Jaguar XF now a load more enticing

The Jaguar range has been missing a practical, versatile estate but the new XF Sportbrake appeals to

The Jaguar range has been missing a practical, versatile estate but the new XF Sportbrake appeals to the head and the heart in equal measure. - Credit: Jaguar

Jaguar has finally launched an estate version of the XF and it appeals to the head and the heart, says Iain Dooley, PA senior motoring writer.

If there's one thing prospective Jaguar buyers have been missing, it's an estate car. A traditional load-lugger has been conspicuously absent from the company's range since the demise of the X-Type, an omission rivals have capitalised on.

Given the recent change of ownership from Ford to Tata and the slew of new or revised products that have come from both Jaguar and Land Rover in recent years – both brands are under the same roof – you could excuse the company for being a little busy. Now the patience of those prospective buyers has finally been rewarded with the long-awaited XF estate – the Sportbrake.

For a company with minimal experience making estate cars, the end product is thoughtfully constructed and styled. Looks-wise the XF wagon's profile is elegant yet functional, while there's never any impression that the load-lugging bit is merely window dressing.

On paper the XF Sportbrake promises to be versatile and practical. Boasting a near-flat-fold rear seat mechanism including through-load flap and 60/40 fold split, total volume is a competitive 1,675 litres. Factor in some extra space below the boot floor, a fraction more rear headroom plus a host of options to make life easy – boot dividers and liners, roof racks and boxes, tow bar, cycle racks, powered tailgate – and it's clear that Jaguar is keen to tempt buyers away from established cars from Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Audi.

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With everything save the rear doors new from the B-pillar back to the uncluttered tailgate, the XF Sportbrake is a bold statement of intent from Jaguar considering that the car will be targeted at only the European market for the foreseeable future. Unlike the saloon and sport utility vehicle-centric American and Asian markets, European buyers have a soft spot for estates.

And they also like diesel engines, which is why this XF is diesel-only. For the cost and tax-conscious buyers there's a 2.2-litre four-cylinder unit with 163 and 200 horsepower, plus Jaguar's 3.0-litre V6 with 240 and 275 horsepower. Predictably, the smaller engine will appeal to company-car drivers and the latter to private buyers, and there's a noticeable uplift in driver appeal if you go for the V6. Smooth, refined and plenty quick enough in the real world, it's an engine that suits the car's laid-back approach to performance.

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The 2.2-litre engine uses the same eight-sped automatic gearbox as the V6 but doesn't like to be rushed and is more at home being driven at a relaxed pace.

That said, both cars gain self-levelling rear suspension to ensure a safe and level attitude regardless of what's in the back and how enthusiastic you are at the wheel, while the optional adaptive dynamics system boasts computer-controlled dampers to further reduce pitch and roll when on the move – something keen drivers will welcome.

With all this focus on the XF's rear, it's easy to forget the 2012 revisions – lights, grille, bumpers – that do much to ensure the car maintains its stylistic edge over rivals. And, although decidedly minimalist by current standards, the few subtle changes made to the car's cabin's switchgear and trim options have also added a welcome new layer of sophistication.

A popular car in saloon guise since its introduction, this Sportbrake variant is proof that Jaguar's design and engineering talent isn't restricted to saloons and sports cars. This car's thoughtful and fuss-free exterior is matched by a practical interior plus a range of useful and stylish accessories.

That the Sportbrake retains the driving appeal of the saloon is the icing on the cake, and further illustrate's the company's no-compromise approach to delivering a car that has been designed to appeal to the head and the heart in equal measure.

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