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2018 Jaguar XJR575 First Drive Review

On Thursday, November 16th, 2017

The number is right there, nestled smack in the middle against the windshield in red: 575. In case you missed it, there are another four red 575s stitched into the seat backs. You might excuse Jaguar for the numerical ostentation, but with manufacturers taking the horsepower arms race nuclear, the 6-year-old XJR sure could use a hook. What better way to stand out than an engine output humblebrag?

2018 Jaguar XJR575

The $122,400 Jaguar XJR575 gains 25 horsepower for 2018 thanks to software recalibration, which helps scoot the 17-foot-long four-door to 60 mph in a claimed 4.2 seconds. I’m gunning the XJR575 along the mountainous passes near the Alvão Natural Park in northern Portugal to find out whether the upgrade is enough to keep this underdog relevant in the fevered pitch of the high-dollar sedan market.

A few aging elements show cracks in the façade, among them the ungainly seams at the dashboard’s center and switchgear that’s grown more than a bit long in the tooth. At least Jaguar’s controversial cylindrical shifter is pleasantly knurled, lending a feel of specialness over the dials found in the non-R models. New for 2018 is a larger, 10-inch multimedia touch screen that uses Jaguar’s latest Touch Pro software. The system works adequately well, though it lags the newest interfaces from BMW and Mercedes-Benz, and is far behind the upcoming A8L’s advanced, dual-screen setup.

With Jaguar’s expanding SUV and crossover lineup drawing much of the brand’s attention these days, one can’t help but wonder whether the aging XJ’s future is in peril. Especially when it comes to limited production, high-end, go-fast sedans, it’s becoming harder than ever to compete with the big boys such as the $138,800 BMW Alpina B7 and the $147,500 Mercedes-AMG S 63, not to mention the next-gen Audi A8L that will hit showrooms next fall. And since buyers of these plush, powerful sedans are unlikely to scoff at $20K or so in savings, the XJR575 faces a particular uphill battle.

However, Jaguar’s flagship does offer distinctiveness within this competitive segment, one that’s hard to find elsewhere. While every Tom, Dick and Harry on Wall Street is sporting a Benzo or Bimmer (not to mention more premium offerings from Aston Martin, Bentley and Rolls-Royce), the Jaguar still makes a niche statement with singular styling that’s about as unique as its two exclusive colors, Satin Corris Grey and Velocity Blue. There may be excellent alternatives among big-ticket performance sedans, but few will stand out in the crowd like the XJR575.

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