Cars

The Cat Is Back – BUY ONE.

The 2019 XJR – 9:10 the big cat is back and it’s built for both hooligans and families.

I am the wrong person to ask to review a Jaguar Saloon. I am what the critics call an “unreliable narrator” and I shouldn’t be trusted.

It’s not that I shouldn’t be trusted to understand the car, I actually know quite a lot about cars. I grew up in country Australia and bought my first car when I was 14 from my uncle for $50.00 and grew up in a household where calling the mechanic was considered the ultimate in wastefulness. Even now at 55, I am quite happy to spend my weekend knuckles deep in grease and oil.

I am an unreliable narrator because I LOVE Jaguars. I love their history, their design and the idea that cars shouldn’t just look good – they should be fast. Remember what they said in the 1950’s – grace, pace and space.

So I’m an unreliable narrator, I am a Jaguar bore – did you know the leaping car mascot featured on the cars was designed by Gordon Crosby? I did. Did you know that the engine in the XK 120 (probably the most beautiful car ever made) had an aluminium cylinder head, hemispherical combustion chambers twin draft SU carbs and produced 160 horsepower – the work of the straight six heartbreaking genius? Yep, I knew that too. So as I said, well informed, but bloody unreliable.

But I also know that Jaguar went soft. The 1980s saw the XJS – a truly horribly car prone to breaking down and looking like it was designed by a committee of idiots.

1980's XJS Jaguar. Image via hagerty.com

1980’s XJS Jaguar. Image via hagerty.com

But now they are back. And once again, for me at least, it’s true love.

Last week I went to Sydney Motorsport Park at Eastern Creek and drove the new Jaguars.

Specifically, I drove the F Type V8 and the F Type V6 and the Supercharged V8 Super Saloon XJR.

The F Types, the long nose coupe’s that look terrific and have throw-back links to the e-type and are perfectly nice cars and really pretty terrific – but for my money, the pick of the bunch was the Jaguar in the house cats clothing the XJR.

From the outside, it looks like a super-saloon – long and low with quite a wide stance – but there are a lot of those around at the moment – everyone from KIA to Holden is making them and the large wheel long body saloons have become standard and somewhat unromantic.

Then there is this one.

Jaguar XKR Saloon. Image via Hunter and Bligh

Jaguar XKR Saloon. Image via Hunter and Bligh

There are things to like about this car. Its angry weight-forward stance, its big black wheels and the four tailpipes that tell you it’s going to try hard to get rid of its exhaust gasses fast.

At Sydney Motor Sport they let you take the car onto the track with a co-driver who shows how you to set up the car seats, how to hold the wheel and explains the wizardry of the cars entertainment and information systems and gives you the technical details and then says, ‘go for it’.

Go for it are dangerous words to a 55-year-old Jaguar lover – but I’m going to take a second here to talk about the technical specs. It’s got everything that you would want – information systems, Bluetooth, navigation, heated leather seats  – and it appears well laid out and reliable.

The car seats for the driver and passenger are big and plush as armchairs in a country house – the purple one I was driving came with white leather and diamond-patterned stitching. Colours so odd that I thought it may have been an abandoned order for the rock star Prince – but it was comfortable – it was easy to imagine driving to Perth from Sydney in real comfort  and there was even decent legroom in the back – but none of that made it special – you can get that in a Mazda.

JXR Interior. Image via topgear.com

JXR Interior. Image via topgear.com

But what you can’t get in Mazda is the feeling.

The XJR has a big engine a five-litre supercharged V8 and it knows what to do with the power – it goes, turns stops and slides like a car with half the weight, half the length and twice the power.

I’ve driven plenty of 5 liter V8’s and they are in the main whales – this car isn’t. It’s a shark.

It’s partly explained by the new all aluminium chassis, partly, by the new engine management system, by the new suspension and partly it’s explained by the fact that Jaguar know what they are doing.

I will admit that after the first lap of Eastern Creek I gave the car as much right foot as I dared and with the encouragement of the driving instructor, accelerated hard, braked hard and went into the corners carrying as much speed as I dared and the big cat lapped it all up and was capable of handling more than I was able to give it.

The brakes are tight and the claimed 0 – 100 in four seconds seems pretty reliable – but what is more remarkable isn’t the bottom acceleration – it’s what happens when you put your foot down when you are already doing 150kmh – even then, the big cat just wants to run.

Here’s the thing, when you are doing track days the instructors always say, don’t look at the speedo – just drive as fast as you can.

Of course, you look at the speedo as you reach the exit, the last curve before you hit the straight – because you know that the speed you are carrying there will give you your top speed.

In the XK Range, I was leaving the corner at about 120 kph – on the edge the Pirelli’s not squealing but letting me know they were at the edge of grip and peaking out at about 180 kmph on the strait.

In the XJR? I hear you ask – I left the corner at about 140 kph – well in order and uncomplaining and when it came time to plant my foot on the brakes – the big cat had sailed through 260 kph and had plenty of running left.

This is a great car.  A car for bank robbers and hooligans and madmen and people when they are going to get the shopping will plant the right foot and feel the car load up like an elastic band being pulled back and get ready to run. This is a car that will let you leave the shopping centre like a startled lover out of a first-floor window and then before you become just too dangerous for suburbia back off the right foot and grin like a 16-year-old.

Get one. Life is short. And thrills are few.

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