The video above is Jaguar ride-and-handling guru Mike Cross at the wheel of a Jaguar XFR prototype at the Goodwood Festival of Speed last year.
PH met up with Mike on a visit to Jaguar’s HQ in Gaydon last week, when Chris-R grabbed the chance to sit next to him while he punted his own car – a pre-production XFR – around the Warwickshire countryside. And in case anyone thinks that sounds like a gratuitous jolly, Chris even managed to scribble down some of Mike’s reflections on the XFR’s development – what a pro!
‘Way back when we first decided to do the XFR we got hold of the existing S-Type R, AMG E55 and BMW M5,’ says Mike. ‘It was from evaluating all of them together that we defined what we wanted the XFR to do.’
‘We have a set of objective measures about how a Jaguar’s steering should feel, including measures like wheel angle and torque, and vehicle yaw response among many other things.
'Steering effort, damper control and driving dynamics software (meaning throttle response/gearshift, etc.) can be adjusted out on the road via lap-top, and the whole exercise is dependent on getting the dampers, differential and brakes to talk to each other!'
‘The achievement I’m proudest of with the XFR is the blending of all the different attributes, so the steering feel is harmonious with throttle feel and brake feel. We were looking for immediacy of response, but without any nervousness, so the car always feels smooth and intuitive. I don’t mean this to be a criticism, but I feel you have to be quite a good driver to get the most out the M5, whereas we have tried to give the XFR a sort of duality.’
'It’s been a delight working on this car, as I’ve always been a fan of performance saloons and it was a bit like making the car I’ve always wanted for myself!'
We didn’t forget to ask Mike for any tips or insights into the eagerly anticipated XJ, but sadly we couldn’t winkle too much out as the car’s official reveal is not until next month.
‘The way the XF and XKR drive is Jaguar’s new dynamic flavour,’ says Mike, ‘so it would be reasonable to expect more of the same from the new XJ. We want to preserve the agility and fun-to-drive character, but add the appropriate level of refinement.'
So what about the Goodwood Festival of Speed? Last year Mike demonstrated the XFR prototype (as per the video linked to above), while the year before it was a special XKR running 21ins wheels and in 2006 the XK prototype.
‘We always try to take something a bit special to Goodwood, and this year’s XKR will be no exception, but I can’t tell you why as we haven’t announced it yet. But you can say that I’ll definitely be aiming to slide the car around a bit when I’m driving it at Goodwood, because it’s great fun and that’s what the punters expect!’
Jaguar's XKR - the chariot awaiting our lucky Goodwood Festival of Speed competition winner!