Johannesburg - Rudyard Kipling's Shere Khan comes to life in Jaguar’s XJR 575. But, refer to this big cat as The Lame One and you will certainly be chomped. We took the car out to the Gerotek test track to see if the burly beast can produce the numbers that Jaguar claims, and it smashed the 0-100km/h sprint in less than 5 seconds (4.6 to be exact).

Not bad for a portly, two-ton, family car that offers quilted leather seats and soft-touch roof lining. But the XJ is getting a bit long in the tooth now and with the newer 7 Series and S-Class to contend with in the luxury car segment, this 575 variant certainly has its work cut out for it in terms of attracting buyers.

Fortunately, Jaguar engineers have done the XJ platform justice by fitting it with an engine that is absolutely brutal in terms of grunt. And, the company has made sure that the punch from under the hood is sent to the road properly, through a relatively fast-shifting stack of automatic gears (eight in total) and rear wheel-drive.

The Jaguar XJR 575 is powered by a five-litre supercharged V8 that produces 423kW and 700Nm - more than the legendary XJ220 supercar from the 1990s. Should you find yourself having to overtake, there is plenty of urgency all over the rev range; what I loved most about the 575’s nature is how it picks up and goes without a hint of lag. God bless its supercharger.

But, as mentioned earlier, the XJ is one of the oldest cars in Jaguar’s current portfolio; it will be replaced by a new XJ but when exactly that will happen is yet to be confirmed. For now, the design team has kept the XJ looking fresh and relevant by adding LED light clusters front and rear, and tailored bumpers fore and aft.

The 575 is made extra gangster-looking thanks to a rear spoiler, quad exhaust pipes, a three-piece front splitter, bonnet inserts with the word ‘SUPERCHARGED’ imprinted (which you can point out to M5 and E63 owners) and ‘575’ badges all over the place. Our striking grey 575 just dripped presence wherever it went.

Inside, those quilted leather seats and soft touch materials make for a sublime place to sit. Passengers can easily find a comfortable position and baby seats can be fitted easily thanks to IsoFix compatibility.

The usual modern conveniences are also available, such as four-zone climate control, heated and cooled seats, and a huge panoramic glass roof is ideal in the open position, particularly on a spirited drive to allow the V8’s rumble to rock the cabin a little more.

Overall, the standard spec sheet is quite admirable; you can stream media from your wireless devices via Bluetooth, while a banging Meridian speaker and amplifier package takes care of sound reproduction. The boot is big, the car is easy to see out off and on the right (smooth) surfaces it is super comfy too. Really, it is hard to fault this car.

But, let us circle back to the tiger-like nature of the 575. It can be great car to be chauffeured in, but you really want to be in the driver’s seat to experience the car for the animal that it is. That datedness I mentioned earlier actually begins to make sense in the car, because there is actually a bit of feel in its steering, rather than the drowned-out ‘muted-ness’ that comes with some of its newer German competitors. And the steering is fast too; accurate and trustworthy.

But, being rear-wheel drive and with all that torque from the engine, you are going to need a dexterous right foot to ensure you are not pressing too hard on the loud pedal. I tried to be a little too aggressive with the accelerator while turning at low speeds in an empty parking lot and before I knew it, the car was facing the opposite direction to where I had intended going. Gentleness, progressiveness. That is how this car really excels when putting the power down.

Should you, however, enjoy being a bit of a hooligan, you can start the big cat up and push a button next to the rotary gear selector. A chequered flag will appear on your instrument cluster, which highlights that you’ve just put the car into its dynamic setting. Now you’ll experience a little more slip from the tyres for those extra spirited drives to or from the office, but you’ll still have a small safety net of traction control and anti-skid on your side.

VERDICT

At R2.6 million, our test car had only one option, a Corris Grey paint finish at a shade over R5000. The standard specification of the car is superb, so much so that you do not need to wade through massive options lists. There are also very few new-generation driver aids on the car as standard or available as options; a good thing considering that the 575 is a car that is built to be driven, and driven hard.

This car can be both a crouching tiger and thundering gangster-mobile. Yes, it sipped unleaded at a rate of more than 15 litres per 100km during the test period, but it can be light on juice (sub-nine litres per 100km) on long highway stints. If you like to drive, and need space for the family, this Jag’s made for you.

Drive360