The Superman Suit – Jaguar's 2014 XJR
There is a dream of transformation that we all share, a fantasy that has grown up with us, grown sleek and detailed on a diet of media imagery we’ve subconsciously absorbed from flickering screens and glossy magazine pages all our lives. It involves a special suit that our hero puts on, and it transforms him from an everyday Joe into… something more; into that kind of uniquely Hollywood hero who is simultaneously smooth, sophisticated, stylish, handsome, wealthy – and capable of extraordinary physical feats.
Now, thanks to a fast-forward blend of modern technology and market forces, there now actually is such a…. Superman Suit. It’s tailored in England, made mostly of aluminum and it’s called the Jaguar XJR. And you can be wearing one this Fall.
XJ is the name given to a Jaguar's flagship luxury cars, and it’s a line with a long history. The first model was released in 1968 and was the Jaguar saloon to have had the input of Sir William Lyons, the company's founder. Justifiably enough, the Jaguar XJ, though likely in the XJL long-wheelbase version, is one of the one of the official cars of the royal families and UK Prime Minister.
While the regular XJ has been produced all the long, the performance model has been on a five-year hiatus, but is now back with an elegant vengeance, joining the XFR sedan and XKR coupe and convertible in Jaguar's muscular R lineup.
"This XJR is the flagship XJ and I'm delighted we've got it back into the range," says Jaguar Design Director Ian Callum. "This is a premium luxury supercar that also has an extremely purposeful look to it. This car will surprise, there's no doubt about it."
No, there's no doubt about it, but you can see that yourself from the photos. So let's focus for a moment on what's under the skin. Filling the engine compartment is a 5-liter supercharged V8 engine that provides 550hp and 502 lb/ft of torque…. And a moment of instruction here; horsepower is the figure everyone likes to quote, but in the real world, horsepower mostly has to do with top speed. Torque is the number you want to be big, because that's what gives a car that feeling of power as you accelerate away from a stop, and the XJR has plenty of both – sufficient for zero to 60 in 4.4 seconds and a top speed that has to be electronically limited to 174mph… plenty enough to give your passengers the thrill of a lifetime, and earn you a starting spot on the evening news.
But you don't want a car like this to be all rowdy all the time, so the 8-speed automatic transmission tones it all down to a civilized level for puttering around town. While you're driving around in Auto, the transmission detects how you're driving and shifts accordingly. When it feels you getting frisky, it automatically shifts gears more aggressively. And for the 'boy racer' in all of us, steering wheel-mounted gearshift paddles allow you to change gears manually with the flick of a finger.
And that's not all. A system called 'Corner Recognition' senses when the car is negotiating a curve, and the transmission will hold the correct gear for the exit. The transmission will also recognize when the car is performing a series of overtaking maneuvers requiring rapid changes in throttle position and, rather than change up, remain in a lower gear ready for the next time you mash the throttle. Another system, called the 'Jaguar Intelligent Stop/Start' automatically reduces idling by stopping the engine when the car comes to a stop with brake pedal depressed. When the brake pedal is released, the system will restart the engine in less time than it takes for the driver's foot to move from the brake pedal to the accelerator.
Even the suspension has brains. Jaguar Adaptive Dynamics actively controls vertical body movement, roll, and pitch rates through the use of continuously variable shock absorbers. The system monitors driver inputs and the road conditions, adjusting the ride quality up to 500 times a second. A switch lets you tune the car as a boulevard creampuff, or, if you're on a road worthy of more attention, selecting the Dynamic Mode ramps things up into quasi-racecar mode.
These sorts of hard-core gearhead amenities go on and on, but before your eyes glaze over, let's switch to a quick rundown of those things you can appreciate between 0 and 35 mph, such as the dramatic full-width glass roof, extending from the top of the windshield to the front of the rear seating area, with a front section that slides upward and outward so there's still room for you to wear your cowboy hat… if you really must. A dark tint and reflective glass coating help insulate the passenger cabin from the sun’s heat, and twin, power sunblinds can be closed for extra privacy.
It should be noted, as we speak of such things, that these are not listed in the relatively scant information available about the 2014 XJR model, but they're offered, some items optionally, on the 2013 top-of-the-line XJ, so it's reasonable to assume….
Jaguar has succumbed, along with every other manufacturer, to the lure of LEDs and the design bling possible in today's headlights. So you can expect bi-function HID xenon headlights that operate automatically, along with at the base of each front headlight cluster, a strip of bright-white LED Signature Lights. The headlights steer with the front wheels to illuminate corners as you approach, and the high-beams dip automatically at the approach of another car.
And you get LED taillights, too, just for good measure, and so arranged in three vertical rows that – stretching a bit here – they look like the claw marks of a large cat… a damn fast cat. Also part of the package are ultrasonic parking sensors with rear-facing camera, power trunk lid and soft leather performance seats that are both heated and cooled and are 18-way power adjustable. And since we're throwing numbers around, an 825 watt, 18-speaker surround-sound system from British audio experts Meridian is standard.
The 2014 Jaguar XJR is visually distinguished by a deep growl of an exhaust note and functional hood louvers for cooling. The aerodynamics are sharpened with an R-specific front bumper a black front grille with chrome surround, chrome plated lower air intake finisher, unique side sills, and a rear spoiler. Finishing touches include 20-inch Carillon alloy wheels, red brake calipers and, of course, R budging in relatively tasteful profusion.
The new XJR comes in both standard and long wheelbase versions, and you get to choose from such colors as Polaris White, Ebony, Ultimate Black, Stratus Grey, Lunar Grey, Rhodium Silver, Cashmere, Caviar, Carnelian Red, British Racing Green and Italian Racing Red. Interior choices include Jet Black leather trim is available with a choice of either Ivory, London Tan or Red Zone inserts on the seat facings or simply Red Zone or London Tan contrast stitching. The seats themselves are embossed with the 'R' logo. Jet Black suede cloth headlining is standard. Interior veneers are available in either Carbon Fiber or Piano Black.
Early form on the price suggests that $116,000 will get you a well-equipped regular-wheelbase model. Be prepared to pay an extra $3,000 for the rear-seat legroom offered in the long-wheelbase version.
If your principal joys in a car are acceleration and velocity, this level of equipment might seem… superfluous. But, hey, if you’re going to buy a suit that enables you to fly, you might as well fly first class. So slip it on, you rich, handsome superhero. Just make sure you don’t slam the door on your cape.
PS: If you think a bit of schooling in how to handle this elegant beast is in order, you might want to check out the Jaguar Performance Driving Academy. They offer both a Basic and Advanced course, and in addition to learning some skills that might save your life some day, it’s a blast to learn how to really throw your automotive weight around. We'd all like to think we know what we're doing behind the wheel, but hey, even Superman had to learn to fly.
To buy a Jaguar in Palm Beach, Palm Beach Motor Cars has a location at 915 S. Dixie Highway.