Variety. It counts for a lot. Rather than trying to cover all bases with one version, as has been Jaguar’s way in the past, these days the company is on an even enough financial footing to be able to offer its customers something a little bit more specialist.
The Jaguar XF had long campaigned as solely a saloon model, but in a market sector that values a certain lifestyle statement, saloons were often seen as a little staid. A 2011 facelift of the car came and went, but it wasn’t until late 2012 that buyers could get their hands on the XF Sportbrake, a car that significantly broadens the number and type of buyers Jaguar can target.
It was first shown at the 2012 Geneva Motor Show and received a generally warm reaction from the motoring industry at large. Now it’s a production reality and looking to put a number on the likes of BMW, Mercedes and Audi.
The XF Sportbrake is the first Jaguar to be launched without a petrol engine in the engine line-up. Jaguar reckon never to say never on that particular score, but for the time being at least, Sportbrake customers get to choose between a 2.2-litre diesel and a 3.0-litre – and both come in two differing states of tune. The 3.0-litre diesel is available in 238 and 271 bhp flavours and there’s an economical four-cylinder 2.2-litre, good for either 161 or 197 bhp.
The entry level 161 bhp 2.2-litre diesel will be quick enough for most, stopping the watch as it passes through 60mph in ten seconds. The 197 bhp version, which is actually just as clean and economical, manages it in a far more sprightly 8.2s, on the way to a 142mph maximum. With 450Nm of torque available from only 2,000rpm, there’s no shortage of muscle with this engine, and the XF eight-speed auto transmission means you’re always plugged into the meat of it. Across the XF range, advances have been made in refinement with active engine mounts on the diesels and sound deadening material featuring on the car, as well as redesigned wing mirrors to reduce wind noise.
Jaguar is off to a good start on the Sportbrake as the XF is widely acknowledged as one of the cleanest pieces of styling in its class. The rear glasshouse is artfully integrated into the car’s existing chassis hard points, with a genuinely sleek roofline which arches over the rear quarter-lights. The window line tapers gracefully as the flanks meet the rear glass area with its continuous wrap-around curve.
The one-piece tailgate incorporates a rear spoiler with integrated high-level stop light and a chrome blade finisher. The rear of the XF Sportbrake also sports full LED tail lights. The front bumper design features black mesh inserts for the lower air intakes. Sculpted side sills and a distinctive rear spoiler also feature.
The XF Sportbrake’s load space features 1,675 litres volume capacity when all the seats are folded down, and 550 litres with the rear seats in place. You also get under-floor stowage, a 60:40 split rear seat and a remote release. Ease of use is a priority, so a power tailgate system is available. The XF Sportbrake can be fitted with a range of accessories to increase versatility. There are also recesses in the side trim, hidden behind mesh fronts, that provide extra space.
Prices run from around £32,000 to just over £50,000, which is about par for the course in the full-sized BMW 5 Series Touring/Audi A6 Avant-dominated executive estate sector. Most customers will be attracted to the 2.2-litre diesel, which is offered in SE, SE Business and Luxury trim levels. Go for the more satisfying 197 bhp version of this engine and you’ll find Luxury, Sport, Premium Luxury and Portfolio trims.
The mid-level Premium Luxury version is sure to be popular and is fitted with soft grain leather seats, a 600-watt stereo, Bluetooth, cruise control with speed limiter, hard disk satellite navigation, a heated front window, heated, electrically adjustable front seats and 18-inch alloy wheels.
The 2.2-litre engine is going to mop up over 75 per cent of all XF Sportbrake sales. It’s a modified Ford unit, mounted longitudinally and featuring a host of new parts, including a water-cooled turbocharger and low-friction pistons. Somewhat oddly, the 161 bhp version is no cleaner or more frugal than the 197 bhp variant with 135g/km of CO2 on 17-inch wheels and 139g/km if you opt for the larger alloys.
A combined cycle 55.4mpg isn’t quite up there with the best of the German opposition maybe, but it needs to be set against the 46mpg of the 3.0-litre diesel XF Sportbrake models. Residual figures look extremely promising, and are predicted to be better than the saloon.
The Jaguar XF was always an easy car to recommend if you wanted a saloon. Unfortunately, not that many people actually do. They want the status of the aspirational badge, but also an element of practicality. Advertisers would have us believe that these cars are bought by thirtysomethings with snowboards, jetskis and dazzling smiles but the truth is a little more prosaic. The XF Sportbrake does the practical things very well.
So far it’s hard to pin a single black mark on Tata Motors’ stewardship of Jaguar. Everything is bang on the button. The XF Sportbrake continues that winning run of form. It’s good looking, well specified, useful, and trades on Jaguar’s now excellent reliability record. In other words, it can’t fail.
CAR Jaguar XF Sportbrake range
PERFORMANCE Max speed 124-155mph; 0-60mph 6.1-10.0sec
MPG 46-55.4 combined
CO2 EMISSIONS 135-163g/km