Jaguar XF Sportbrake Review
Jaguar has tried to blend form and function to create a practical estate car that’s great to drive, and has got the mix right with the Sportbrake.
- Looks like the automotive equivalent of a sharp suit
- Great to drive
- Despite the looks, it’s actually quite practical
- Some of the interior detail isn’t up to its rivals
- Lengthy options list cranks up the price
- Performance is rather more sedate than the name suggests
When is an estate car not an estate car? When it’s a Sportbrake. Not the greatest punchline anyone has ever told, but Jaguar is keen to distance the Sportbrake from a run of the mill estate car. The XF, you see, is very much a style led product, and if the Sportbrake happens to be a little more practical then that’s probably just coincidence.
It follows the lead set by other less-practical-than-they-could-be estate cars by having a long, raked roofline that robs the back of loadspace, and a glassline that rises towards the back to make it appear even sleeker.
It’s a glorious looking car, but the reality is that it needs to blend form and function together. It took Jaguar two years to convert the saloon into this stylish estate, so let’s find out if it’s good enough…
On the Road
For most buyers, there’ll be a 2.0-litre diesel engine under the bonnet. That engine is available in three power outputs, from 163hp, through 180hp and right up to 240hp. If that’s not enough for you, there’s also a 3.0-litre V6 diesel that pumps out 300hp, the same as the most powerful petrol engine in the range.
That petrol engine is another 2.0-litre unit, available with that 300hp output, or something slightly more pedestrian, with just 250hp.
That’s a lot of numbers, but the takeaway is that performance is, well, ok. The slowest model takes 9.3 seconds to hit 62mph, but even the full-beans 300hp petrol models take 6.7 seconds. That’s not slow, but it’s not exactly the sporting numbers a Jaguar should be able to achieve.
The reason for this? The switch from saloon to estate has added a hefty 115kg to the car, which is the same as having four labrador dogs in the boot.
It’s good news for this section. The saloon version of the XF was amongst the finest handling cars on sale, and the same holds true of the Sportbrake. There’s a slightly unnerving movement from the rear of the car, where self-levelling air-suspension has been added to cope with estate loads, but it never gets beyond a background niggle.
It’s suspended on softer springs than the saloon, which adds a marginal amount of comfort to the cabin, and that trick rear suspension ensures the car stays level whatever is stored in the back.
Even then, it’s a pleasing car to drive, encouraging you to drive enthusiastically. It rewards precise control, engaging like no estate car should, and making a B-road blast something to be encouraged rather than something that’s simply a necessity.
Despite being relatively new, the ‘Ingenium’ engines (or any of the 2.0-litre units) aren’t the quietest or smoothest of units around. Under power, they’re positively noisy, but things calm down once the XF is up to cruising speed. Then the long eighth gear allows the car to settle into a quiet hum.
The suspension that’s so good at keeping things under control at speed also works well at isolating the cabin from the bumps and thumps of modern motoring.
There’s a little more road noise in the Sportwagon, and that sounds like it’s coming from the back of the car. Removing the metalwork that kept the boot separate in the saloon and opening that up to an estate form is bound to add some noise though, and the XF is never loud.
In the car
If you’ve seen the inside of an XF, then you’ve seen the inside of an XF Sportbrake. That means it’s looks glorious, with a combination of cutting-edge and old-school design that is unmistakably Jaguar.
There’s an eight-inch touchscreen mounted in the centre of the dashboard and that, as in so many other cars, houses virtually everything you’ll ever need, from the DAB radio to the satellite navigation. It’s not a great system though, showing its age against the competition, with slow responses and some dated graphics.
Pleasingly there are separate physical controls for the climate control, making adjustments easy without needing to navigate through various menus.
And then there’s the touches that add something special; the rotary gear selector that rises out of the centre stack, the blue ambient lighting that swathes the interior with a cool hue, and even gesture control for the panoramic sunroof blind.
It’s let down a little by a general feeling that quality isn’t quite up to the standards you’d expect from Audi, BMW or Mercedes, with some cheap plastics where you might not really expect them, but it’s still a suitably premium environment.
Adults in both the front and back of the XF Sportbrake will be pleased with their lot. There’s plenty of room for elbows, knees and heads in all four main seats, and even the fifth passenger squeezed into the middle of the rear bench won’t complain too much. There’s certainly more room in there than you’ll find in something like a BMW 5 Series.
However, you won’t find as much boot space. The raison d'etre of an estate car is load space in the back but it’s been sacrificed in the Sportbrake to allow for that stylish body. There’s 565 litres under the boot cover - that’s just 25 more than the saloon, and less than in the 5 Series or Mercedes E-Class, but it’s a near perfect rectangular shape, making it easy to load bulky items into.
Fold the rear seats down )which now fold flatter than previously) and there’s a cavernous 1,700 litres to play with, although that’s still behind the Mercedes.
Low CO2 emissions and sensible pricing means company car drivers can look at the XF without breaking into a sweat. The mid-range 180hp model emits 153g/km of CO2, which translates to a Benefit in Kind burden of 35%, a couple below some rivals. Opt for the 163hp model and it drops a further three points.
Economy is reasonably strong across the range, with figures of up to 54.3mpg being promised officially. Real world figures will always be lower, but the XF generally stays within sight of the lab results. Of course, moving up to the powerful 300hp petrol engine or even the 3.0-litre diesel V6 adds cost, and it’s quite significant. Not only does the petrol cost an extra £9,000 or so, it's heavy on the fuel.
Owners have good things to say about the performance, handling and technology. Each car is backed by a three year, unlimited mileage warranty, as well as roadside breakdown recovery, so you’re covered if the worst does happen. It's also possible to extend the warranty at additional cost, and even roll in MOT failure cover and European cover. However, be aware that individual claims are limited to £3,000, which might not be enough to cover a major gearbox or engine fault.
Every XF Sportbrake is loaded with safety gear, including automatic emergency braking and lane departure warning. An optional safety pack adds cross traffic alert, driver attention monitoring, amongst other items.
When tested by EuroNCAP, the XF scored the maximum five star safety rating, with particularly good marks for adult passenger protection and pedestrian protection.