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 has finally arrived, filling a large gap in the British firm's range. It goes up against the brilliant Audi A6 Avant, BMW 5 Series Touring and Mercedes E-Class Estate, and brings some style and personality to the class. Jaguar expects that as many as 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.
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 bodywork of the tail into the shape. 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. Inside, the Sportbrake is the same as the saloon, with cool blue lighting and a clever rotary gear selector which rises up when the ignition is turned on. The interior still feels special but the design is starting to look dated - especially compared to the latest from BMW and Audi.
Unlike the saloon range, the XF Sportbrake will 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 quite fast, with a 0-60mph time of 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 sound a bit strained sometimes. Handling is agile but not necessarily involving. The Sportbrake is more about luxury than driving thrills, either way so the supple ride and smooth eight-speed automatic gearbox are well suited to its relaxed character.
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 finished an impressive third overall - not a bad result for such a premium brand.
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. It has 550 litres of 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 can be folded flat by pulling a pair of levers, and self-levelling rear suspension is fitted as standard. What's more, the tailgate features a soft-close electric hinge, and can be electrically powered as an option. 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 - another handy item which is standard.
With a diesel-only line-up, the XF Sportbrake should be relatively cheap to run. Both the 2.2-litre engines return the same figures - 55.4mpg and 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 - not cheap, but average for its class. That said there are no bundled servicing packs and the Jaguar is slightly more expensive than its mainstream rivals across the range.