Blown away

Logic says that therean optimum amount to spend on any particular type of vehicle. Spend this sum and you will realise approximately 85 per cent of whatachieved by the best in the sector, which can cost multiples more. Itthe law of diminishing returns.

How does this relate to the two midsized luxury performance vehicles you see here, Jaguarfacelifted XFR and BMWM5 ? Well, the latter has a drive-away price of $229k, and the former now costs $160k. A couple of years ago, the XFR went for $210k, and we liked it then. In the intervening period, the pound has plummeted. Once upon a time you needed three Kiwi dollars to buy a single pound, and now two does the trick. The Euro has also lost some ground to the Kiwi, though the M5 has backtracked much less in price, partly because ita totally new vehicle. Undoubtedly, it has a power and performance advantage over the Jaguar XFR, but the power difference isnthat great, as the extra acceleration stems from its slick-shifting tranny.

Ideally, we would have preferred to compare BMW550i with the XFR as the two are line-ball on pricing, but that wasnavailable, and the M5 was. So the question here must be: is the M5 worth the $70k extra over the XFR?

BMWM5 Setups for speed and efficiency

The M5 has always been something of a technological tour de force for BMW. It continues to be, and the fifth-generation version features plenty of new kit, so much so that it weighs over 130 kilograms more than its V10 forebear. Moreover, so many aspects of the car are now configurable that it is even more confusing to operate —and not just because of its iDrive either. Kidding! The iDrive system has gone through several overhauls and is now well sorted. Nor are we referring to the launch control; this involves an eight-step preconditioning sequence, which is ridiculous, especially compared with the simplicity of the Porsche system.

No, what we w^ere referring to is the array of setup buttons that surrounds the gear lever. Thereone for the throttle, two more for steering and damper response, and another for the transmission shift speed. We started on Sport for all, but quickly returned the steering setting to Comfort, as thererather too much wheel resistance otherwise. The throttle setting alone must be set to Sport Plus for optimum engine response. Lest we forget, therealso a Sports setting for the ESP that reduces the intervention but wonleave you in the lurch if you overestimate your abilities. This is best for track use, on the whole.

After all this faffing about, you commit your settings to an ’memory button on the wheel, or otherwise each time you hit the stop start button, everything defaults back to Efficiency or Comfort mode, which turns out to be just fine for town running.

By contrast, the XFR is much more straightforward to set up for Sports driving, as therea button specifically for dynamic driving, and another to dial back the ESP system. As with the BMW, it allows a degree of steering from the rear.

From the above, youprobably deduced that the BMW has adaptive damping (as has the Jaguar), and variable-ratio steering (which the Brit gets too, though it is not adjustable for heft). Surprisingly, therealso a stop-start device and other EfficientDynamics technology in the BMW that results in a mean fuel consumption figure of 9.9L/100km, down one-third from its prior namesake. This contrasts with 12.5L/100km from the Jaguar, a difference partly explained by turbocharging versus supercharging. The Jaguar has no idle-stop device, either. In the world outside laboratory tests, we achieved constant 14from the M5 and consistent 15from the Jaguar. When the meters were retripped, both recorded best motorway 100km/h figures of around 8.5L/100km on cruise control.

The M5 shows the XFR how to vamoose

The Brit gets only six gears to the BMWseven, and the transmission in the German car is of the twin-clutch variety, with adjustable shift times. The six-speed of the XFR may seem a bit old hat but it works just fine in this setting, given the torque on offer. Jaguar has announced that the XFR is to get the eight-speed ZF transmission next year, which should make it more marketable. What will actually make this car decidedly quicker is the addition of an even more powerful model; Jaguar is working on an XFR-S version with M5-equalling power.

The two cars are similar mechanically in that both run largish V8s and use forced induction, but while one is a supercharged 5.0-litre unit, the other is a 4.4-litre biturbo. Each has direct fuel injection and variable-valve timing. The Jaguar produces 375kW and 625Nm, the latter between 2500 and 5000rpm. The BMWtrick manifold arrangement for the twin-scroll turbochargers fattens the output to a herculean 412kW, with peak torque of 680Nm, from 1500 to 5750rpm. Given the two cars weigh virtually the same, the BMW should outmuscle the Jaguar.

Despite what the specs suggest, both cars like a few revs before they get into their stride, over 2000rpm, at least. Once these conditions are satisfied, the BMW makes the Jaguar seem as though its claws have been clipped. Drive the Jaguar without the BMW as a reference and you might think wemad, but the BMW on the razzmatazz is simply dazzling: ita rocket. The urgency and speed build with a rapidity that can sometimes border on alarming. The last few thousand revs —and it spins to 7500 —arrive with a hiss and a roar. At the high end of proceedings therea decent amount of exhaust noise thatappealing —the exhaust bangs manfully as you hook the next cog —but compared with AMG offerings, or even the Jaguar, itnot as evocative. Turbos sometimes do that.

Not just performance pieces

Because both are performance oriented, each comes with wheel-mounted paddle shifters.

In terms of other stock items the BMW is slightly better served, being more expensive, but both are midsized luxury cars, so each comes with highly adjustable leather-clad sports seats, multi-zone air conditioning (four zones for the BMW), 20-inch alloys and the like. The BMW also gets rear —and surround-view cameras, adaptive headlights, a head-up display, a powered boot-lid and soft-closing doors. Figure also on sat-nav, cruise control with a brake function, a 650wpc 16-speaker hi-fi system with 12G of music storage, TV functionality and park distance control front and rear. Some of these die Jag matches and betters —it gets a 1200wpc B&W hi-fi system with 17 speakers —and new for this year are reshaped lights with daytime running lights, a DVD and a hard drive for music storage, and 18-way seats.

The BMWboot area is up 20 litres on the Jaguar, at 520 litres overall, and it features 60:40 split folding. Thatnow disappeared off the Jaguarspec list and has become a $1150 option. However, the XFR boot is wider at the rear, making a golf bag easier to fit.

Key XFR options include adaptive cruise and headlights ($3000 and $1450, respectively), an electric sunroof ($2800) and blind-spot monitoring ($1100). Some of these the BMW gets anyway, like the sunroof and adaptive bixenons with high beam assist, but items like lane departure warning and blind-spot monitoring are cost options.

BMWM5

At record pace

Proving a hasty point are the VBOX-confirmed times we achieved with the M5: at 2.2 seconds, it ran the quickest overtaking time wehad from any production four-door, while a best 0-100km/h time of 4.30 seconds puts it in rarefied company. A decade ago, only supercars ran in the fours, whereas nowadays many cars do, thanks to modern transmissions that provide an almost continuous flow of power. But getting below 4.5 seconds remains a trick, and running below 4.0 seconds is truly rare.

All of which presumably means the performance of the XFR, with a 0-100km/h time of 4.9 seconds, is well shaded by the M5, but this is not so in the real world. On Kiwi roads, the R is on the case by 2000rpm and feels charged with energy in the 2000-to-3000rpm range. Use revs from 2500 to 3500, and it goes hard. It has neither the top-end rush of the BMW nor the rev extension, but an overtaking time of 2.6 seconds makes it a quick cat. Moreover, it sounds fast. Unlike Walkinshaw-enhanced HSVs, where a whine is the loudest aspect, Jaguarsupercharger is all but silent; in fact, a sound tube is vented into the cabin that emits a C’note. By that, we assume Jaguar means an elegant V8 rumble. Whatever, the car makes music on the move in a way that the M5 canquite match. Most of the time, these engines purr along at 2000rpm or less. The Jag sounds glorious at these revs, and its good-to-go power from low down compensates adequately for its slight performance deficit, if you can describe it as such.

A sensitive soul

There are two other aspects to the Jaguar drive that rate a mention, the first being its brakes. Take a look in behind the thin spokes of the M5front wheels and yousee blue calipers and vented and perforated 400mm discs that suggest savage whoa-power. The Jaguar also sports big discs, but theyonly 380mm in diameter with no perforations. Despite that, it produced a 32-metre best panic stop to the M535-metre effort, and it was the Jaguar brakes that felt best underfoot. Perhaps it was the alloy and rubber pedal that did the trick.

And that same sensitivity is even more pronounced at the wheel of the Jaguar. Unlike the M5, which features electric steering as part of the EfficientDynamics scenario, Jaguar retains a hydraulic steering rack, which is amongst the best youfind in the luxury performance sector. Therejust-right weighting and a vivid sense of the road surface beneath the front wheels. While the BMW also telegraphs the road texture —which is quite a thing for electric steering —over coarse chipseal the wheel is alive with high-frequency vibrations on centre, and theyan unwanted distraction. The weighting doesnfeel natural either: it feels more digital than analogue, like the Jaguar. Switching between the two, and theypork and peas different. Despite their similar size and weight, the Jaguar consistently feels smaller to helm as well. Each car, set up just so, is capable of subduing most roads of interest, and theyeven good fun in the wet.

Comfort

In a final surprise, the MSsuperior low-speed ride quality was unexpected, given Jaguars are renowned for pillowy progress and M cars of the past have often been too fiercely sprung for Kiwi roads. But theynot featured adaptive damping before. You can drive the M5 in the Comfort suspension setting most of the time without experiencing excessive pitch and dive, revelling in its ability to soak up all beneath its wheels. Sport Plus is best reserved for circuit work, though, as itall a bit lumpy-jumpy on road.

In the standard setting, the Jaguar damping is a touch firmer than the M5 similarly configured, and minor surface breaks are more noticeable at town speeds. On the go, however, its Dynamic mode is equally adept at firming the car for corner control and easing back again for passenger comfort on the straights as the M5 is in Sport mode. Adaptive damping rocks in modem performance cars.

Pomp and muscle

Finally, while at first glance both the M5 and XJR both could simply pass as midsized luxury cars with big wheels, itthe Jaguar that consistently attracted the most votes as the spunkier looker, especially now that it has the headlights that everyone admired so much on the original concept car. Ita peach. The M5 is also appealing from most angles, particularly if you like subtle muscle.

Pick these range toppers by their four exhaust outlets and diffusers in between —as if the front bumpers full of air intakes and the bonnet breathers werenclue enough.

To be $70k better than the XFR, the M5 needed to be extra special. Performance-wise, it is, but only when optimised; in normal operating modes at everyday revs the Jaguar feels just as strong. On roads they deserve, both are titans, but the Jaguarmore natural steering is obvious.

Yes, you get more kit and marginally more space in the BMW, but in the end, it was a bridge too far for the M5 to span. Bring on the XFR-S.

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