What if you could rip through the tunnels and blast through the center of one of the largest cities in the world with not a single soul in sight? Letting your engine sing its tune, echoing off skyscrapers and an endless concrete jungle… Sounds like a dream, right?
Actually, it’s reality, because unlike many cities at night, downtown Los Angeles is a ghost town. Can you imagine doing such a thing in London? Or what about New York, the city that never sleeps? There is no way you could go through the gears driving down Times Square. That’s just plain stupid. So why is it like that in Los Angeles?
The main reason is most people who work in downtown LA, don’t actually live there. Actually, only a small population of diehard Angelenos live in the city center, period, so as soon as the hordes of cubicle workers clock out, the streets empty out too.
That said, when I was recently handed the keys to a supercharged Jaguar XFR-S, I didn’t have to think twice about where I should drive it.
Normally when I get a press car I’ll usually take it up to the canyons – or to the track – to really test its limits. That’s what a press car is for, right?
However, the XFR-S is a much more refined machine, and I figured it would be appropriate to drive it around in a more urban setting.
I began my journey at midnight on the dot, just outside of the city near a train depot.
While I am used to driving cars from the ’70s with no air conditioning and mostly made of ‘pleather’ and cloth materials, the Jaguar interior was a welcomed change of scenery.
The suede and leather as well as the other high quality materials surrounding the cockpit looked and felt perfectly at home.
While I was shooting the LAPD showed up, and while I thought they were going to come kick us out, they just came to make sure there were no stowaways on the train that was passing by. It seemed like a good time to continue my journey into the darkness.Under Your Spell
I stopped at the heart of downtown, which I think is right around where the Walt Disney Concert Hall is located. While the outside of the magnificent building is mangled metal and interesting shapes, the inside is elegant and mostly made of light colored wood. Crazy on the outside and soft on the inside.
The XFR-S on the other hand was the complete opposite. Mild looking from the outside, but thorny and evil on the inside.
In its marketing, Jaguar has been using the slogan ‘It’s good to be bad’ of late. But what does that mean? How is this car bad?
The XFR-S is the top of the line model, and it starts at $99,000. The model that I drove had a few extra options on top.
What lay underneath that hood was a monster of a supercharged V8 putting out 550hp and 502 lb-ft of torque.
Even with it’s massive curb weight of 4405lbs (1998kg) it’s capable of 0-60mph times under four seconds. What about 0-100mph? Just a smidgen over nine seconds…
If you keep your foot in it the luxury sedan is capable of a top speed of 186mph. That is just nuts. Is that even necessary? I guess villains of the world need cars capable of outrunning helicopters.
According to Jaguar it can return 23mpg, although I saw as high as 25mpg on the highway cruising at 65mph.
Just a few years ago a car like this would not be able to exist. Why? Because it would be too dangerous in the hands of the public.
I am not joking around when I say this car would be absolutely undrivable without the very intelligent traction control holding you back as you go around every slight corner.
Just driving normally around downtown that night I would stab the right pedal just a tiny bit extra coming out of a right-hand turn, just to feel the rear end kick out ever so slightly. Even though the traction control was fully on, it still allowed for some fun.
On freeway on-ramps the active differential feeds power to the rear tires very gently for the maximum amount of acceleration possible.
And with the traction control off? Just with a minor application of the throttle in first gear will lay down a strip of elevens a city block long. Burnout nominations, anyone?A Real Hero
From the outside the car looks like any other luxury grocery-getter. Even though this one was in plain Polaris White, it still looked quite aggressive from the front.
Although it was not so intimidating from the rear from far away. This car would blend in with the many expensive cars roaming the streets of southern California.
As I mentioned before, this particular car had a few options – including this $3500 carbon fiber wing.
The LED ‘J Blade’ daytime running lights were blinding in the dark underpasses going into the city. It sure looked menacing.
While I doubt any XFR-S owners will take their beloved sport sedan onto a race track, they very well could if they wanted to.
As soon as the car starts, the gear selector knob pops up, and right away I turned it all the way to the right to select ‘S’ for Sport mode.
While the car is plenty fast when you allow it to shift the eight-speed gearbox for you, it’s quite a challenge to drive around on the street selecting your own gears – especially if you want to extract the most out of the revs.
While manually shifting the clock icon in the center of the dash disappears and the currently-selected gear is displayed. Once the revs approach redline the number turns yellow, at which point you only have a microsecond of opportunity to shift to a higher gear before the engine bounces off the limiter.
It’s much harder than it sounds as the needle on the tachometer climbs at an incredibly fast rate.
When you get it right, it shifts super-quick – much quicker than any traditional automatic transmission I’ve ever driven.
The 5.0-liter V8 makes all the right sounds, and after a few pulls under the 2nd Street tunnel, it was time to call it a night. Because I had probably just awoken the entire Los Angeles Police Department.
Is it possible that a car has too much power? While I never thought that was possible, it’s interesting to think that this street car has just as much power – or more even – than most of the race cars that I photograph on a weekly basis. What kind of awesome backwards world do we live in where you can get your hands on factory-spec cars with this much power and performance!? The best part? It’s practical, with plenty of storage space and it seats five adults comfortably. Do we live in the future, or what?