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Driven: Jaguar XF Sportbrake. Image by Jaguar.

Driven: Jaguar XF Sportbrake
JLR is looking ever more to SUVs, but it can still do a very tasty-looking premium estate, as the XF Sportbrake shows.

 



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Jaguar XF Sportbrake 25d R-Sport 240

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5

Good points: still looks sublime, still has a lovely chassis

Not so good: engine, cabin and infotainment are showing their age

Key Facts

Model tested: Jaguar XF Sportbrake R-Sport 25d 240 AWD
Price: XF Sportbrake range from 37,390; R-Sport 25d 240 AWD from 43,810, car as tested 52,890
Engine: 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder diesel
Transmission: eight-speed automatic, all-wheel drive
Body style: five-door estate
CO2 emissions: 157g/km (VED Band 151-170: 530 in year one, then 465 per annum years two-six of ownership, then 145 annually thereafter)
Combined economy: 41.5mpg
Top speed: 150mph
0-62mph: 7.0 seconds
Power: 240hp at 4,000rpm
Torque: 500Nm at 1,500-1,750rpm
Boot space: 565-1,700 litres

Our view:

We loved the old Jaguar XF Sportbrake and, when we last drove a second-gen XF in the form of the 380hp supercharged S, we loved that, too. But, we must admit, we were surprised when Jaguar Land Rover announced it was reviving its mid-sized executive estate for a second outing in 2017.

The thing is, lovely big wagons like this are feeling the squeeze from SUVs; they just don't sell like the used to. Furthermore, the usual Audi, BMW and Mercedes alternatives (see 'The Rivals' below) with similar output diesel engines are right at the top of their games, especially the Merc which has finally ditched the noisy old 2.1-litre turbodiesel for a sweet 2.0-litre unit. And Jaguar now has to contend with an utterly resurgent Volvo and its corking, voluptuous V90, as well. Factor in that JLR is a company which has quickly realised that SUVs and 4x4s are where the money's at - the British company has no fewer than ten different lines across its Land Rover, Range Rover and Jaguar brands, including the avantgarde I-Pace EV from the Big Cat - and the decision to try the XF Sportbrake for another time looks a risky one.

Especially as, having had a week with this 25d R-Sport 240hp model, which will be one of the key-selling models, it feels like the relatively new XF Sportbrake is already some way behind the curve. Oh, it still looks absolutely smashing - and if that's enough for you, we wouldn't blame you for buying the Brit on the strength of its svelte, elegant appearance alone. But, truthfully, none of its rivals are anything like ugly, either, and some of them may float your boat more than the Jaguar, which is still wearing the very distinctive Ian Callum penmanship lines that have been on many of the Scot's cars since the turn of the millennium. What we're trying to say here is that the XF Sportbrake is undoubtedly lovely to behold, but it's not exactly groundbreakingly fresh in the aesthetics department, either.

The cabin is more of an issue. It's nicely appointed, with all the leather and discreet quality you'd expect of a Jag, but the actual architecture looks rather plain in an era when big, digital-screen showmanship is all the rage in this class. An Audi MMI Touch set-up or Mercedes' Widescreen Cockpit, whatever you think of the removal of physical buttons from a car's cabin, is going to wow consumers more than the XF's straightforward dash with a reasonably small infotainment screen. It doesn't have the Duo Pro set-up of something like a Range Rover Velar, so whether the rising rotary gearlever and the two rotating outer air vents are theatre enough for you is going to be the crux of the matter. To offer something up in the Jag's defence, space in the back is good and the boot's a decent size, too.

Dynamically, the XF Sportbrake has all the usual Jag attributes for ride and handling, feeling taut and sporty when you want it to be and comfortable when you're just driving around calmly, but the drivetrain lacks aural refinement. This 2.0-litre engine is noisy and harsh compared to its main competition, while it doesn't seem to hit with the same force you're expecting a 500Nm turbodiesel to. The performance of the 25d is adequately brisk but no more, and the fact it sounds coarse if you venture beyond 3,000rpm only dulls the sensation of speed in the car, because peak power is at 4,000rpm and you won't want to head there too often.

If the XF Sportbrake was competitively priced - and we're not talking about it being cheap, just competitive - there would be more of a case for opting for it. Yet our test car was almost 53,000 with options, and that will get you a lot of V90/E-Class/5 Series Touring if your heart so wishes. So our reluctant summation is that, while we are pleased that Jaguar tried again, in this instance the XF Sportbrake isn't quite operating at the level of the best in this segment. Which means you're going to be better off with one of the company's SUVs instead, which is surely some kind of weird, self-fulfilling prophecy when it comes to these sort of premium estates.

Alternatives:

Audi A6 Avant: much lighter on its feet than it has been before, so the dynamic gap between the Jag and the Audi is far smaller. And the Audi has a better cabin and superior drivetrain options, too.

BMW 5 Series Touring: as strong as it has ever been, and the 520d in particular is a superb all-rounder. The BMW also continues to sport one of the best human-machine interface controls in the industry.

Mercedes-Benz E-Class Estate: probably the most comfortable thing in the class, with sumptuous ride manners and impeccable noise suppression. Silky 2.0-litre diesel in the E 220 d is the jewel in the crown for the Merc.


Matt Robinson - 1 Oct 2019









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2019 Jaguar XF Sportbrake 25d R-Sport. Image by Jaguar.2019 Jaguar XF Sportbrake 25d R-Sport. Image by Jaguar.2019 Jaguar XF Sportbrake 25d R-Sport. Image by Jaguar.2019 Jaguar XF Sportbrake 25d R-Sport. Image by Jaguar.2019 Jaguar XF Sportbrake 25d R-Sport. Image by Jaguar.

2019 Jaguar XF Sportbrake 25d R-Sport. Image by Jaguar.2019 Jaguar XF Sportbrake 25d R-Sport. Image by Jaguar.2019 Jaguar XF Sportbrake 25d R-Sport. Image by Jaguar.2019 Jaguar XF Sportbrake 25d R-Sport. Image by Jaguar.2019 Jaguar XF Sportbrake 25d R-Sport. Image by Jaguar.








 

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