By: Grant Davis
The full value of the $68,000 sticker on the 2011 Jaguar XF Supercharged sports sedan didn’t hit me until I stomped on the gas as the light turned green at a freeway on-ramp. In 5 seconds and change I was pushing 70 mph thanks to the Jag’s turbo-charged, 470-horsepower, 5-liter V8 with 424 lb-ft of chest crushing torque. Looking in the rearview mirror, the Chevy Suburban that was next to me at the light didn’t look like it had moved forward yet. Truth be told, I wasn’t ready for all that power—I had to slam on brake pedal and force the 14-inch sized disc brakes to slow me down to rush-hour speed before the sloped front end of the XF slid under the pick-up in front of me.
Ballistics-level speed and jet-fighter brakes: the XF Supercharged goes forward like hell and screams to a stop with equal aplomb. What’s different about this vehicle compared to other luxury rockets is that Jaguar’s plush ride left me unprepared for either extreme. While the exterior looks appropriate for a car with a 155-mph top speed (limited by the factory settings), there’s nothing from the driver’s view inside the car that screams “high-performance, badass, motherf****r!” As a result I was lulled into believing that I was driving a posh sedan with a solid feel, albeit one with a six-speed transmission accessible through paddle shifters on the steering column and a button next to the cup holders with a checkered flag that subtly relayed the message, “For a good time, press me!” It engaged the Dynamic mode, and yes, pressing it does lead to a good time: more responsive shifts and a stiffer, more aggressive ride.
Luxury Goes Bi-Polar
The Supercharged edition of the XF, Jaguar’s sporty brother in the family, adds 85 horsepower over the more, ahem, pedestrian V8. The brakes grow nearly two inches in diameter, a spec that I downright loved when I had to slow the 2.5-ton cat down from 80 mph to 20 mph in a sudden, random traffic slowdown. Married to 20-inches of rubber versus 18 inches on the un-juiced version, the Supercharged stays on its feet. 500 times per second, the automatic suspension resets itself based on how hard you’re driving—speed through a twisting canyon road, and it gets stiffer—and the aforementioned Dynamic button helps drivers get the most out of the thrust from the engine while preventing it from returning to plush mode. And it’s all only $11,000 more than the base model. Is it worth it? Hell, yes! Less than five years ago, anyone’d be lucky to find a car with this much power for under six figures. Gotta love progress.
For my drives around town and on the freeway, the big cat was a breeze to manuever. Unlike other cars in this horsepower neighborhood, it didn’t force me into an aggressive mental state, that is until I saw a spot to pass and—wham!—I floored the Jaguar and executed, still slightly shocked at the snarling engine I just unleashed. Put it this way: Driving this Jaguar is akin to dating a beautiful, nice girl you can bring home to mom but then finding out that she likes to wear spiked heels, a leather bustier, and hold a riding crop when it comes to getting intimate. You’re never quite sure who you’re going out with.
Car Controls in English!
If there’s one thing Jaguar does well, it’s drop the need to create an international language of controls for the AC, heat, audio set-up, navigation system and Bluetooth connection. The English love their language and damnit, that’s what Jaguar delivers. It’s all accessible through the nav screen and organized in such a way that I swear Steve Jobs from Apple was involved. Figuring out the heated and air-cooled seats, adjusting the 440-watt Bowers & Wilkins sound system is intuitive, elegant, and simple. Same goes for the steering-wheel mounted controls for the cruise control and audio system. Nothing’s excessive, everything’s just right.
That English-centric drive to accommodate the driver’s needs falls a bit short when talking about the rear seats. Anyone pushing six feet in height won’t be happy back there. While servicable, if a bit too cozy, for sub-sixers, I couldn’t help but notice the mammoth cave of a trunk and wonder if it would’ve killed Jaguar to steal six inches from the trunk and gift it to the rear passengers. But that’s really the point—the point behind most sports sedans these days. They’re four-doors in name only. This sports sedan functions more like a coupe, ideal for two people heading out on a golf weekend in Las Vegas or the mountains of Virginia. A rolling party rocket for four it is not. The rear doors just make it easier to grab a jacket and overnight bag from the back seats.
Between the smooth ride, leather seats and brushed-leather panels, whisper-quiet interior and easy-to-use controls, it’s easy to forget the giant engine under the hood and that would be a shame. As I watched the fuel efficiency struggle to do better than 16 mpg over the course of a week—one major indicator that there was a 470-hp beast that my right foot could unleash—I came to realize the Supercharged biggest flaw. It has all the goods needed to kick the ass of 95-percent of the cars on the road today, but it’s unlikely that most XF Supercharged drivers are going to take advantage of it. If you make that mistake, you don’t deserve this kitty.