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Jaguar XFR Sportbrake: Does Jaguar need a sporty station wagon?

Jaguar XF Sportbrake front three quarterIt’s impossible to know what goes through a product planner’s mind at any given moment. No one expected Porsche to build a diesel SUV, yet such a vehicle is currently on sale. Almost as left-field an idea is a performance station wagon from Jaguar, but the bigwigs at Gaydon have given it a little thought.

An XFR Sportbrake based on the new XF Sportbrake wagon seems like a great way to combine performance and utility, and since Jaguar already builds the XFR sedan, it doesn’t seem like an impossible engineering challenge either.

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Actually, scratch that last bit. Jaguar global brand director Adrian Hallmark told Autocar that the biggest obstacle for the XFR Sportbrake would be installing the XFR sedan’s powertrain in the wagon body.

“It would be tricky to re-engineer [sic] the self-leveling rear suspension to cope with the high performance of such an engine,” Hallmark said.

So the fact that the XFR Sportbrake, a performance version of only the second wagon Jag has ever made (the first was the X-Type Estate) would appeal to an extremely limited market doesn’t phase Hallmark, it’s just a matter of engineering.

The XFR packs a 5.0-liter supercharged V8, with 510 horsepower and 470 pound-feet of torque. That’s a big step up from the 271 hp offered in the XF Sportbrake’s most powerful engine, a 3.0-liter twin-turbocharged diesel V6.

Still, the XFR Sportbrake isn’t completely off the table. Hallmark said it would be an “interesting project” that could be built in a limited run of 300 to 400 units. With such low production numbers, the Sportbrake would probably command a significant premium over the XFR sedan, which starts at $84,095 in the United States.

The XFR Sportbrake wouldn’t have any shortage of competition. The Cadillac CTS-V wagon, Audi RS6 Avant, and Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG wagon all combine brutal sports sedan powertrains with utilitarian bodywork. BMW used to make an M5 wagon, so a wagon version of the current F10 M5 could turn up as well.

However, this is all a moot point for American Jag enthusiasts. The XF Sportbrake is not coming to the United States, so a limited-edition would be an impossibility.

At one time, a Jaguar wagon seemed as ridiculous as a Porsche SUV, and no one could have predicted that the sporty, modern XF sedan would succeed the retro S-Type. A production XFR Sportbrake would be a very unusual beast indeed.

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Next Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG to get all-wheel drive
2010 Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG

Powerslides and evaporated tires have always been a part of the AMG experience, but that is about to change. Mercedes-Benz’s performance is converting one of its classic rear-wheel drive sedans, the E63 AMG, to all-wheel drive, the company told Motor Trend.
The addition of all-wheel drive comes with a mid-cycle refresh of all E-Class models for the 2014 model year. The updated car is set to debut at the Detroit Auto Show in January.
The E63 will be the first non-SUV AMG product with all-wheel drive, since it will probably beat the little A45 AMG to market. It will also be the first AMG model to transition from rear-wheel drive to all-wheel drive.
Mercedes already offers its 4Matic all-wheel drive system on the standard E-Class, but the AMG version will be quite different. In a stock Mercedes, the system sends 45 percent of the power to the front wheels, and 55 percent to the rear wheels. It can also shift power 30/70 or 70/30 front/rear if one set of wheels loses grip. However, the AMG version is set at a constant 33/67 front to rear split.
Impressively, AMG says that all-wheel drive will only add 132 pounds to the E63, since the engineers will be able to remove the car’s three electronically locking clutches and install less-beefy rear half-shafts.
The E63 will retain its 5.5-liter, twin-turbocharged V8, which produces 518 horsepower and 516 pound-feet of torque. A Performance Package brings that total up to 550 hp and 590 lb-ft.
The engine is the most important part of any AMG car, but all-wheel drive will definitely change the E63’s character. Tracing its lineage back to one of AMG’s first monsters, the Hammer, the E63 has always been a very expensive muscle car: Big engine. Rear-wheel drive. That’s it.
Because of the V8’s prodigious torque, the E63 (and other AMG models) have a reputation for wayward handling. All-wheel drive could help quiet the beast. Mercedes is already saying that the E63’s 0 to 60 mph time will drop from 3.8 seconds to 3.4 seconds with all-wheel drive, so it really could turn out to be an improvement.
Of course, AMG will not be the first German carmaker to build an all-wheel drive super sedan. Audi has been the king of all-wheel drive for decades, and could offer a cautionary tale for its Affalterbach rivals.
Audi’s sporty S and RS models are known for their incredible traction and poise, but also for understeer (owing in many cases, admittedly, to chassis designed for front-wheel drive) and lack of driver involvement.
AMG will have to balance tractability and entertainment in their newest creation. We’ll see what it comes up with at the Detroit Auto Show in January.

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Rare breed: Jaguar to build 100 XFR-S super sedans
2014 Jaguar XFR-S teaser

Jaguar is preparing a souped-up version of its XFR sport sedan for the upcoming Los Angeles Auto Show. Called the XFR-S, it promises to take the fight to Jaguar’s German rivals with a powerful V8 engine. It will also be more exclusive than any German sport sedan, since Jaguar is only building 100 cars for the U.S. market.
Jaguar wouldn’t confirm anything else, but we can get an idea of what the XFR-S will be like by looking at the other “R-S” model, the XKR-S. That two-door cat is powered by a supercharged 5.0-liter V8 with 550 horsepower and 502 pound-feet of torque. It also features Nürburgring-tuned suspension, massive Pirelli P Zero Tires, and an aggressive body kit.
The XKR-S is essentially an XKR on steroids, and the XFR-S will probably be just as anabolic. The 5.0-liter V8 seems like a shoo-in, meaning the XFR-S will have significantly more power; the regular XFR has 510 hp and 470 lb-ft.
Judging from Jag’s teaser image, it seems like the XFR-S will also have looks to match its power. A more aggressive front air intake is visible, as is a bit of carbon fiber on the lower grille. The car is also wearing the same shade of the blue the XKR-S wore at its launch. Interestingly, the hue this British carmaker chose for its high performance models is actually France’s national racing color.
The XFR-S will need all of that help it can get because, as a midsize luxury sport sedan, it’s positioned to take on some of the toughest rivals in the business. Likely competition includes the Audi S6, Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG, and BMW M5.
In terms of power, the XFR-S is right in the middle of the German trinity. The S6 has 414 hp and 406lb-ft, the E63 AMG has 518 hp and 516 lb-ft, and the M5 has 560 hp and 500 lb-ft.
The XFR-S may walk all over the Audi and Mercedes, and come close to the BMW, but it needs to be more than a big engine. The XFR-S needs to be a complete package that can match the precision and refinement of the benchmarks. One of the main criticisms of the XKR-S was its lack of composure during fast driving; some testers said that it was essentially a cushy GT car like the basic XKR with more power, and not a genuine sports car.
We’ll get a better idea of how the XFR-S measures up when it makes its Los Angeles debut, but either way, Jaguar has made its own job a little easier. Only 100 XFR-S sedans will make it to the U.S., all as 2014 models. Pricing has not been announced, but expect this rare beast to command a significant premium over the XFR’s $83,200 base price.

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Draggin’ wagon: Audi mulling bringing 450hp RS4 Avant to the US?
Audi RS4 Avant front 3/4

Audi unveiled the 450 horsepower RS4 Avant at the Geneva Motor Show earlier this year, but so far it’s been a no-go for the wagon-averse United States. That may be changing, though. The forum QuattroWorld published photos of an RS4 that appeared this past Saturday at a Virginia Cars and Coffee meet not far from Audi’s U.S. headquarters.
The car that showed up at the Virginia gathering with its bulging fenders and copious “RS” badges, wore a Michigan “M” plate, designating it as a manufacturer-owned test vehicle. The car was reportedly a German-spec production model RS4.
Why get so excited over a station wagon? The RS4 Avant is essentially a wagon version of the ballistic RS5 coupe Audi just launched in the U.S. That means it packs a 4.2-liter V8 with the aforementioned 450 horses, plus 317 pound-feet of torque. Backing the engine is a seven-speed dual-clutch automated-manual transmission. Audi’s trademark quattro all-wheel drive gets a bonus torque-vectoring rear differential for more precise control on twisty roads.
The result is an unbelievably fast car with room for 2x4s. European-spec RS4s top out at an electronically-limited 155 mph, or 174 mph if owners pay extra to have the limiter raised. The RS4 can sprint to 62 mph (100 kph) in less than five seconds.
The RS models are Audi’s answer to BMW’s M, Mercedes-Benz’s AMG, and Cadillac’s V performance sub-brands. In the past Audi, deliberately built the RS4 as a wagon only to avoid direct competition with the heavy hitters from BMW and Mercedes. But if the current RS4 Avant makes it to the US, it will have a direct competitor of its own: the Cadillac CTS-V wagon.
The CTS-V packs 556 hp, does 0 to 60 mph in 4.1 seconds, and can reach a top speed of 185 mph. However, the two cars are very different in character. From its trick transmission and all-wheel drive system to its bevy of driver aids, the RS4 brandishes technology to get the job done. The CTS-V is hairy-chested, with a manual transmission (or optional automatic) and rear-wheel drive.
A fight against the CTS-V should reason enough for American enthusiasts to pine for the RS4 Avant, but it would also help establish the RS brand in the U.S. Right now, the Lord of the Rings only has the RS5 and TT RS, while Mercedes has a full line of AMG models and BMW has the more practical M3 and M5. Audi’s current line of “S” models (S4, S5, S6, S7, S8) are a little softer than the beasts from Bavaria.
Will the RS4 really make it to the States? Audi does have a habit of launching performance models in Europe first, then waiting to bring them to the U.S. The RS5 launched over there in 2010, but it wasn’t imported over here until this year. Audi could be following the same pattern with the RS4, or it could just be teasing people who live near its headquarters. Stay tuned.

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