Why did we have to fly to France to drive the new Jaguars? Did the company think 13 hours in the air would make us more receptive to what they had to tell us about its new models? Did the shipment of press vehicles get stuck in Nice during a longshoremen's strike? Or did Jaguar simply assume that the south of France was not only the perfect second home for ex-pats like F. Scott Fitzgerald, but also for British motorcars? The answers are no, thankfully not and undoubtedly. We think the real reason we traveled to the rolling hills west of Nice in southern France is because it is the ideal environment in which to test the brand's latest offerings: the updated 2010 Jaguar XF Sedan, XK Coupe/Convertible and their scrappier siblings, the XKR and XFR.
We began our excursion in France with some time behind the wheel of the XF. We have to admit, we weren't immediately sold on the XF's shape when it was introduced last year, but we've since come to our senses. Forgoing the oh-so-proper stateliness of its forebearer the Jaguar S-Type, the XF instead offers the sleek aggressive flair of a proper sports sedan. And, thankfully, the XF is no tease; it has legitimate sporting driving dynamics to back up its sporty looks. Our route through the mountains near Nice included long sweeping turns, tight decreasing radius corners and long fast straights, and through it all the vehicle delivered great cornering grip, confident handling and robust acceleration. Add to that a quiet, luxuriously appointed cabin, and the Jaguar XF emerged as an ideal vehicular companion for indulgent yet engaging drives through the French countryside.
We really liked the XF, but in the infomercial of life there's always room for more. That's where the Jaguar XFR enters the picture. The all-new 385-horsepower V8 found in the base XF was perfectly entertaining, but the 510-horsepower supercharged version powering the XFR had a charm we could not deny. In fact, if this whole trip were an episode of Star Trek, the XFR would have just entered the scene wearing a goatee - a la evil Spock. (We mean that in a good way.) The new-for-2010 XFR is essentially the XF we know and love with a naughty streak, retaining the refined nature of the original but with the added capabilities afforded by its supercharged engine, adaptive suspension and electronically-controlled differential. And oh, the capabilities. In the interest of modesty, we'll just say that speed was quickly achieved and easily controlled behind the wheel of the Jaguar XFR.
On day two, we took spins in the XK Coupe and Convertible, which have been lightly revised for 2010. Much like the XF Sedan, the XK offers plenty of speed, refinement and luxury, but with two fewer doors and a sharper sport focus. The XK also shares the XF's engine choices, meaning there's a perfectly enjoyable, naturally aspirated V8 in the regular model, and a high-output supercharged V8 in the sportier XKR. From a purely aesthetic perspective, we think the seductive yet aggressive lines of the XKR Coupe make it the most desirable of the XK lineup. But for those who enjoy sensory overload, we highly recommend the XKR Convertible. Our drop-top experience in the French countryside played out as if we were in a movie, and it went like this: With perfectly paved French roadways rolling by beneath us, we gently adjusted the steering wheel linking corner entrance to apex to exit before rocketing into the distance. The sun was shining -- our hair barely mussed thanks to the XKR's impeccable airflow management -- and the sounds of French music superstar Serge Gainsbourg crisply emanated from the radio. Then, a tunnel through the approaching hillside appears, and we stab the throttle, filling the tunnel and our ears with the sweet throaty roar of the XKR's V8. Bliss.
If buying a Jaguar and shipping it to France is within your means, please do so. It may be the best way to enjoy the XF and XK. For those with slightly tighter budget constraints, you can approximate the experience with some '70s-era French rock, a serpentine mountain road and the Jaguar of your choice. The revised 2010 XK, XF and their high-performance R alter-egos hit dealerships in the summer of 2009.