Has a subtle update made Jaguar’s plush executive wagon more competitive?
There’s a view that that wagons are a bit beside the point these days. The world has turned to SUVs, goes the story, and from them to crossovers.
Don’t believe it. In many cases, family-sized saloons are outsold by their estate offshoots, and even the Sportbrake tested here accounts for one-third of all of the Jaguar XF’s (admittedly modest) sales across Europe.
There’s a particular kind of buyer that responds to the logic of an estate: a more practical derivative that weighs only a smidge more than its sibling (75kg in this case), has no extra frontal area and at times can even be more aerodynamic, thanks to the simplicity of its extended rear shape. More load for no more fuel.
In this case, the load capacity is a generous 565 litres, expanding to 1700 litres when the rear seats are folded down. There’s a wide, flat floor that gives away surprisingly little except roof height to an SUV, while maintaining the low centre of gravity that will almost always make it by nature a better handler and a more economical option than an SUV.
In fact, that combination of practicality, performance and good driving characteristics seems to be very much the point of our test car, which is powered by Jaguar Land Rover’s middle- ranking Ingenium 2.0-litre four- cylinder turbo petrol engine, making 184kW and driving via a regular eight-speed automatic gearbox.
In R-Dynamic SE guise, the XF Sportbrake gets all manner of sporty decor, rides on 19in black alloys and has a selector that juggles engine and transmission parameters to provide a Sport and Economy regime either side of Comfort. Sure, this is a car ideally configured for toting the family and gear on holiday, but it can deliver driving enjoyment, too.
The latest interior should please all occupants. The trim, sumptuous seats and fascia have a general aura of quality, the Pivi Pro infotainment system is far better and easier to use than any previous system (at last, JLR goes to the top of its class in this regard) and the fascia’s designers deserve praise for ensuring that we still have easy-to-find and well- organised knobs for the audio volume and major ventilation functions.
The engine is reasonably smooth and responsive, if a bit characterless against the creamy sixes of German rivals. The gearbox is mostly smooth (there’s just the occasional hesitation at low speed) and responds rapidly to the paddles when you request a shift. But mostly, the XF Sportbrake glides about effortlessly almost as if it had no engine at all.
An output of 184kW is enough to slingshot you to 100km/h in a very decent 7.1sec and to 240km/h if you can find the space.
The XF always feels refined and long-legged, supple over potholes but never floaty. It also generates significantly less road noise than rivals – a boon in a country where surfaces are often coarse and vary widely. The steering is very accurate and perfectly weighted and the refined suspension ensures both neat, roll-free cornering and awesome straight-line stability.
We all know now that Jaguars will be completely EV designs from 2025, but that shouldn’t really be a concern for you here. It will surely be healthy and happy on the road many years beyond 2025.