First Drive: Jaguar XF Sportbrake
SECTOR Premium estate PRICE £31,940 – £51,505 FUEL 55.4 – 46.0mpg CO2 135 – 163g/km
Svelte body styling and a cabin that is pure theatre have done very well for the Jaguar XF, but the British appetite for estate cars is higher than anywhere else in Europe, and until now there hasn’t been one in the current range, meaning Jaguar knows it has lost out to BMW, Audi and Mercedes in wooing executive customers.
Hence the XF Sportbrake, only the second estate model in Jaguar’s 77 year history. The XF Sportbrake has a new body from the B-pillar backwards, and includes a large single rear tailgate rather than the split two-part arrangement used by some and for some sister company Land Rover products.
With its extended rear roofline, the Sportbrake has 48mm more rear headroom than an XF saloon, and with the rear seats folded it has a very decent 1,970mm of load length that is 1,064mm at its widest point. The maximum cargo capacity is 1,675 litres, plenty roomy enough for large items of leisure kit including sets of golf clubs that can be accommodated sideways across the load space.
The tailgate is power-operated, there are retaining bars on side rails to contain items stowed in the boot, and there are flush aluminium roofrails to take a luggage box on top. Self-levelling air suspension is standard. It’s a pretty good package, but there is a flaw. The folded rear seat does not go quite as flat as it ideally should, and leaves a slight rise towards the front. To be fair, though, it doesn’t really hamper the carriage of large items. The launch test drive included hurtling round a Scottish test track with a full size fridge strapped down in the back, so the arrangement is practical enough.
The Sportbrake engine choice is four-cylinder 2.2 or V6 three-litre diesels, and there is also a V6 three-litre petrol. The 2.2-litre, 161bhp diesel is obviously the best business choice, and the optimum engine from a company car taxation viewpoint. In most trim versions, the XF Sportbrake 2.2 diesel has a CO2 output of 135g/km CO2, the same as in the saloon, but with top-spec Portfolio trim it is 139g/km.
Long sections of the launch route were over twisty and undulating terrain through the Scottish Borders in a heavy downpour, and on flooding roads with lots of surface water against a plane-catching deadline the XF Sportbrake felt a good place to be. It handles very tidily, is sure-footed and gives confidence in being soundly-engineered for trying conditions.
Performance is pretty good and the car feels adequately powered and nimble. It
certainly felt lively enough over a very demanding Scottish test route, and really only loses out to the bigger diesel unit in flat-out pace and refinement – you are aware of a mild diesel clatter on cold tick-over, but it intrudes much less into the cabin when warmed-up and on the move.
Ride quality is excellent, with the suspension sopping up some quite intrusive potholes, and the steering is light and precise. The ZF eight-speed auto transmission feels mostly well matched to the engine, and responds crisply to paddle-shift operation. It is just a minor disappointment that the paddles are plastic rather than a more upmarket metal finish.
Prices start from £31,940 for a Sportbrake 2.2 diesel SE, and include an enhanced-spec 2.2 diesel SE Business at £33,990. The diesel range-topper is a Sportbrake 3.0 V6 diesel S Portfolio at £51,505.
Jaguar’s XF Sportbrake is classy and practical, with a stylishly elongated body and a well-executed loadspace, and there is no CO2 disadvantage over the saloon in the most business-friendly 2.2 diesel version. Jag’s new estate is good enough to woo user-choosers out of rival German premium estates.