Jaguar XF Sportbrake estate
"While rivals have better interiors, the Jaguar XF Sportbrake is a sharp-handling and elegant executive estate"
- Drives brilliantly
- Looks fantastic
- Dashboard design dated
- Interior tech not up to competition
- Rivals cheaper to tax for fleet buyers
Gone are the days when estate cars like the Jaguar XF Sportbrake played frumpy second fiddle to their saloon counterparts. Like its key rivals, the BMW 5 Series Touring and Mercedes E-Class Estate, the Jaguar XF Sportbrake arguably looks sleeker than its saloon sibling, offering 99% of the driving dynamics and greater practicality.
The XF Sportbrake’s engine range is dominated by diesels. Most buyers will choose the 2.0-litre engine, which is available with 161, 178 and 237bhp. The least powerful of these is rear-wheel-drive only and the most powerful four-wheel-drive only, while the 178bhp can be either. There’s also a 3.0-litre 296bhp rear-wheel-drive-only diesel, although this is expensive to buy. If you’re after a petrol, you can have a 247bhp 2.0-litre turbocharged engine, or a more powerful supercharged 296bhp version of the same.
So, there's a broad range of engines, then, but in truth the 161 and 178bhp 2.0-litre diesels make most sense as far as running costs, company-car tax obligations and purchase prices go. These take 9.4 and 8.8 seconds to go from 0-62mph respectively, and both officially return around 62mpg. In comparison, the 2.0-litre petrol feels like it needs to be worked harder and makes more noise as a result, with worse fuel economy in real-world driving.
Once you’ve decided on your engine, you’ll want to choose your trim, and there are four of these. Prestige includes powered front fabric seats, roof rails, a powered tailgate and self-levelling air suspension at the rear, which keeps the car level even when heavily laden. Opt for R Sport or Portfolio and you get leather seats and 18-inch alloys. Restricted to the top diesel engine, the S trim adds 19-inch alloy wheels, a more aggressive styling kit, leather sports seats, adaptive suspension and a Meridian stereo with 11 speakers.
Although it’s 115kg heavier than the saloon, the XF Sportbrake is similarly enjoyable to drive. There seems to be more car behind you, naturally, but the steering responds accurately and sharply to driver inputs, the gearbox is smooth (if not lightning-quick) to change gear, while the suspension offers the perfect blend of comfort and firmness.
The XF Sportbrake has no major drawbacks in objective terms, but its interior is a bit underwhelming. Step from a BMW 5 Series into the Sportbrake and you’ll find the Jag is decidedly less modern, while the BMW’s material quality and attention to detail impress more.
There is, however, a pleasingly content atmosphere in the XF Sportbrake. While the 5 Series and the Mercedes E-Class offer numerous configurable screens, settings, buttons and modes, coupled with gloss-black plastic and intricately detailed metal finishes, the XF is more settled inside. You get the feeling BMW and Mercedes have built their executive estates so drivers can configure them to their hearts’ content, whereas the XF Sportbrake’s designers envisaged drivers would set their cars up once and then leave them alone.
That’s not to say it’s unsophisticated, by any means. True, the infotainment system is less intuitive than some and the omission of Apple CarPlay – even from the options list – continues to be a problem Jag needs to solve, but the adjustable suspension and driving modes have a notable effect on the car’s behaviour, while the Activity Key waterproof wristband allows you to lock the car key safely inside while you go off adventuring.
Practicality is fundamental to estate cars and the XF does well in this regard. Its 565-litre boot is almost identical in size to the 5 Series Touring’s, while the load area is as flat as a billiard table – and more plushly finished than the BMW’s.
We must be less glowing where reliability is concerned, unfortunately. Jaguar as a brand came a reasonable 12th out of 27 manufacturers in our 2017 Driver Power customers satisfaction survey, but one in four owners reported a fault with their cars in the previous 12 months of ownership. Its safety should be more reassuring, with the XF saloon scoring the full five stars in Euro NCAP testing.