Jaguar XF Sportbrake 2.2D

The Jaguar XF Sportbrake adds space to upmarket style and plentiful equipment

The Jaguar wins by the slimmest of margins. It’s not as boldly styled and refined as the CLS, but it looks more attractive than most estates and comes with an eye-catchingly low price tag. Better still, it boasts loads of standard equipment and is cost-effective to run. Only the rough 2.2-litre diesel engine takes some of the shine off this victory.

Jaguar doesn’t have the rich estate car heritage of Mercedes, but that hasn’t stopped its XF Sportbrake becoming a strong class contender. The blend of style, space and very attractive pricing ensures this practical five-door is a stern test for any newcomer.

Even parked with the head-turning CLS, the handsome XF still makes an impression. The car in our pictures is a sporty S model but, like our Portfolio test example, its long roofline and upright tailgate mean it looks more like a traditional estate than its rival. Yet it’s still an eye-catching executive car.

While the Jaguar’s exterior still looks the part, it feels a little old-fashioned inside. The powered air vents and rising gear selector add some theatre when you switch it on, but small dials, a fiddly touchscreen sat-nav and dated switches hint at the six-year-old underpinnings. And while there’s plenty of seat and wheel adjustment, some drivers will feel more cramped behind the Jaguar’s wheel, and passengers in the back have less legroom.

At least there’s lots of kit: our Portfolio test car benefited from heated and cooled front seats, a powerful Meridian stereo and keyless entry. Plus, there’s soft leather seats and wood for the dash and doors – although buyers who want something more modern can specify optional £1,000 carbon-fibre trim instead.

Like the Mercedes, the XF gets a powered tailgate, which opens to reveal a well shaped boot that’s actually 40 litres smaller than its rival’s. However, the tables are turned when the rear seats are folded using handy levers at the side of the load bay: the Sportbrake then boasts a healthy 1,675-litre capacity, which is 125 litres more than the CLS’ equivalent.

A low lip and wide opening make it easy to load large items, while the neat rail system and boot divider are standard. Other practical touches include a retractable load cover, a 12V power socket and two netted storage pockets.

The Jaguar and Merc were closely matched at the test track, posting near-identical performance figures. Yet this good work is undone when the XF hits the road, as its 197bhp 2.2-litre diesel is too intrusive. It clatters noisily at idle and sounds gruff when extended. Things are made worse by the eight- speed auto, which is too eager to kick down through the gears. On the plus side, shifts are smooth and you can over-ride the gearbox using the column-mounted shift paddles.

Still, the Jaguar’s interior is well insulated from wind and road noise, plus it has a softer ride than the CLS. The trade-off for this is more body roll in corners – although grip remains strong and the steering is precise.

However, the XF’s trump card is price. At £44,695, it’s nearly £8,000 less than the CLS, while CO2 emissions of only 139g/km make it a more cost-effective company car choice. Factor in the longer list of standard kit, and the Jaguar’s case for victory looks strong.

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