Now in its third year, the Jaguar R Performance Academy is a one-day driving school designed to train owners of Jaguar's "R" vehicles how to get the most from their powerful cars. We were invited to attend the inaugural launch of the Academy at the Monticello Motor Club in Monticello, N.Y. to experience the program and the supercharged cars firsthand.
Our first exercise was piloting the XFR, Jaguar's handsome supercharged sedan, around a small oval at relatively low speeds. With a 510hp V8 capable of pushing the car to 60mph in 4.5 seconds, finding the right balance of braking and acceleration through the tight course on wet pavement was tough. We then switched to the XKR which has the same engine but in a low-slung coupe, providing a great contrast between the cars' dynamics.
Next up was the figure eight. Our instructor switched off the XFR's Dynamic Stability Control to demonstrate just how much correction the Jaguar's computers were doing to keep us on the course. After a few dramatic spins and some flying orange cones, we started to get the feel for when the rear end wanted to break free and swing out, and a few minutes later we were powersliding around the pavement with relative ease. The R Academy also usually includes a timed Autocross in its curriculum, but ours was cancelled due to a little mishap with one of the fleet cars.
The R Academy instructors are either former or current competitive drivers, including Davy Jones, winner of the 1990 24 Hours of Daytona, and former Formula One driver and Indy 500 Rookie of the Year Roberto Guerrero. Each different exercise paired us with a different instructor who had particular style and philosophy to impart. All were friendly and accessible and eager to share some of their knowledge gained from hundreds of thousands of laps.
As the weather cleared and the track started to dry we headed out in a lead/follow formation around Monticello's challenging track. An instructor in the lead car talked us through each turn over the radio, pointing out the ideal entry, apex and exit points. Each lap got progressively faster and after a dozen or so our instructor has us switch the car's DSC to "Track" and handling to Dynamic, allowing for a greater (and more dramatic) driving experience. As the afternoon wore on and we became familiar with Monticello's myriad corners, we began noticing that the DSC wasn't correcting us as much, meaning we were actually learning something.
Finally, at the end of the day, we got to sit shotgun in an XFR as Chief Instructor Chris Munro took us around the track for a few "hot laps." As we flew around a long sweeping turn at over 80mph, rear tires breaking loose, it was abundantly clear that we had a long way to go before we'd be spraying champagne on anyone.
Jaguar is currently touring the R Performance Academy in New York, Las Vegas and Miami. The Academy provides the cars, safety equipment, meals and hosts a reception dinner the night before. Participants are only responsible for their travel and lodging. The basic course is complimentary with the purchase of a new Jaguar XFR or XKR (no word on if the XKR-S is included), and for the first time is open to non-owners at a cost of $1,850.