Jaguar XF Sportbrake review
The stylish new Jaguar XF Sportbrake is a great alternative to the BMW 5 Series Tourer and Audi A6 Avant
The Jaguar XF Sportbrake goes up against the brilliant Audi A6 Avant, BMW 5 Series Touring and Mercedes E-Class Estate, and brings a welcome dash of style and personality to the class. Jaguar expects that a quarter of all XFs bought will be Sportbrakes, for which you'll pay around £3,000 more than for the saloon. That said, its diesel-only line-up will help to keep running costs in check. There are three trims available but all come very well equipped starting with the SE and moving up through the Luxury, Sport and Premium Luxury to the range-topping Portfolio.
Jaguar also builds an XFR-S Sportbrake model, which is powered by a 542bhp 5.0-litre supercharged V8. It's designed to take on the Mercedes E63 AMG Estate and the Audi RS6. It's hugely fast and immensely desirable but it comes with a price-tag high enough to ensure Jaguar only expects to sell about 100 per year in the UK.
Our choice: XF Sportbrake 2.2D 197bhp Premium Luxury
The Jaguar XF saloon is already a very handsome car, and much more distinctive that its Audi, BMW and Mercedes rivals. Designers have done a great job integrating the extra estate bodywork into the handsomw lines of the Jaguar. The wheelbase is the same as the saloon's, but the roof has been lengthened. Head-turning features include the blacked-out B and C-pillars, which help make the car look longer and slimmer. The D-pillars also get a gloss black finish – a detail borrowed from the XJ flagship – creating the effect of a wraparound rear screen. All versions get alloy wheels as standard, while the sporty Diesel S versions feature a subtle bodykit, subtle 'S' badges and 19-inch alloy wheels. Inside, the Sportbrake is the same as the saloon, with cool blue lighting and a neat rotary gear selector which rises up when the ignition is turned on. Leather trim is standard across the range, as is climate control and a DAB radio. Yet while the interior still feels special, the design is starting to look dated when compared to the latest from BMW and Audi.
The XFR-S gets a wild boydkit, quad exhausts and some exclusive paint colours and alloy wheels to ensure it stands out from the crowd. The interior is fitted with XFR-S badges and there's a choice of race-inspired inserts.
Unlike the saloon range, the XF Sportbrake is only be available with diesel engines. This means a choice of 161bhp or 197bhp 2.2-litre four-cylinder units, or a 3.0-litre V6 with either 238bhp or 271bhp. Even the entry-level 163bhp diesel is quick, completing the 0-60mph sprint in less than 10 seconds. The 197bhp version is the pick of the range, though, as it's much faster – 0-62mph in 8.2 seconds - and just as economical. Refinement is brilliant in the V6 models, but the four-cylinder can sounds gruff when worked hard. All versions are fitted with the same smooth-shifting eight-speed automatic gearbox - although it's a little to keen to kickdown gears on the 2.2-litre engined models. Handling is agile but not necessarily involving, as the steering is a little light and lacks feedback. Yet the Sportbrake is more about luxury than driving thrills, so the supple ride and excellent refinement are well suited to its relaxed character.
The R-S Sportbrake really ups the performance, boasting 0-62mph in 4.8 seconds. The engine sounds fantastic and the handling becomes so much sharper thanks to stiffer springs and a number of other chassis upgrades. The steering still isn't as heavy or talkative enough to make this feel more fun than an E63 AMG but it is surprisingly comfortable and refined on the motorway.
The XF saloon received four stars in the Euro NCAP crash test, while its Audi, BMW and Mercedes rivals have all scored a maximum five stars. However, with a multitude of driver, passenger and side airbags, electronic stability control and a bonnet that pops up in a pedestrian impact to cushion the collision are all standard. Options include blind-spot warning, tyre pressure monitors and a Parking Aid Pack, featuring front sensors and rear cameras, as well as adaptive cruise control. The XF has scored well in customer satisfaction surveys both in the UK and the US, so buyers are obviously happy with reliability. The XF saloon finished fifth in the 2012 Driver Power survey, while Jaguar as a manufacturer finished an impressive third overall, behind Skoda and Lexus.
The XF Sportbrake's lengthened roof gives rear passengers more headroom, and it's competitive with the Audi A6 Avant and the BMW 5 Series Touring for space. Its enlarged external dimensions mean the Jaguar has a generous 550 litres of boot space with the rear seats in place, and 1,675 litres with the rear seats folded flat. Although if you need even more space, the Mercedes E-Class Estate still leads the sector with 695 and 1,960 litres respectively. The 60:40 split rear bench of the Jaguar can be folded flat by pulling a pair of levers in the boot, and self-levelling rear air suspension is fitted as standard. What's more, the tailgate features a soft-close electric catch, and is electrically powered as standard on Luxury models and above. A pair of rails in the boot floor can accommodate a raft of nets and dividers to stop loose items rolling around in the back, plus there are a number of hidden cubbies and a 12V power socket.
With a diesel-only line-up – excluding the wild XFR-S model – the XF Sportbrake should be relatively cheap to run. Both the 2.2-litre engines return the same claimed figures, promising 55.4mpg at the pumps while emitting 135g/km of CO2. That's good, but just pipped by the BMW 520d SE Touring, which claims 57.6mpg and 130g/km, representing slight savings for both private and business drivers. Other running costs should be comparable with Audi and BMW and Mercedes. That said there are no bundled servicing packs and the Jaguar is slightly more expensive than its mainstream rivals across the range. And while its residual values are strong in isolation, the XF doesn't hold onto its value quite as well as its German rivals.
Officially, Jaguar says the R-S Sportbrake will do 22.2mpg, and with CO2 emissions of 297g/km you'll have a pricey road tax bill, too. On the plus side, it will remain an exclusive choice so residual values should prove to be pretty good.