Jaguar XF Sportbrake (2012 – ) expert review
Read the Jaguar XF Sportbrake (2012 - ) car review by Auto Trader's motoring experts, covering price, specification, running costs, practicality, safety and how it drives
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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’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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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. The only petrol-engined Sportbrake is the XFR, and its 5.0-litre V8 engine gives near-supercar levels of performance.
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 well over 50mpg, while the V6 averages 46.3mpg – figures that are pretty good, although one of the XF’s main rivals, the Audi A6 Avant does offer a more economical and cleaner estate. 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.
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 owners giving their cars a very high rating on this site.
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.
One of the biggest assets of the XF Sportbrake is that most of the important kit comes as standard. Even the entry-level Luxury model features leather seats and sat-nav, while the R-Sport adds part-suede upholstery, as well as a unique look inside and out. Meanwhile, at the top of the range, Portfolio models come with heated and cooled front seats, extra leather trim on the dash and doors, and an uprated stereo system.
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.