Jaguar XF Sportbrake

14 Nov, 2012 10:30am

Big estate adds practicality to the strong saloon package. So is it a new class leader?


The XF Sportbrake is hugely comfortable, comes with lots of goodies and has a feelgood factor that will put a smile on your face every time you drive it. While it’s close to its rivals for boot space and running costs, the noisy diesel and downshift-happy auto drop it to second.

The Jaguar XF saloon has been a popular executive choice, thanks to its mix of stylish looks and a premium interior, but it’s not the last word in practicality. Now Jag is hoping to redress this and increase the XF’s desirability with the new Sportbrake estate.

From the outside, the estate and saloon are identical at the front, while chrome roof rails and new rear doors differentiate the two cars. Also, the roofline now tapers to the tailgate in an elegant arc, and blacked-out rear pillars inspired by the XJ limousine give the impression of a wraparound screen at the back. The thick chrome bar across the tailgate won’t be to all tastes, but overall the XF looks more stylish than the more upright BMW and Audi.

And that curvy rear hasn’t compromised boot space. Open the powered tailgate and you’re greeted by a fully carpeted 550-litre load area, which is marginally smaller than the BMW’s and Audi’s, despite the fact that the XF is the longer car. Fold the 60:40-split seats completely flat – an easy task, thanks to the levers set into the side of the boot – and this grows to 1,675 litres, which is only five litres behind the Audi’s carrying capacity.

A flat load lip and a tailgate opening that’s as wide as the boot itself make access easy, and the load cover rises out of the way with a push on the handle. However, the cover isn’t held in place very securely, and if you drive over a speed bump too quickly, it can pop up and obscure your rearward view.

Jaguar also provides an adjustable loading rail system as standard, plus a folding floor divider, a big lidded bin and a stainless steel sill protector. Overall, the XF’s boot is a close match for its rivals on space and versatility.

The rest of the cabin is identical to the XF saloon’s, with a high-quality finish and decent space for four people. The extended roof means there’s more headroom for passengers in the back than in the saloon, and the Sportbrake has more rear knee space than either of its rivals in this test.

Up front, the dashboard is logically laid out, and although the sat-nav display looks dated compared with the BMW’s, the XF’s start-up is still a great piece of theatre. Press the pulsing red starter button and the rotary gear selector rises from the centre console as the air vents rotate into view – it gives the Jag a feelgood factor neither rival can match.

The 2.2-litre diesel is the most powerful engine here and, although the XF had the fastest 0-60mph time, the eight-speed auto’s long ratios meant the 5 Series beat it in-gear.

It’s still quite responsive, but pushing the Jaguar highlights another problem – an intrusively noisy engine. While the XF’s 2.2-litre diesel is as quiet as the BMW’s at idle, accelerate hard and the engine becomes gruff. The box is too eager to change down, too, as the slightest increase in throttle input sees the auto box kick down immediately as it tries to keep pace. Vibration is kept to a minimum in the cabin, though.

The XF is at its best on the motorway, where it’s a relaxed cruiser. The Portfolio model in our pictures had 19-inch alloys that are a £1,600 option on our Luxury-spec test car, but while these take the edge off the ride at low speeds, it’s far from uncomfortable, thanks in no small part to the self-levelling suspension at the rear. In corners, the Jaguar isn’t as direct and precise as the 5 Series, and body roll is more pronounced, but it’s stable, with plenty of grip.

The Sportbrake is priced competitively, yet has more kit. Sat-nav, a DAB radio, xenon lights and leather seats are all included, while there’s a long list of reasonably priced options, too.

As a company car choice, the Jaguar again matches its rivals, and the same goes for road tax and fuel economy. One area where it does fall down is depreciation, although the Audi loses a similar amount.

So the XF Sportbrake makes a strong case for itself in the tough executive estate class – but does it do enough to come out on top?

Key specs

  • Price: £36,440
  • Engine: 2.2-litre 4cyl, 197bhp
  • 0-60mph: 8.1 seconds
  • Test economy: 38.0mpg/8.4mpl
  • CO2: 135g/km
  • Annual road tax: £120