Elegant Jaguar XF Sportbrake has loads of style
- Credit: Jaguar
If estate cars are workhorses, Jaguar's XF Sportbrake is a pure thoroughbred, says motoring editor Andy Russell.
A few years ago the future was looking pretty bleak for Jaguar.
It was losing money, Jaguar's big-selling X-Type's days were numbered – with many wondering how Jaguar would fare without its 'affordable' entry model – and Ford was looking to off-load both the prestige British brand along with Land Rover.
And when Indian conglomerate Tata, then really only known in Britain for cheap-and-cheerful 4x4s, bought Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) in 2008 many felt that might be the final nail in the coffin for a big part of our motoring heritage.
But the end of the road for the X-Type, the arrival of the new XF saloon, followed by an all-new XJ saloon, a revised XK coupe and convertible and the promise of a replacement for the iconic E-Type – the F-Type has just arrived in showrooms – has opened up a whole new era... a very successful one.
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Now with JLR making record profits year on year both marques have gone from strength to strength and the demise of the Ford Mondeo-derived X-Type actually boosted Jaguar's prestige image, making it more attractive with those who could afford its more upmarket models – the ones they saw as true Jaguars. And much-improved quality and reliability now means Jaguar can also compete with the best that Germany can offer.
Now Jaguar has given the range a further boost, opening it up to a new market, with the Jaguar XF Sportbrake which offers loads of style, practicality and versatility.
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It's an elegant, well-proportioned estate car – one I would be happy to have gracing my driveway – with its sleek, svelte lines.
Compared to the saloon, the Sportbrake is new from the B-pillars back and adds 48mm more rear headroom to the already spacious legroom in the back.
But the highlight of the space race is the big square boot, made all the more practical if you opt for the powered tailgate.
It may have a large floor area but the boot is shallow compared to some rivals so, despite its 550-litre cargo capacity with the rears seats in place, the Sportbrake is more lifestyle estate than ultimate load-lugger although it will easily meet most families' needs.
Pull remote levers in the boot and the 60/40 split rear seat backs drop flat to raise capacity to 1,675 litres.
Compartments each side of the boot and an underfloor storage tray are useful for hiding away odds and ends while tracks in the boot floor to hold restraining bars and a panel that splits into three sections to wedge small loads all help keep cargo safe and sound if you drive too enthusiastically.
The award-winning XF saloon is highly praised for its dynamic roadholding and keen drivers won't be disappointed by the Sportbrake.
The estate's length has grown by just 5mm, its weight by less 70kg, but self-levelling rear air suspension keeps the Sportbrake on an even keel regardless of load and will prove it worth if you plan to tow.
The ride is quite sublime whether wafting along motorways or tackling meandering country roads. Responsive, well-weighted power steering add to the driving appeal and this fine-handling car always feels firmly planted with the suspension providing enough feedback but able to cushion the worst road surfaces.
The Sportbrake is offered only with turbo diesel power – 163 and 200PS 2.2-litre four-cylinder engines and 240 and 275PS versions of the 3.0-litre V6 – all mated to an eight-speed automatic gearbox with the rotary selector rising from the centre console when the Jaguar is fired up.
The more powerful V6 engine is smooth and sporty with a great surge of acceleration even from low revs and effortless performance yet still returned 37mpg running around with 43mpg on a run.
I love Jaguar interiors with their modern take on prestige, heritage and tradition. The attention to detail is top notch, as are the materials, with lots of leather and alloy highlights, and the rising gear lever and electrically-operated flush-fitting airvents are a joy to behold every time you turn the ignition on and off. The touchscreen infotainment system looks complicated but is so logical to use as are the straightforward controls which are classy yet simple.
The XF Sportbrake comes in a wide range of attractively-equipped trim levels – SE, SE Business, Luxury, Sport, Premium Luxury and Portfolio – and there's a wealth of options for those who really want to tailor their car to their needs.
A Jaguar enthusiast recently said to me that there was a time when Jaguar launched a new car that people would wonder if it was going to be any good but now it is a matter of just how good it is going to be.
In the case of the XF Sportbrake... brilliant.