Our Garage

Wel­come to the wagon with no delu­sions of get­ting its boots dirty

Wheels (Australia) - - Contents - ASH WESTERMAN

HERE’S the hy­po­thet­i­cal sce­nario: choose one ve­hi­cle from the cur­rent Jaguar/land Rover line-up. Feel free to add op­tions, but don’t exceed around $120,000 be­fore on-roads. What do you choose? We can pause if you need to dive into the Show­room sec­tion, but in sim­ple terms, it means you only have to ex­clude the XJ limo-sedan (which no-one buys any­way) and the Range Rover. Ev­ery­thing else, from mid-size XE, to the E-pace, F-pace, F-type, Ve­lar, Evoque, Disco and Rangie Sport, is up for grabs.

Which do you pick? Sales ev­i­dence sug­gests it’s un­likely you’d have jumped the di­rec­tion in which I did: into an Jaguar XF Sport­brake. I’m also tip­ping many of you Suv-lovers are

throw­ing down this mag­a­zine in dis­gust and declar­ing me a royal arse-clown. But hear me out, even if it is a fa­mil­iar re­frain: I have no need for a ve­hi­cle ca­pa­ble of go­ing off-road. If that sce­nario does arise, I’ll beg, bor­row, barter or hire a ve­hi­cle that can. I’m not anti-suv, but for my needs, off-road abil­ity feels a bit like do­ing a tar­mac fun-run in hik­ing boots. What I do need is a gen­er­ous load space, a rea­son­ably well-en­dowed en­gine and keen, rewarding dy­nam­ics.

Now go back to the JLR line-up and you’ll see that an XF Sport­brake is not just a log­i­cal choice, it’s the only choice (the smaller XE would serve me fine, but is not pro­duced as a wagon).

My petrol XF sits smack be­tween the other two en­gine choices in the three-strong Sport­brake range: the en­try-level 2.0-litre diesel (132kw/430nm) and the 30d S, running a 3.0-litre V6 oiler good for 221kw/700nm. The lat­ter was tempt­ing, but over bud­get at $123,450 be­fore op­tions.

So again, I go from seem­ingly in the land of over-choice to the choice re­ally be­ing made for me. At this first-im­pres­sion stage I’m quite happy – the In­ge­nium 2.0-litre may only be in mid-strength spec here with 184kw/365nm (it’s of­fered in the XF sedan as a Lite, with 147kw/320nm, or a Stout, with 221kw/400nm) but so far it seems am­ple, tied to the ex­cel­lent ZF eight-speed auto, even if the Sport­brake weighs in at a pudgy 1705kg. Okay, this en­gine tune does seem a bit thin on char­ac­ter – there’s not much by way of rorty ex­haust note to involve you – but it is smooth and lag-free.

I’ll go into more pow­er­train de­tail in the com­ing months, but be­fore that we need to cover how this car lists at $91,400, but leaps $28,600 to $120,000 via some ex­u­ber­ant boxtick­ing. Not all of it is my fault, I swear.

Most ex­pen­sive is the $4360 Ac­tive Safety Pack, which in­cludes blind-spot mon­i­tor, rear cross-traf­fic alert, lane-keep as­sist, adap­tive cruise con­trol, and driver con­di­tion mon­i­tor. Yep, you could ar­gue that this stuff should be stan­dard; we’ll look at how the Jag’s spec com­pares with Ger­man ri­vals at a later date. The glass roof and ges­ture con­trol (see side­bar above) is the next costli­est ad­di­tion at $5000 com­bined. Then there are the matte-fin­ished car­bon­fi­bre in­te­rior trim in­lays, which are rich in­deed at $3470. Bet­ter value is the pro nav­i­ga­tion pack and sound sys­tem from Brit spe­cial­ist Merid­ian, which adds $2690. The red metal­lic paint, as well as the black-pack fin­ish on the grille and side vents, plus the 19-inch wheels, com­bine to soak up $4860. An­other dozen or so items re­lat­ing to com­fort (heated seats, pri­vacy glass, etc), con­ve­nience (360-de­gree park­ing aid) and stor­age (rails in the cargo com­part­ment) quickly ac­count for an­other $7000.

You’d think that with that lot, there’d be pre­cisely noth­ing miss­ing, right? But dude, where’s my head-up dis­play? Er, still on the op­tions list, ap­par­ently, along with the cli­mate con­trol for rear-seat oc­cu­pants.

Yes, shop­ping in this large-ex­ec­u­tive seg­ment is not for the faint-hearted or thin-wal­leted. But look at it: isn’t it a proud, pur­pose­ful bit of gear? It looks con­fi­dent and able, ready to be loaded to the gun­wales with all my crap and go on ad­ven­tures. Okay, not muddy, rocky, off-road ad­ven­tures, but that’s what I have a moun­tain bike for. We’ll stay on piste and have a blast, I’m sure.

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