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Jaguar XF Sportbrake (2012 – ) expert review

By Andy Pringle, 1st November 2012

The verdict

Jaguar doesn't have much of a track record in estate cars - in fact, this is only the second one it has ever built - but the lack of experience doesn't show. Stylish, good to drive and pretty practical, the XF Sportbrake is one of the best executive estates.

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Expert rating:

4.2

Pros

  • Stylish-looking estate car.
  • Lots of neat practical touches.
  • Excellent refinement.

Cons

  • Not the biggest car in its class.
  • Struggles to take three rear passengers.
  • Some ergonomics are fiddly.

Full Review

1. Exterior

The Jaguar XF saloon is one of the most stylish executive cars, so you’ll find no complaint from us that the Sportbrake is identical to it at the front. It shares the look of the post-2011 facelifted model, which sits lower and wider, as well as having LED daytime running lights in its streamlined headlight units. It’s from the B pillar backwards that the Sportbrake has its own unique design, with the diverging lines giving the car a sense of speed and motion, and the extra bulk of the estate body disguised by clever use of colour. We could spend hours listing the bits and pieces we love, but we’ll confine ourselves to just a couple: the black C-pillars and the way the slim headlights merge into the chrome panel across the tailgate.

Our rating: 5

2. Interior

As in the saloon, so in the Sportbrake, Jaguar has pulled out all the stops to make the cabin every bit as special as the body. That means it shares the wonderful piece of theatre when you press the starter button: the round gear selector rises, while the air vents rotate to the open position and at night the interior glows a calming pale blue. All of the materials used in the cabin are first-rate, and the interior is one of the classiest on the market, mixing traditional style with up-to-the-minute technology. The seats are like armchairs and remain comfortable whether you are nipping round to the shops or driving hundreds of miles. Our only disappointment is that some of the controls can be a little fiddly to operate.

Our rating: 5

3. Practicality

As soon as you settle into the driver’s seat, you realise that the Sportbrake is much more than just a pretty face. First, it’s easy to get a perfect driving position thanks to the good range of adjustment on the steering column and seat; and, secondly, thanks to the raised roofline of the Sportbrake over the saloon, this estate will take a couple of six-footers in the rear seats in comfort. However, the wide transmission tunnel in the floor does mean that it’s best as just a four-seater. The boot isn’t the biggest in the class – that honour belongs to the Mercedes E-Class, which is more boxy than the sleek Sportbrake – but it is a very practical, easy-to-load shape. It’s also packed with neat touches, such as the three-piece floor that can be folded up to wedge smaller items in place, the cubby-holes in the side and under the floor, and the levers in the side to fold down the rear seats. If all that’s still not enough, there’s also a range of accessories to choose from, with everything from a waterproof boot guard to bike racks and roof boxes.

Our rating: 4

4. Ride and Handling

The Sportbrake is just 5mm longer than the four-door XF and less than 70kg heavier, so it drives every bit as well as the saloon – which is very well indeed. Jaguar is at pains to emphasise that the Sportbrake is deliberately named – as far as the company is concerned, any Jaguar, even an estate, has to provide a sporting drive. And, that’s just what it does, combining a smooth ride with the ability to flow through a series of bends with real poise and balance. Whatever you ask the XF Sportbrake to do it does very well, whether it’s flying down a motorway in complete calm, ambling around town or blasting down your favourite B-road. Best of all, thanks to its standard self-levelling suspension, it maintains its composure no matter how much luggage is in the boot, as well as making a very decent towcar.

Our rating: 4

5. Performance

The XF Sportbrake comes only with diesel engines, but none of the four will leave you short-changed for performance. Even the less powerful of the two four-cylinder 2.2-litre units has enough power to make the most of any overtaking opportunities, while the 3.0-litre V6 (which is also available in two states of tune) has colossal pulling power and can give hot hatches a few anxious moments. The smaller engine scores with its lower, more tax-friendly CO2 emissions and better economy, but the V6 is the more refined of the pair, and that may well tempt some low-mileage buyers.

Our rating: 4

6. Running costs

Every engine comes with a stop-start system, and that helps to good economy across the range. Both versions of the 2.2-litre unit average more than 55mpg, while the V6 models average 46.3mpg – figures that are on par with those for the XF’s main rivals, the Audi A6 Avant, BMW 5 Series Touring and Mercedes E-Class estate. The Jag’s CO2 emissions, too, are close to those of its German rivals, meaning it will incur company car tax at very similar rates. Last, but very definitely not least, the Sportbrake should follow the XF saloon and depreciate at about the same rate as its rivals, as well as costing roughly the same to insure.

Our rating: 4

7. Reliability

There’s a tangible air of quality about the XF’s construction and it’s no illusion: Jaguar has a long history of performing well in customer satisfaction surveys both in the UK and the US. XF owners, in particular, are very fond of their cars, with Autotrader’s XF owners giving their cars a very high rating.

Our rating: 4

8. Safety

The XF saloon scored a slightly disappointing four stars in Euro NCAP crash tests, but it comes with plenty of safety-related equipment. This includes driver, passenger, side and head airbags, together with a rare feature – a bonnet that pops up in the event of a collision, and is designed to put more space between the person’s head and the solid engine block. In addition, dynamic stability control, anti-lock brakes with brake assist and traction control are all standard across the range. Finally, there are ISOFIX child safety seat fasteners for the rear seats, and the options include a Blind Spot monitor, rear parking camera, Adaptive Cruise Control and a Tyre Pressure Monitoring system.

Our rating: 4

9. Equipment

One of the biggest assets of the XF Sportbrake is that most of the important kit comes as standard. The entry-level SE model features 17-inch alloy wheels, an electric park brake, rear parking sensors, climate control and Bluetooth hands-free connectivity. SE Business models add sat-nav and keyless entry, while Luxury models add xenon headlights. Premium Luxury versions also feature heated front seats, 18-inch alloys and an upgraded audio system, while the Portfolio edition is supplied with heated and cooling front seats and 19-inch alloys.

Our rating: 4

10.Why buy?

The XF Sportbrake is a wonderfully elegant piece of design, and one that is very distinctive, not least because its rivals are predominantly German. It’s also a really good car to drive, and although it’s not the biggest estate car in its class, it has plenty of neat little features that make it easy to live with.

Our rating: 4

Expert review 4.2stars

  • Exterior5
  • Interior5
  • Practicality4
  • Ride and handling4
  • Performance4
  • Running costs4
  • Reliability4
  • Safety4
  • Equipment4
  • Why buy?4

Our recommendations

Best on a budget:

XF Sportbrake 2.2D (163PS) SE

Entry-level spec and great engine is all you need.

Best seller:

XF Sportbrake 2.2D (200PS) Luxury

Style, speed and attractive price lures buyers.

Blow the budget:

XF Sportbrake 3.0 V6 (275PS) Portfolio

The strongest performance with the best kit

You soon realise that the Sportbrake is much more than just a pretty face