New trim variant combines sporty looks and fuel efficient engines; it’s a rival to BMW M3-like M Sport and Audi S4-like S line trims. Priced from £33,995, it’s on sale now
Richard Aucock | May 2014
The new Jaguar R-Sport range of XF and XF Sportbrake is the firm’s response to hugely popular BMW M Sport and Audi S line variants: the styling of hot M and S variants combined with the low CO2 engines and the affordability of more mainstream models.
It’s a sign of just how far Jaguar has developed over the past few years that it is both able to match this popular German strategy – and has the high performance R and R-S versions to mimic in the first place…
R-Sport models are thus offered with the full range of mainstream XF engines including the 129g/km 2.2-litre four-cylinder diesel, but at first glance you’d never guess there wasn’t a 5.0-litre V8 under the bonnet. The Sport front bumper, R side sills and bespoke rear spoiler all give plenty of standout good looks.
Indeed, so relatively rare are the R and R-S XF, many people will simply assume you’ve bought the range-topper anyway – even Jaguar’s CO2-friendly 17-inch wheel design, complete with low rolling resistance tyres, now has a racy-looking anthracite gloss finish (although more pumped-up 19-inch rims are also offered).
Inside, there’s an R-Sport interior with ‘charcoal on charcoal’ colourscheme, black rooflining, contrast stitching and a suitably moody range of trim inlays. The R-Sport steering whey is small and chunky (and lovely), alloy pedals sparkle and unique badging mirrors the new R-Sport moniker that features outside.
What is the 2014 Jaguar XF R-Sport like to drive?
The XF remains a lovely car to drive, despite being launched back in 2008. It’s been continually updated since then and it still offers a credible, charismatic alternative to the cool and collected German competition.
For drivers, it’s first rate. Steering feel is delicate, the car responds creamily, turns in crisply yet neatly and always feels measured and meticulous. Whereas rivals’ ride quality is firm and flat, the Jaguar’s is more absorbent and fluid, yet still perfectly controlled. The chassis breathes more deeply without ever becoming breathless.
Is it sportier than standard? To be honest, not really. Our car was fitted with the optional Adaptive Dynamics suspension – a £1,020 option – which gave both extra body control and that particularly plush ride. But Jaguar’s intention hasn’t been to give it a ‘sport’ drive, simply the styling to suit. Frankly, the standard car’s already such a cultured drive, it doesn’t need any firming up to boost driver appeal.
We drove the 3.0-litre V6 diesel, which is plenty. It’s a smooth, silky diesel still, with – again – extremely linear response. Only the audible top-end clatter starts to date it: otherwise, when paired with the exceptional eight-speed automatic transmission, it remains a real draw.
Rolling refinement is surprisingly good too. At low speeds, it’s near-silent and only some tyre roar from the big 19-inch wheels starts to intrude at speed. Everything is nicely damped and the XF has an impression of premium quality in action.
Is the Jaguar XF R-Sport a BMW M Sport alternative?
Compared to a 5 Series M Sport, the Jaguar may be a little more standout, is certainly cheaper and may make its driver feel a bit more special. As Jaguar’s first fleet-friendly model spec, it’s got the benefit of the new on its side: it may be some people’s first Jaguar and in many respects they shouldn’t be disappointed.
The styling does justify the new badging too. Jaguar may later decide to engineer bespoke suspension settings for R-Sport models – we expect it’ll do this for the forthcoming new XE – but as a starting point for the new brand, this comprehensive visual makeover is convincing.
Where it’s lacking is in modernity and sophistication within. All rivals have more advanced and inclusive infotainment systems; all rivals’ setups are easier to use too. The Jaguar setup feels a generation out of date and, given how important infotainment and connectivity is to modern car buyers, it’s a significant hindrance.
As for prices and specs, though, the Jaguar becomes more competitive. The 145hp BMW 518d M Sport starts at £33,095, compared to £33,995 for the 163hp XF 2.2d R-Sport – but the Jaguar is an automatic; the comparable 518d M Sport auto is £34,615. The BMW does have a 10g/km CO2 advantage though: this means company drivers will pay less in P11D Benefit In Kind Tax, despite the Jag’s price advantage.
Verdict: 2014 Jaguar XF R-Sport
The R-Sport is a timely addition to the Jaguar XF range as it approaches its seventh year. Continuous updates have kept the model on the pace and this finally gives the best-selling mainstream models the same sort of company car park clout as M Sport and S line alternatives.
It’s showing its age in some places but there’s still enough that appeals to make it worthy of consideration. The BMW 5 Series remains the class leader but the Jaguar is a worthy alternative to an Audi A6 or Mercedes-Benz E-Class if practicality isn’t as important to you as driving satisfaction.
- BMW 5 Series M Sport
- Audi A6 S line
- Mercedes-Benz E 220 CDI
- Lexus GS 300h
- Volvo V70
Specification 2014 Jaguar XF R-Sport 3.0D V6 240
Engine: 3.0 V6 twin-turbo diesel
Drivetrain: Rear-wheel drive, eight-speed automatic
Prices from: £33,995 (Test 3.0 V6 D 240 £37,365)
Torque: 369lb ft
Top speed: 149mph