Jaguar XF Sport­brake R-sport 25d

Es­tate tested

Autocar - - THIS WEEK - NIC CACKETT

The last time Jaguar re­vealed an es­tate ver­sion of the XF, four years had elapsed since the launch of the sa­loon. Flu pan­demics come and more quickly. This time round, with Gay­don’s im­pres­sive, in­vest­ment-heavy play­book now on a metro­nomic foot­ing, it’s two years on the nose. That’s progress.

The model, mean­while, is a recog­nis­able de­scen­dant of the first gen­er­a­tion. It is still frumpily dubbed Sport­brake be­cause the car is osten­si­bly meant to pri­ori­tise looks over prac­ti­cal­ity. Re­ally, of course, its maker wants it both ways – and thanks to the styling depart­ment’s ef­forts, that’s pre­cisely what it gets.

In the me­tal, the wagon is a corker. There’s no spe­cial recipe here not al­ready de­ployed on any num­ber of ri­vals (low, raked roofline, the high, chaste shoul­der, wra­paround lines, ta­pered bot­tom), but it all col­ludes mag­nif­i­cently. And be­cause it bet­ter con­ceals the sa­loon’s cu­ri­ously long rear deck, it im­me­di­ately stakes a cred­i­ble claim as Jaguar’s best­look­ing non-sports car.

Gay­don doubt­less sniffed the po­ten­tial of all this when the Sport­brake was still made of clay, hence the F-type-cloned tail-lights and the chrome ex­hausts. To their credit, the en­gi­neers ac­com­mo­dated all this curvi­ness while hol­low­ing out a proper rec­tan­gu­lar crypt of a boot, and with the seat backs folded im­pres­sively flat (an­other ad­mirable in­ter­nal tar­get), the XF has one of the long­est load­spaces in its class.

Inevitably, this comes at a cost. To you, it’s a pre­mium of around £2500 over and above the equiv­a­lent sa­loon; to car it­self, it’s weight. As well as re­quir­ing some more body­work and its ex­tra brac­ing, Jaguar has fit­ted self-lev­el­ling air sus­pen­sion to the Sport­brake’s rear – mean­ing that, all told, your ex­tra money pays for around 115kg of ad­di­tional bulk.

This slightly un­wieldy fact does the lat­est 237bhp 2.0-litre diesel Ingenium unit no favours. Jaguar claims 6.4sec for the AWD ver­sion’s 0-60mph time but it feels at least a sec­ond slower in the real world – and it hasn’t shaken the slight sense of pon­der­ous­ness iden­ti­fied dur­ing the Range Rover Ve­lar’s road test.

Com­bine the Sport­brake’s less than spir­ited over­tak­ing per­for­mance with only mid­dling re­fine­ment un­der load and the nig­gle starts to swell. Good, then, that vir­tu­ally ev­ery­thing else the car does works like a cold com­press on the en­gine’s short­com­ings. The chas­sis’ bench­mark was the sa­loon’s classlead­ing dy­namic flair, and, given the un­set­tling as­pect of air springs and ad­di­tional bal­last, its mim­ick­ing of the XF’S han­dling com­pro­mise is com­mend­able. Mea­sured against its pas­sively-sprung, rear-drive sib­ling, a mod­icum of di­rec­tion-change ath­leti­cism has evap­o­rated, but the wagon feels so as­sertively poised that it’s barely missed.

Much like the sa­loon, it’s the ex­tra­or­di­nary par­ity given to sure­footed, ex­press-grade progress on one hand and free-flow­ing, B-road re­spon­sive­ness on the other that gen­er­ates the small moun­tain of driver good­will. Marginally softer, stock­ier and de­lib­er­ate the es­tate may be (es­pe­cially with four-wheel drive), but it’s the round­ed­ness of the ex­pe­ri­ence that be­comes the take­away sen­ti­ment. That it ar­rives in a pack­age with con­sid­er­ably more rear head room, a big­ger, more us­able boot, a more de­sir­able de­sign and the abil­ity to stow a large wardrobe is only to the model’s ad­van­tage. Switch out the Ingenium unit for the more force­ful V6 diesel and, un­less you work in Mu­nich, In­gol­stadt or Stuttgart, the timely re­turn of the Sport­brake is an­other Gay­don mile­stone worth cheer­ing.

The XF wears its es­tate con­ver­sion to hand­some ef­fect; large boot is aug­mented by a flat floor and sides

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