharged V8s, isn't too hard to do.

- NZ Herald

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