Jaguar XF Sportbrake S ‘braking’ the habit

Words by:
James Harrison
Featured in:
March 2013

“Would you take the dogs for a walk while you’re out? There’s room for them in there as well as your golf trolley,” asked my wife, over the sound of our Labradors frantically pawing at the tailgate.
It’s true. With 550 litres of boot space, this latest XF from Jaguar is already man’s best friend’s new best friend. But don’t call it an estate: it’s a shooting brake. Except no-one likes estates (sorry, shooting brakes) anymore do they? Have SUVs bullied them into oblivion?

This is only the second estate in Jaguar’s long history. So for it to emerge now, after the poorly-received X-Type estate, is no doubt meaningful. That’s perhaps best left for men with Powerpoint presentations to explain, because, for the moment, the meaning escapes me. I’m too busy relaxing in the cool and contemporary cabin.

Soft-touch plastics, robust switchgear, cutting-edge technology, ambient mood lighting and leather upholstery all point to Jaguar’s aspirations, eschewing memories of its past. That was when big Jags were the preserve of country gents keen on the similarities between their car’s interior and their Victorian drawing room. The matter is best summed up thus: Jaguar is breaking all the rules!

The seating position is wonderfully adjustable. The height adjustment is sufficiently adaptable to accommodate both the tallest and the smallest among us. All-round vision is excellent and although the A-pillars are relatively sturdy, none of your vision is obscured, regardless of how high or low the seat is set. There is an abundance of leg and head room in the back which will accommodate three large adults with ease.

The exterior profile is striking and handsome. A top-spec diesel S model, which rides on twenty-inch alloys, has the full ‘Portfolio’ finishing kit and costs £56,465 with extras. But if you buy an entry-spec version for 20K less, it won’t look, feel and drive a great deal differently.

It wafts its way through town and country with consummate ease, always delivering ample power from the eight-speed automatic gearbox. Torque is key to this effortlessness – and there is a lot of it: 442 lb ft; 271 bhp from its 3-litre V6, if you care about the ‘how’. I prefer to concentrate on enjoying the legendary Jaguar ride quality.

Yes, you can push this 1,880kg leviathan to make it ‘handle’ in a preposterously incongruous eulogy to Top Gear – in which case it’ll barrel along with the irresistible force of Jonah Lomu running down the wing. But why risk meeting an immovable object? I have dogs to consider and I rarely sideways-drift into parking bays at the local supermarket.

The range is only being offered with diesel engines, the inference being that cars of this nature are generally bought as family, hunting and shooting load bearers. Prices start from £31,940 for the 163bhp, 2.2-litre, four-cylinder version in baseline trim. Top of the range is the 270bhp Portfolio V6 at £51,505. My guess is that the 2.2-litre, four-cylinder version will command the main sales. Jaguar’s specifications were specific and include a new oil sump, sound deadening covers for the top of the engine and timing chest. And the new start/stop system monitors 75 factors, such as interior and exterior temperatures and battery condition before allowing a start. However, if the seatbelts and footbrake are released, the engine is put into Park and the engine is switched off.

This XF Sportbrake really does fit the bill and is a perfect way to ‘brake’ the SUV habit. It is like rarefied air being pumped through the SUV-buying smog – a statement car, which states that if you own one, you are not part of the herd.

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