Jaguar XF Sportbrake R-sport 25d
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