Chris Froome and his colleagues must've really been putting in the miles over the winter. Previously equipped with diesel-powered XF Sportbrakes, the Sky team clearly needed something with a bit more oomph to keep up with the lycra lads, performance enhancement for the team convoy coming in the shape of 550hp supercharged V8s. Say hello to the
The rest of the teams use Skoda Superbs...
If the Team Sky cars weren't already the coolest vehicles in the Tour de France cavalcade they will be now. Guys, if you need a driver or two for when the Tour comes to Yorkshire later in the year we are available... OK, so the 'regular' team cars will be new MY15, 163hp 2.2 diesels with the newly announced R-Sport trimmings (think S Line, AMG Sport or M Sport) but the team director's recce car will be this proper monster.
Ahead of its official unveiling at the Palexpo tomorrow Jaguar let us have a quick go with the XFR-S Sportbrake, but not until we'd earned it with a bit of a pedal on Team Sky style Pinarellos to properly get into character. PH - lycra matters.
Back on topic
But so do supercharged V8s, so you'll be glad to hear we'll concentrate on the latter henceforth. Mechanically the XFR-S Sportbrake carries over all the technology from the saloon equivalent, meaning the same 5.0-litre supercharged engine, 550hp, 502lb ft, limited 186mph top speed (two fingers to the 155mph limited Germans there) and significantly uprated spring rates and adaptive damping.
E63/RS6 Avant shoot-out eagerly awaited
Standard Sportbrakes use air-sprung rear axles for self-levelling duties but given that, with spring rates up by 100 per cent, even a sodden wet Labrador isn't likely to make the bag end drag on the deck the engineers have carried over the saloon's coil-sprung set-up. OK, so it wasn't entirely for that reason. Having crunched the numbers of what they wanted for the handling targets and realised the air-sprung axle wasn't going to be able to meet them it was a no brainer to carry over the coils.
Why skip straight to -S and not have a 'regular' XFR Sportbrake? Well, Jaguar wants the new car to act as a halo for the Sportbrake range and 'make some noise' (job done there) and with the XFR-S doing that rather well for the saloon it made sense to skip straight to that. Bracketed by rivals like the £84K Mercedes E63 S estate and £77K Audi RS6 Avant, the XFR-S Sportbrake's £82,495 starting price kind of makes sense too. Well, insomuch as that amount of money for a 550hp hot rod estate car ever can. Too rich for your tastes? Give it a year or two and hit the classifieds once depreciation has had its pound of flesh from the original buyer.
XFR-S cool, wagon version cooler still
What's it like to drive? About that. A test route lasting all of 10 minutes and taking in narrow urban roads in the hills above Lake Geneva didn't exactly offer much chance to let the XFR-S Sportbrake off the leash. But dynamically it, surprise surprise, feels very much like
. There's been much discussion of the XFR-S's ride quality and while it's undoubtedly firm it's not without fluency and though massively potent it's a car that'll rumble and waft at 'domestic' speeds quite comfortably. The incongruity factor of seeing a bright blue Jaguar sideways in clouds of tyre smoke will doubtless be amplified at such time as we get a chance to do so, little nibbles from the wheel even at these speeds suggesting the Sportbrake is no less keen to do so than the saloon.
We also kind of like the fact that as the Tour de France departs from Yorkshire later this year patriotic spectators will know their Team Sky heroes are coming by the sound of a barely silenced V8 leading the way. Bravo.
Engine: 5,000cc, V8, supercharged
Transmission: 8-speed auto, rear-wheel drive
Power (hp): 550@6,500rpm
Torque (lb ft): 502@2,500-5,500rpm
Top speed: 186mph (limited)
MPG: 22.2 (Combined)