Seren­ity sta­tus up­date: thumbs up

Jag wagon pro­vides a week­end es­cape that re­ally is all about the vibe

Wheels (Australia) - - Showroom - ASH WESTERMAN

WHEN I re­ally drill down into the whole ‘week­end away’ thing, it’s pos­si­ble that I en­joy the jour­ney more than the des­ti­na­tion. Sure, there’s plenty about camp­ing that I do re­ally like – a crack­ling camp­fire, be­ing able to de­light my camp-mates with a de­li­cious meal made from just three in­gre­di­ents, then hor­ri­fy­ing them when I eat it like that feral kid from Mad Max 2. And how great is it to have a semi-le­git­i­mate ex­cuse to aban­don all per­sonal hy­giene for a few days?

Ah, but then … even­tu­ally the re­al­ity of ants, flies, the lack of a com­fort­able lounge and Net­flix doc­u­men­taries can con­spire to make me feel like an Akubra-wear­ing fraud.

How­ever, with the Jag cleaned and fu­elled, I was at least con­fi­dent that the jour­ney part would be great. But be­fore a wheel is turned, there’s plea­sure to be had in load­ing the thing – pop the elec­tric tail­gate, use the re­mote tabs to auto-fold the rear seats, then shovel in ev­ery con­ceiv­able bit of gear like you’re feed­ing the boil­ers on the Ti­tanic. The claimed seats-down cargo ca­pac­ity is 1700 litres, so I don’t even bother look­ing to see if we are start­ing to run out of space – I just make a bunch of click­ing and whistling noises, like a fleshy up­right dol­phin, and when the echo goes a bit flat, that’s it, we’re chock­ers and ready to roll.

It was es­pe­cially grat­i­fy­ing to fi­nally use the big wagon in the role for which it was born. Sure, I’ve been en­joy­ing schlep­ping around the suburbs in it, and it does help soothe the traf­fic-snarled com­mute into the of­fice, but fact is, loaded up for a road trip is where the XF Sport­brake feels most deeply en­trenched in its sweet spot.

We took the bril­liant Old Pa­cific High­way out of north­ern Syd­ney rather than the mo­tor­way, which gave me the op­por­tu­nity to have a hus­tle and test the strength of my part­ner’s stom­ach ver­sus in­ner-ear func­tion. There’s a nat­u­ral flu­id­ity to the Jag’s dy­nam­ics that make it such an en­joy­able thing to drive quickly. I rate the steer­ing as near-flaw­less for this class, and the car’s con­tain­ment of roll, the pro­gres­sive­ness of its re­sponses and clearly tele­graphed lim­its of grip are su­perb. There were no vis­i­ble signs of ter­ror from the pas­sen­ger’s seat, and no pro­jec­tile vom­it­ing, so that rates as a win.

By the time we did re­join the mo­tor­way be­fore Gos­ford, the fast-fang itch had been scratched, at least tem­po­rar­ily, and I was okay to drop into a 115km/h cruise and ap­pre­ci­ate the mea­sured sus­pen­sion com­pli­ance, ex­cel­lent mut­ing of road noise, leggy gear­ing, and the power and clar­ity of the Meridian au­dio. The Bri­tish hi-fi spe­cial­ist man­u­fac­tures prop­erly high-end home au­dio, and that ex­per­tise trans­lates seam­lessly into the car. Vo­cals are pre­cisely staged across the dash area, highs are shim­mer­ing and de­tailed, and the bass is su­perb; the sub­woofer de­liv­ers se­ri­ous vis­ceral slam with­out ever get­ting boomy or over­bear­ing.

Parked at our lake­side spot, and used as a 1705kg, 380-watt Blue­tooth speaker, the XF sure helped soothe some of the harsh re­al­i­ties of the great out­doors, and made me a (mostly) happy cam­per. The big cat re­ally is be­com­ing nicely in­te­grated into the fam­ily.

CHEERS TO THAT A cold beer and sev­eral hun­dred watts of Meridian au­dio to drown out the wildlife equals a good week­end

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