Full-sized, four-door sedans are generally considered the meat and potatoes on the automotive menu, not the fancy dessert – that’s what sports cars are for. But two sedans we recently drove for a week and tested on the racetrack, the Jaguar XJR and the Mercedes E63 AMG, are the entire meal.
For most of us, these high-powered beasts will only ever be aspirational. The XJR has a list price of $120,170, including $3,275 in largely unnecessary cosmetic packages and delivery preparation, while the E63 is a relative bargain at $106,825, which includes the performance package, delivery preparation and $2,530 in custom trim options.
But if you’re looking for something to aspire to, both of these slick sedans fill the bill. The nice thing is that given today’s state-of-the-art engineering that provides full control of throttle and suspension behavior, both are as practical to ferry a finicky client to dinner as they are satisfying to drive with a coach on a professional racetrack.
Following are the quick spins on each.
2014 Jaguar XJR
What we drove: Four-door sport sedan with 5-liter supercharged 550-horsepower engine pushing 461 pound-feet of torque to rear wheels through eight-speed paddle-controlled automatic transmission.
How thirsty: 15 mpg city, 23 mpg highway, 18 mpg combined.
What we liked best: The understated front- and rear-end design of the XJR is among the best in the luxury market. The overall feeling of big-car luxury in the interior is exactly what one expects from the British traditions of this marque, preserved through several successive owners. The blast of supercharged power and controlled handling overcoming the mass of the automobile could render an owner addicted to high-performance track days.
What we liked least: Although the exterior lines aren’t bad, the car is just a little too bulky, especially in the rear quarters, to suggest that it’s actually capable of the speeds it can reach. The redesign of the dashboard and center stack is a disappointment, with the frog-eyed vents sticking up out of the center and the deep curve of the bland carbon-fiber trim receding into the distance under the windshield.
What we will remember: This car is a hoot to drive, all the more so because its looks and bulk don’t promise the disciplined performance it can deliver. Now if we just didn’t have to look at that dashboard.
2014 Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG S-Model 4Matic
What we drove: Four-door sport sedan with 5.5-liter dual turbocharged 577-horsepower engine pushing 590 pound-feet of torque to all four wheels through seven-speed paddle-controlled speedshift automatic transmission and 4Matic permanent all-wheel drive.
How thirsty: 16 mpg city, 23 mpg highway, 18 mpg combined.
What we liked best: All-wheel drive is just what the doctor ordered to manage the extra jolt of power added to the 2104 E63. Track performance is absolutely the best in this segment – it’s no surprise that Mercedes-Benz is providing a free day of AMG Academy track school with purchase. But dial back all the go-fast, turn-quick buttons and the car is as sedate and comfortable as an airport limousine.
What we liked least: Although Mercedes has included all the leading-edge safety features and options available on any of its cars – including semiautonomous driving in traffic-jam situations, night vision and automatic collision avoidance – it hasn’t restyled the instrument panel and center stack. We can’t wait for the E-Class to catch up to the S- and C-Classes.
What we will remember: When one single car can ferry guests in style to the best restaurant in Carmel one evening and scream under the Mazda Raceway bridge at 140 mph the next morning, who needs a second car?