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Car clash: Jaguar XFR vs. BMW M5. Image by Max Earey.

Car clash: Jaguar XFR vs. BMW M5
Jaguar's new XFR draws a line in the sand and asks the BMW M5 to step over it.

   



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| Car Clash | Jaguar XFR vs. BMW M5 |

We can't remember a time when there were so many expensive four-door saloons on the market with so much power, all purporting to be as capable around the Nordschleife as they are at transporting their occupants there in comfort. Launched in 2005, the 'E60' BMW M5 stunned the world with a 5.0-litre V10, a hugely complex SMG transmission and numerous electronic sub-systems that set it apart at the time. Some found all of this a little bewildering at first, but the M5 still holds its head up as one of the most exciting sports saloons money can buy.

It'll need to be good if it has a chance against Jaguar's new antagonist, the XFR. Accomplished as the XF was when it first hit the market last year, it really came of age a few months ago with the advent of a new range of engines. Sitting at the top of the pile, the XFR packs a new 5.0-litre V8, an electronically controlled rear differential and continuously variable damping. Let battle commence.

Showroom appeal

Jaguar XFR: star star star star star BMW M5: star star star star star

We've always liked the relative subtlety of the M5. There are so many M Sport examples of the 5 Series around that it can go unnoticed by most in a car park full of regular machinery. Nonetheless, the modest boot spoiler, vents in the front wings, big alloys and quad exhausts lend the sharp shape just the right amount of aggression. Saying all that, parked next to the XFR, the M5 looks dated. That should be of no surprise given how new the XF's shape is, but on top of that Jaguar has endowed its saloon with a coupé-like sloping rear window and a gorgeous rear-end. We'll admit that the headlight design divides opinion, but in XFR guise it looks better than ever and almost as subtle as the BMW.

Inside, both cars feature exceedingly comfortable leather-lined seats, though they differ in that the Jaguar is obviously a luxury car, while the BMW's sporting pretensions show through. There's not much to choose between them for space or ambience, though they each have a distinct character.

Behind the wheel

Jaguar XFR: star star star star star BMW M5: star star star star star

In the real world, there's very little to separate the two cars' performance. However, to obtain that performance requires significantly different approaches. The BMW gives its best when approaching its redline, where the Jaguar's driver would do well to upshift a little early and use the ample torque in the mid-range. Hence driving the BMW quickly is always a frantic affair, while the Jaguar can cover ground as rapidly with a lot less drama.

Unlike the BMW's gearbox, the XFR's conventional automatic doesn't shout about how clever it is. Instead, the driver simply chooses Drive or Sport. Though shift speeds are quicker than the M5's most of the time, they're always smoother too. Our only minor gripe with the Jaguar's gearbox concerns the plasticky gearchange paddles. The BMW's are a tactile delight in comparison, but the SMG 'box - despite revisions - feels old hat in a brave new world of dual-clutch gearboxes and direct-drive automatic transmissions.

There's nothing dated about the M5's chassis, though even in its softest setting its ride is best described as uncompromising. On bucking and broken tarmac the driver needs a firm grip on the wheel to keep the car on line. In return, body control is exemplary, with zero roll and fully exploitable limits of adhesion. The steering is more communicative than the Jaguar's and the traction afforded by the M differential means you can really trust the rear end.

In some ways, the XFR is similar, though you'll need to completely disengage DSC if you hope to have access to its talents on a bumpy road - the electronic nannies are a little too eager to rein your exuberances in, which at times is to the detriment of smooth driving and progress. The Jaguar is definitely the more comfortable of the two, though not by a wide margin. Superb as its damping is, it doesn't feel like it has the full measure of the body at all times and more roll in the corners is the result. However, both cars are a real thrill to drive on a challenging road and in spite of their not insignificant kerb weights are agile and precise.

Green guilt factor

Jaguar XFR: star star star star star BMW M5: star star star star star

Neither of these cars will appeal to someone that starts to feel guilty about their CO2 output when the summer temperature rises a few degrees. On the face of it, the older M5 is the worst offender, with a CO2 figure of 344g/km and combined consumption of 19.6mpg (versus 292g/km and 22.5mpg for the Jaguar), but both cars dip below 15mpg alarmingly easily.

Money matters

Jaguar XFR: star star star star star BMW M5: star star star star star

Sitting atop their respective ranges, you'd hope these cars are well equipped. They are. Virtually everything is standard in both cases, including integrated satnav, leather, electric seats, cruise control, climate control, etc. The only minor difference we could spot was that Jaguar charges for an electric sunroof, where as BMW includes it. However, that's insignificant when you take into consideration the £5,400 or so price gap - in the Jaguar's favour. Even at this level, that's difficult to ignore.

First past the post

Jaguar XFR: star star star star star BMW M5: star star star star star

This clash of super saloons was not as hard to call as some. Jaguar has created a highly desirable and competent car in its new XFR. Though some might argue that the BMW is better on track and more engaging, we'd point out that few buyers spend £60,000 on a four-door saloon to use it in that manner. The Jaguar manages to combine an even bigger performance punch with the manners of a luxury saloon while being just as exciting and enticing a proposition as the M5 ever was. For now Jaguar's XFR fills the top spot on the super saloon podium, but there's a queue forming...

Shane O' Donoghue - 16 Jul 2009



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2009 Jaguar XFR vs BMW M5. Image by Max Earey.2009 Jaguar XFR vs BMW M5. Image by Max Earey.2009 Jaguar XFR vs BMW M5. Image by Max Earey.2009 Jaguar XFR vs BMW M5. Image by Max Earey.2009 Jaguar XFR vs BMW M5. Image by Max Earey.

2009 Jaguar XFR vs BMW M5. Image by Max Earey.  


2009 Jaguar XFR vs BMW M5. Image by Max Earey.
 

2009 BMW M5. Image by Max Earey.
 

2009 Jaguar XFR. Image by Max Earey.
 

2009 Jaguar XFR. Image by Max Earey.
 

2009 BMW M5. Image by Max Earey.
 

2009 Jaguar XFR. Image by Max Earey.
 

2009 BMW M5. Image by Max Earey.
 

2009 Jaguar XFR. Image by Max Earey.
 

2009 Jaguar XFR vs BMW M5. Image by Max Earey.
 






 

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