66 Magazine Issue 3 Spring 2018 - Page 84

Firstly, that paint, those wheels and the quilted interior aren’t components you’ve been able to option in on your XJ previously. They’re all bespoke elements, created by Jaguar’s in-house go- faster brigade, Special Vehicle Operations (SVO). This division is responsible for tickling standard models up into something more; if it’s a tad more aggression, a fair bit more horsepower and an interior that sits apart from the mainstream that you’re after, SVO are the ones prodding the beast in the cage with a big stick. The XJR575 is a rarity in that regard: it’s the only rear-wheel drive vehicle that SVO has got their mitts on. What have they done with it? First and foremost, they’ve lifted the 5.0-litre supercharged V8 from the hi-po F-Type SVR coupe and tucked it into the big sedan’s engine bay. It’s good for 423kW peak power (or 575bhp in the old parlance, hence the numbers on the badge), while there’s a not- insubstantial 700Nm slab of torque on offer too. Jaguar’s standard 8-speed auto – accessed through the now-familiar transmission dial in the centre console – is augmented with paddles for manual shifting. J-Gate? What’s a J-Gate? At a shade over five metres long, the XJR575 is certainly no compact thing, but it will still sprint from stand-still to 100km/h in 4.4 seconds. Top speed is apparently 300km/h… which is only 75km/h faster than the 12-cylinder Jaguar XJ / Daimler Double Six of 1972. Makes you think a bit harder about that capability matched with those thin a-pillars and a distinct lack of airbags or traction aids, right? Hit the pulsating starter button and anyone within a 500m radius will know you’re on your way. The big V8 sounds as good as you’d hope it would. The stitched quilting of the cabin provides for a cosseted sort of environment, but it still errs on the side of sporty. There is a lot of chrome detailing and, having not driven an XJ in a while, I’d forgotten what a great piece of design the ‘Riva Hoop’ dashboard is. This is no blunt object, despite the hewn-from-stone look to the sheet metal (accentuated here perhaps by the matt paint finish). All rear-wheel drive XJ’s get electric steering and this is direct and responsive on the road. There’s a lovely linear feel to the way the car squeezes out more power and, as you’d hope, the ride is smooth 82 66 MagAzine SPRING 2018 Above left The Jaguar XJ’s ‘Riva Hoop’ dashboard design remains a lovely detail, nine years on from its debut. Above right Solid, knurled transmission dial rises up from the surrounding panel when ignition button is hit. Above Chrome, leather, exposed stitching. Yes, you’re in an XJ. rather than brittle; the XJR575 ‘only’ has 20-inch alloys, so I applaud SVO for not going mad with the low-profile licorice strips. You can be lairy in this if you really want, although despite the Kray twins demeanour and the thunderous sound from the V8, it works better as a GT-like cruiser. It’s big and bolshy, but at its core it’s still an XJ, which is the very dictionary definition of a polished, executive sedan. I suspect the Jaguar XJR575 will remain an enthusiast proposition until the last one is sold. It’s not like a supercharged V8 of this type will appear on a great many shopping lists. If you want one, you want one. The XJR575 is so out of kilter with everything else that’s going on in the new car market right now. But I love it for that. It’s a pity the XJ as we know it has to go away. But at least it’s leaving with a bang.