Jaguar XF Sportbrake review
The Jaguar XF Sportbrake is a match for any rival in this sector and a practical alternative to an SUV
You’d be forgiven for thinking the world was obsessed with crossovers and SUVs, but the Jaguar XF Sportbrake is proof that there’s the life in the estate car yet. Launched in mid-2017, the new XF Sportbrake is the perfect antidote for those who haven’t bought into the whole crossover-SUV thing.
What the XF Sportbrake gives up to the F-Pace in terms of a commanding driving position and fashionable appeal, it more than makes up for in terms of luggage capacity and driver fun. In fact, the wagon feels more in tune with Jaguar’s old adage of grace, pace and space.
The original XF was launched at the 2007 Frankfurt Motor Show, replacing the ageing and Ford-based Jaguar S-Type. The first XF Sportbrake was revealed in 2012 before an all-new XF arrived towards the end of 2015.
The Sportbrake – Jaguar’s fancy name for an estate car – offers a practical 565 litres of boot space, which can be extended to 1,700 litres with the rear seats folded flat. Rivals include the equally cavernous Audi A6 Avant, BMW 5 Series Touring and Mercedes E-Class Estate. It’s based on the XF saloon and costs an average of £2,400 more across the range.
Engines range from a 161bhp 2.0-litre turbodiesel through to a thundering 296bhp 3.0-litre twin-turbocharged diesel. The sole petrol engine is a 2.0-litre turbocharged unit developing 247bhp.
An eight-speed automatic transmission is standard, although the entry-level diesel can be equipped with a six-speed manual gearbox, saving £1,750 in the process.
The line-up kicks off with the Prestige model, which features xenon headlights, grained leather seats, a rear armrest with cup holders, a leather steering wheel and interior mood lighting. All engine options are available, aside from the V6 diesel.
Next up is the Portfolio, which, for an additional £3,500 adds Windsor leather seats and dashboard finisher, gloss ebony veneer, a chrome grille and window surrounds, and Meridian 380-watt sound system. All but the entry-level diesel version are equipped with 18-inch alloy wheels.
For a sportier look, the R-Sport model is available for £1,800 less than the Portfolio. Again, 18-inch wheels are standard on all but the lesser-powered diesel version, along with an R-Sport body kit, sports leather seats, metal treadplates, a multi-function steering wheel, gloss black window surrounds and a dark aluminium instrument panel.
At the top of the XF Sportbrake range sits the XF S, with the 296bhp 3.0-litre diesel being the only engine option. For £52,500, the S features 19-inch alloy wheels, an S body kit, red brake calipers, adaptive dynamics, suede/leather seats and metal treadplates.
Anyone who thought Jaguar had turned its back on the estate car segment should take a look at the latest XF Sportbrake. The large estate car is stylish, good to drive and offers an impressive amount of pace – even in the entry-level diesel models. The cavernous load area is a match for all but the Mercedes E-Class Estate, while the interior offers more space than the old model. The driving position is superb, while an uninspiring interior and so-so infotainment system are the only real areas of concern.
Engines, performance and drive
Like the XF saloon, the Sportbrake is based on a lightweight aluminium architecture, which helps the way it rides and handles. In fact, with the estate version weighing just 115kg more than the saloon, you’d be hard-pressed to notice any difference at the wheel.
That’s high praise indeed. All Sportbrake models feature air suspension at the rear, which helps to ensure a level chassis and ride height, even when the car is fully laden. No chance of the freshly purchased pot plants, or worse still, the golden retriever, enjoying a less than perfect ride home from the garden centre, then.
In fact, the XF Sportbrake offers a near-perfect blend of comfort and dynamics. Upgrading to 20-inch alloy wheels will have next-to-no impact on the ride quality, such is the cushion-soft ride.
But show the XF Sportbrake a twisting B-road, and it’ll respond with lightning-quick cornering, tight body control and bags of grip, especially if you opt for one of the all-wheel drive models. Flick the suspension into Dynamic mode, and the Sportbrake fidgets around a little more, but rarely feels too firm. The car appears more alive and more eager to change direction in this mode.
The perfect sporting estate, then? It’s undoubtedly one of the best-in-class when it comes to ride and handling, with only a small amount of additional road noise over the saloon. Still want that F-Pace?
Jaguar had company car drivers in mind when it developed the XF Sportbrake, which is why the engine line-up consists predominantly of low-emission four-cylinder units.
The 2.0-litre four-cylinder diesel is likely to be the most popular choice and is available with three power outputs: 161bhp, 178bhp and 237bhp. A six-speed manual gearbox is offered on the smallest diesel, but we’d stick with the smooth and responsive eight-speed automatic.
It makes motorway driving a smooth and relaxing affair, while the paddle-shifters on the steering wheel can be used to inject some enjoyment when the occasion arises.
We’d opt for one of the higher-powered Ingenium diesel units, as the additional torque – a total of 430Nm in the 178bhp version and 500Nm in the 237bhp – is welcome, especially when you’re carrying loads.
The flagship XF S offers a mighty 296bhp and 700Nm from its twin-turbo 3.0-litre V6 diesel. It might not be as quick as the saloon version, but you’ll barely notice the difference.
The sole petrol version is a 2.0-litre four-cylinder unit offering 248bhp and 365Nm of torque. Sadly, for now, at least, the saloon’s supercharged 3.0-litre V6 petrol engine is off-limits for Sportbrake buyers.
MPG, CO2 and Running Costs
You won’t match the saloon’s headline 70.6mpg in the XF Sportbrake, although the smallest diesel engine is the economy champ, with a claimed 62.8mpg on a combined cycle. Upgrade to the 178bhp version and the economy drops to 60.1mpg in the rear-wheel drive version and 56.5mpg when fitted with all-wheel drive.
Things get a little trickier when choosing between the 237bhp four-cylinder diesel and the fire-crackling 3.0-litre V6. At 48.7mpg, the 2.0-litre diesel is more efficient than the 3.0-litre’s figure of 47.9mpg, but the larger engine will feel less stressed under heavy loads.
Predictably, the 2.0-litre petrol is the least efficient, offering a combined 41.5mpg.
At 118g/km and 119g/km CO2 (manual vs automatic), the smallest diesel engine is the cheapest to tax, with a first-year VED rate of £160. Opt for the rear-wheel drive version of the 178bhp diesel and CO2 increases to 120g/km, but the tax band remains the same.
The more powerful and all-wheel drive diesel models will cost £200 to tax in the first year, while the 3.0-litre diesel and 2.0-litre petrol – both 154g/km CO2 – cost £500. Eight models avoid the £310 surcharge for cars costing more than £40,000, which gives the XF Sportbrake the edge over rivals such as the Mercedes E-Class Estate and BMW 5 Series Touring.
Insurance groups range from 25 for the 161bhp versions to 42 for the 3.0-litre V6 S. The groupings put the XF Sportbrake on par with many of its rivals.
The XF saloon will hold on to anywhere between 42 and 46 per cent of its value after three years, and we expect the Sportbrake to follow suit. In fact, the extra practicality could improve the residual values still further.
Only the XF S and 2.0 turbo petrol versions are likely to retain less value after three years and 36,000 miles.
Interior, design and technology
The Sportbrake is identical to the saloon until you reach the B-pillar, where the roofline stays high and continues past to the rear to reveal a traditional estate car back-end. The tailgate is dominated by the F-Type-inspired rear light clusters.
To our eyes, this is the best-looking estate car you can buy, even managing to steal a march over the Volvo V90, especially in top-spec S trim. It’s sharper than before, with neat touches such as the F-Pace-inspired rear window and the taillights mentioned above.
As you’d expect, the cabin is identical to the saloon, which means a simple, if a tad uninspiring cockpit and levels of fit and finish far beyond that of the previous model. That said, the Jaguar can’t quite match the overall quality and feel of the 5 Series Touring and E-Class Estate.
The driving position is suitably sporty, helped by the raised centre console, which provides a terrific sense of occasion, while the optional panoramic sunroof (only available on the Sportbrake) allows light to flood into the cabin. At £1,125, it’s an expensive but must-have option, especially as, for an additional £205, it can be paired with gesture control, a first for Jaguar.
Sat-nav, stereo and infotainment
All models come with an eight-inch touchscreen and five-inch central TFT display between the dials. Navigation, Bluetooth, DAB digital radio and iPod connectivity are also included. The infotainment system is rather dated, however, and the lack of Apple CarPlay or Android Auto are notable by their absence.
The standard 80-watt sound system is good enough, but Portfolio and S models gain a 380-watt Meridian upgrade (a £630 option on Prestige and R-Sport). Buyers can also spec a InControl Touch Pro system, which features a 12.3-inch touchscreen, virtual instrument display and a choice of two Meridian surround sound systems – 380-watt and 825-watt.
Practicality, comfort and boot space
The XF Sportbrake’s undoubted good looks don’t come at the expense of practicality, as the Jaguar estate is a match for the majority of its rivals, with only the all-conquering Mercedes-E-Class Estate providing more interior space.
A detachable tow bar can be fitted for £705, or, for an additional £285, you can upgrade to an electrically deployable version. The towing capacity is rated at 1,900kg to 2,000kg, depending on the engine.
At 4,955mm in length, the XF Sportbrake is only 1mm longer than the saloon and 22mm longer than the Mercedes E-Class Estate. At 2,091mm width and 1,496mm height, it’s also slightly wider and taller than the E-Class.
Leg room, head room & passenger space
The previous generation XF Sportbrake was criticised for the lack of rear legroom, but this isn’t an issue in the latest model. All but the very tallest of passengers will also find plenty of headroom in the back, while entry to the rear seats is much improved, thanks to the large rear doors.
If you’re buying an estate car, the load capacity will be an important consideration. At 565 litres, the XF Sportbrake offers only 25 litres more than the saloon, but the space is more usable due to its square shape.
The optional electric tailgate opens to reveal a huge opening, while the 40:20:40-split rear bench folds flat to create a totally flush load area and up to 1,700 litres of capacity.
Reliability and Safety
The Sportbrake hasn’t been tested by Euro NCAP, but the XF saloon received a five-star safety rating in 2015. The scores were impressive across the board, including 92 per cent for adult occupants, 84 per cent for child occupants, 80 per cent for pedestrian safety, and 83 per cent for safety assist systems.
There’s an impressive list of standard safety equipment fitted across the range, including autonomous emergency braking, lane departure warning, trailer stability assist, traffic sign recognition and rear parking aid.
Options include a surround camera system (£990), lane keep assist (£480), blind spot monitor and reverse traffic detection (£525) and park assist (£470).
In our 2017 Driver Power Survey, Jaguar was rated 12th out of 27 on the list of manufacturers, while the first generation XF finished second for reliability. It scored an impressive 93.76 per cent, with the data suggesting that the majority of faults fall within the minor, rather than major, category.
That said, some drivers were disappointed by the relatively high cost of maintenance.
The XF Sportbrake comes with a standard three-year, unlimited mileage warranty, which is on par with rivals in this sector. This can be extended for up to 12 months, with a package that includes MOT test insurance cover and car hire for seven days.
In line with some other brands, Jaguar offers a five-year service plan on the XF Sportbrake, priced according to the annual mileage and engine. For example, a five-year/50,000-mile plan on the 2.0-litre costs £649, or £749 for 75,000 miles.
The 3.0-litre diesel is the most expensive, with a price of £825 for a five-year/50,000-mile servicing plan.