Motoring

MOTORING: BMW M760Li xDrive vs Jaguar XJR575: Clash of the Titans

It doesn’t get much bigger, or more expensive, in the world of high-performance sedans. BMW’s flagship M760Li is both indecently rapid and decadently luxurious. Jaguar’s XJR575 lacks the tech, yet scores big on personality and sheer gusto. But how relevant are these heavyweights in a modern motoring context?

As heavyweight battles go, this one’s a dream contest: two aristocratic sedans, both priced at more than R2-million, with the kind of performance potential usually expected of thoroughbred sports cars.

And yet, the two contenders – one from Bavaria, the other proudly British –couldn’t be more different.

The BMW M760Li xDrive’s tongue-twisting designation is an apt one, expressing the three key ingredients of a rather unique saloon car formula. The M promises motorsport-derived dynamics, courtesy of BMW’s hallowed M Division.

Then there’s the L, which confirms that this Seven is a long-wheelbase model, but could also be short for Luxury or Limousine. Finally, the X in xDrive refers to the BMW’s all-wheel drive system, which seamlessly directs the Teuton’s between the front and rear axles.

By comparison, the Jaguar’s XJR575 badge is more prosaic, more to the point – but equally relevant. The R nomenclature is reserved for the British brand’s raciest models, while the 575 confirms the power output, in horsepower, this XJ has at its disposal.

Both cars are flagship models, representing the best (and the biggest) of the brands in question. But while luxury is usually the overriding theme of sedans in this league, both BMW and Jaguar have chosen to emphasise performance as the core capability.

Not that comfort or luxury have had to take a back seat here: quite the opposite. If anything, these two set out to prove that you don’t have to endure the cramped quarters and impracticalities of a sports car to enjoy fast-forward motoring.

Despite being a BMW M-fettled machine, the M760Li looks more suave than sporty Seven. It’s only when parked next to a standard 7-Series that you’ll notice the differences.

Most notable are the bigger, more aggressive front air intakes, the larger alloy wheels shod with fatter rubber, the broader sills, and the quad exhausts jutting from the deeper rear apron. Gunmetal grey replaces chrome for the exterior detailing, too.

By comparison, the Jaguar is the more overtly sporty machine, perhaps because the standard XJ can look unflatteringly stodgy. The R575 treatment addresses that conservatism with hungrier air intakes, a prominent front splitter, a more pronounced rear diffuser with quadruple exhausts, and deeper sills.

This hottest of XJs also get a honeycombed grille in gloss black, blacked out B and C-pillars, and black wheels, lending a menacing air to the big sedan’s presence. You don’t need those R575 badges to tell you that this Jaguar means business, despite its obvious girth.

And that’s something shared by these two cars: they’re sizeable sedans, designed to offer plenty of interior space. The BMW wins the bigger-is-better war, thanks to an extended wheelbase that stretches the overall length to a garage-busting 5.24m.

Next to the big Seven, the Jag looks relatively modest, if not exactly compact: it still measures 5.13m long. The 1.9m width is just 2mm short of the BMW’s, while the Bavarian’s 1.48m height makes it 2cm taller than its English rival.

Lavish is the word that comes to mind when ensconced in the BMW’s hide-swathed interior. Given its limousine-style stretched wheelbase, there’s almost more room at the rear than the front.

It’s a space fitted with more bells and whistles than even the most committed hedonist could expect. But it’s the sheer luxury on offer, combined with an array of advanced technologies (think Wi-Fi connectivity, autonomous parking, gesture control, and a raft of driver assistance systems).

Of course, the M760Li is supposed to be a driver’s car, first and foremost. But the rear accommodation is so alluring, so extravagantly cosseting, that it’s hard to ignore the possibility of simply commanding proceedings from one of those individually sculpted, electrically operated, rear seats.

However, that would mean letting your trusty chauffeur loose behind the wheel – and who would blame him if he got carried away by the allure of all that urge on tap …

No sir, those opting for the M760Li rather than the more conventional 750Li would be doing themselves a disservice by swapping that thick-rimmed steering wheel for the rear seat’s attractions. This is a car that needs to be driven – and Driven with intent – to be fully appreciated.

The Jaguar’s approach is more British club than hi-tech showcase, with a healthy dose of sporty trimmings thrown in for good measure. Yes, it also offers a full house of comfort and convenience features, but the execution reflects the XJR575’s dynamic intentions – and that’s a good thing.

While the rear seating is generous, even by big car standards, it’s certainly not in the same league as the BMW. But it’s more practical: the conventional rear bench, big enough for three adults side-by-side, has headroom and legroom to spare.

There’s loads of leather here, too: quilted and perforated, with red contrasting stitching. The result is a bespoke look that certainly elevates the cabin ambience. The embossed 575 logo on the headrests borders on the garish, though.

The Jag also reveals its age with a small infotainment screen squashed into the centre stack, and ergonomics that, while effective, aren’t in the same intuitive league as the BMW. The rotary gear selector may be a hallmark feature, but feels contrived compared to more conventional solutions.

Let’s not forget that both these cars prioritise performance, however, and they have the hardware to prove it. For sheer effect, there’s nothing quite like the BMW’s big-capacity V12, complete with a pair of turbos.

It’s a beautiful motor: effortlessly smooth and infinitely muscular, with the shove of steam locomotive, and the refinement of a turbine. With 448kW of muscle and 800Nm of twist, it shrugs off the M760Li’s porky two ton-plus mass with a regal disdain.

Ensuring that none of that urge is lost to poor traction, the big BMW also benefits from xDrive all-wheel drive, which distributes the power between the front and rear wheels for optimum power transfer and grip.

Adding to the drivetrain’s appeal is an eight-speed auto gearbox that achieves impressively rapid but seamless shifts. It’s best exploited using the shift paddles, but is also perfectly capable in fully automatic mode.

The XJR575 can’t match the BMW’s V12 charisma, but the supercharged V8 it brings to the performance party has its own, singular charisma. In pure power terms, it’s not far off the BMW’s mill, delivering 423kW and 700Nm.

Importantly though, the Jaguar is more than 200kg lighter, so that the British sedan actually achieves a better power-to-weight ratio than its German rival.

The V8 mill has all the refinement of a sledgehammer, and the fact that it has to rely on the rear wheels only to transfer its muscle to the road means its always feels edgier to pilot – which will be a plus point among those who enjoy their driving visceral and challenging.

Even so, the eight-speed gearbox is a smooth operator, and does a good job of harnessing the blown V8s enthusiasm. It can’t emulate the percussive intent of the BMW ‘box when pressing on, but it swaps cogs with ample intent and precision.

As for ride quality, the BMW has the more sophisticated, and also the more compliant suspension set-up, which contributes to its effortless, cosseting progress. It’s always as taut or as forgiving as it needs to be, and it remains unruffled in all but the most extreme situations.

Not so the Jaguar, which has an inherently tauter, less forgiving set-up. The result is a greater sense of immediacy, but at the cost of overall refinement and compliancy.

Which brings us to the most important aspect of all: how do the dynamic talents of these two supersaloons stack up?

In sheer straightline speed terms, the BMW is the faster car, despite its weight handicap – and significantly so. The difference from 0-100km/h is close to a full second, which suggests a more effective ratio stack, and perhaps a quicker shift action.

For what it’s worth, the BMW is quicker in top speed terms, too – although you need to specify the optional M Driver Package to up the electronic limiter from the standard 250km/h maximum to an eye-popping 305km/h.

The Jaguar is also a member of the small, exclusive 300km/h top speed club, but given our road and traffic conditions, it’s a purely academic capability unlikely to be exercised, except under controlled conditions.

Much more important is the combination of in-gear tractability, throttle response, steering and chassis dynamics, all of which contribute to the real-world experience of a car’s dynamic talents.

The BMW is easily the most composed, almost regardless of speed or driving conditions. There is an unflappable confidence about the way it conducts itself, even when going hell for leather.

And that’s the thing: hell for leather feels more like a quiet countryside cruise.

in the BMW. Its progress is so effortless, so utterly competent, that it seems to defy gravity itself. And even then, the G-forces feel toned down to milder, more manageable levels.

The downside to that outright capability is a lack of drama, and a dangerous dose of understatement. Dangerous because you only rarely realise just how fast you’re travelling in the big BMW.

When you do, it’s usually because you’re closing on the slower car in front with an almost comical haste, or because the braking force required to shed that underrated velocity is considerable.

To the M760Li’s credit, it copes with close shaves and nasty surprises with the same ease it gathers speed. But in the process, this limousine on steroids emasculates the driving experience.

Or, to put it differently: to truly experience and appreciate what the M760iL is capable of, you need to thrash it around a racing circuit. Only then can you appreciate the high cornering speeds, the instantaneous acceleration, the finely honed steering, and the tremendous stopping power.

The Jaguar isn’t nearly as balanced nor as forgiving. But it communicates its intentions more explicitly than its German rival – and it’s all the more enjoyable for it. The stiffer set-up and the limited traction make it more challenging to pilot, but the close rapport with the car allows the driver to take confident command.

For what is still a big and heavy car, the XJR is a deft handler, carving its way through corners with real intent, and providing plenty of urge at the slightest throttle prompt, almost regardless of gear.

Drive it with restraint, and the Jaguar becomes a civilised cruiser, but there’s always an underlying edge, a wild streak, that can be summoned by booting the loud pedal.

There’s no doubt that the BMW M760Li xDrive is the most advanced, most sophisticated, most capable car here. It’s also the most spacious, the most luxurious, the quickest, and the most technologically advanced.

The Jaguar is showing its age and its limitations. But it’s the most entertaining of the two contenders. It communicates its intentions with unbridled honesty, and rewards brave-hearted drivers with a visceral, thoroughly satisfying driving experience – refreshingly unusual in the context of a large, luxurious sedan.

In short, the Jaguar is a real driver’s car, and in a niche where dynamics are the key determining factor, that tips the scale in the XJR575’s favour. DM

VITAL STATS

BMW M760LI xDrive

Jaguar XJR 575

Engine

6,592cc V12, twin-turbo

5,000cc V8, supercharged

Power

448kW @ 5,500rpm

423kW @ 6,250 – 6,500rpm

Torque

800Nm @ 1,550rpm

700Nm @ 3,500 – 4,500rpm

Power-to-weight ratio

205.5 kW/ton

225.6 kW/ton

Gearbox

Eight-speed M Steptronic auto, AWD

Eight-speed auto, RWD

Wheels/tyres

20-inch alloy, 245/40 (f) 275/35 (r) R20 tyres

20-inch alloy, 265/35 (f) 295/30 (r) R20 tyres

0-100 km/h

3.7sec

4.4sec

Top speed

305km/h

300km/h

Fuel tank capacity

78 litres

80 litres

Fuel consumption (claimed)

12.8 litres/100km

11.1 litres/100km

Operating range (claimed)

610km

721km

CO2 emissions

294 g/km

264g/km

Retail price/as tested

R2,828,411/R2,913,715

R2,667,716

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