A year ago or so I had the opportunity to drive the blisteringly fast hot, foetid petrolhead dream that is the Jaguar XJR-S. I was only allowed a half-hour with the car but subsequently didn’t shut up about it for the next six months, telling everyone who would listen – and indeed some who didn’t want to – that it was my total fave.
Time moves on of course and many other cars have crossed my drive since that memorable, sunny day. The XFR-S had faded into a fond recollection as new metal harlots winked at me from the kerbside, promising exciting new delights. Now however the Jaguar XFR-S is back and, like a welcome relative, is coming to stay for a week at DriveWrite Manor.
Powered by a supercharged five-litre V8 and bristling with aero it is going to be an awesome seven days – but there’s a problem. The environmental train is not slowing down and, increasingly, the mighty cars with big engines are becoming dinosaurs in our regulated society whether we like it or not. The era of the small economical engine is upon us and lovers of old-school cars are having to pay the price of all that power. We are penalised by taxes and opinions if we transgress or disagree with the green lobby.
Certainly, the V8 engine is still available but some manufacturers are pulling out all the stops to give us speed through technology. Take the under-regarded Vauxhall Insignia Sport Tourer VXR Supersport. This is a great car that is barely a second slower to 62mph than the Jaguar yet it is powered by a 2.8L turbocharged engine, has four-wheel drive and costs less than half the price.The turbocharger has come of age. The days of having the time to compose a poem whilst waiting for the engine to respond to throttle input are long gone. This has been achieved by various means, including the addition of extra turbos or small superchargers to kick start the action whilst the main turbo spools up.
Virtually every manufacturer now is squeezing more from less. The result is that the Jaguar 5.0L engine and its like is probably soon to be consigned to history. The trouble is – a V8 makes all the right noises which is almost as important as the power to true enthusiasts. Countless numbers of modern motors pipe artificial sounds into the passenger compartment to augment the driving experience but, do you know what, it doesn’t really work. All sound and no fury.
Fortunately, at least for now until the dull grey suits of euro-government have had their evil way with us and banned fun as a concept, some survivors still exist and we should celebrate them. This is why I am so look forward to my time with the Jaguar XFR-S. No, it isn’t the latest thing and yes, it has – by today’s standards at least – fairly high emissions. With 542bhp I will be very lucky to see 20mpg and I can already feel at the back of my neck the sense that someone is watching me remotely from a gantry. Still never mind, I will, for a week at least, be in charge of a legendary car and can grasp for just a bit longer the truth that there is simply no replacement for displacement.Geoff Maxted