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Jaguar XF Sportbrake estate

Car Buyer logo Car Buyer 03/09/2017

© Provided by Car Buyer 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 with rear or four-wheel drive, while a 375bhp supercharged V6 petrol engine may be offered later on.

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.

Once you’ve decided on your engine, you’ll want to choose your trim, and there are three 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.

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.

4.5 / 5

Decent economy and reasonable CO2 emissions count in the Jaguar XF Sportbrake’s favour – although rivals are cheaper to run

Order your Jaguar XF Sportbrake with the 161 or 178bhp 2.0-litre diesel engines and you’ll officially return 62.8 or 61.4mpg. Those are strong enough figures, but the Mercedes E-Class Estate E200d manages 67.3mpg, while the BMW 520d Touring gets 65.7mpg

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Jaguar XF Sportbrake MPG & CO2

In fairness, a couple of extra mpg here and there is unlikely to have a huge effect on your decision-making process, but the XF Sportbrake’s CO2 emissions may.

The 161bhp 2.0-litre diesel’s figure of 119g/km is impressive in isolation, but the E220d Estate emits 109g/km and the 520d manages 114g/km. Without wishing to be accused of nitpicking, that’s the difference between a 23 (Mercedes), 24 (BMW) or a 25% (Jaguar) Benefit-in-Kind rate (BiK). Again, hardly life-altering stuff, but be aware the Jaguar leaves you liable to a greater tax obligation.

Other XF engines are less efficient, although none prohibitively so. Adding four-wheel drive to the 178bhp diesel drops economy to 56.5mpg and raises CO2 emissions to 132 g/km (for 28% BiK). The 237bhp diesel returns 48.7mpg and emits 153 g/km of CO2 (32% BiK), while the 296bhp 3.0-litre diesel gets 49.6mpg and emits 149g/km (31% BiK).

Go for the 247bhp petrol engine and you’ll officially get 41.5mpg and CO2 emissions of 155g/km (30% BiK), regardless of whether you go for the rear or four-wheel-drive model.

Although entry-level XF Sportbrakes with a list price (including options) of under £40,000 will cost £140 a year in road tax, cars with a higher price incur will incur an extra £310 annual levy, bringing total tax to £450 a year for years two to six of the car’s life.

Insurance groups

Insurance groups are still being figured out, but the XF saloon starts in group 27 out of 50, which is a lower group than 5 Series and E-Class begin in.

Warranty

Jaguar’s three-year/60,000-mile warranty is average for the industry, but no more than that. Audi gives the same guarantee, while BMW and Mercedes’ policies run for the same length of time, but with no mileage cap.

Servicing

Jaguar’s service plans are worth considering if you’re a private customer. A five-year/50,000-mile plan is £649 for 2.0-litre diesel saloons, while the 3.0-litre diesel is £825 and petrol models cost £975 for the same period.

4.2 / 5

Roughly speaking, if you like sharp-handling cars there are two models in this class to choose from: the Jaguar XF Sportbrake and the BMW 5 Series Touring. Both are real driver’s cars, and ones likely to make owners relish long journeys.

Not fussed about taking corners quickly, receiving tactile information through the steering wheel and feeling ‘at one’ with your car? The Mercedes E-Class Estate, Volvo V90 and Audi A6 are worth considering then. None is bad to drive (the latest E-Class is sharper than it’s ever been), but where involvement is concerned, the XF Sportbrake has the best of these three.

Turn into a corner and you’ll instantly know how the Jag is going to behave, where its nose is going to go, how much grip the rear wheels have and how little body lean it’ll exhibit. Ride over uneven roads and the suspension will iron out imperfections with ease, while the optional Configurable Dynamics package brings adjustable suspension.

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All cars come with a driving mode selector and while the switch for these modes is fiddly to operate and badly designed, the modes themselves have a real impact on how the XF Sportbrake behaves – even if the Dynamic setting makes the steering a little twitchier than is ideal.

Jaguar XF Sportbrake petrol engines

The 247bhp 2.0-litre petrol engine offered with the XF is a new engine, and it’s a smooth and fast one, taking 7.1 seconds to go from 0-62mph. While part of us wishes Jaguar would offer the XF Sportbrake in the UK with its 375bhp 3.0-litre V6 supercharged petrol engine, we can understand the poor economy this engine brings would make it a low-selling model. That’s not to say Jaguar definitely won’t bring it over here, though…

Diesel engines

If your annual mileage pushes you into a diesel, you have many more choices. The 161bhp 2.0-litre engine takes 9.4 seconds to hit 62mph, the 178bhp diesel does the same in 8.8, while the 237bhp diesel takes 6.7 seconds and the 3.0-litre diesel 6.6 seconds. The two least powerful diesels have adequate rather than excessive performance, but make most sense from a financial point of view.

All XF Sportbrakes (bar the 161bhp diesel, which is manual or auto) come with an eight-speed automatic gearbox and while this is genuinely smooth, it can get a little flustered when paired with the less powerful diesels. Put your foot down to exploit a gap in traffic and (not always, but sometimes) you may experience a moment’s hesitation, which can be slightly unnerving.

Sharp, agile, impressive: as long as you don’t look behind you, it’s easy to forget the Jaguar XF Sportbrake is an estate car

4.4 / 5

Standards are high in the executive estate class and the Jaguar XF Sportbrake has a decent interior. It lacks the technological ‘wow’ factor the BMW 5 Series Touring and Mercedes E-Class Estate have, but if you prefer your dashboards to be subtly elegant rather than glossy tech-fests, you’ll be happy.

Jaguar XF Sportbrake dashboard

Jaguar has kept the previous Sportbrake’s rotary gear selector and pirouetting air vents for this latest version and these flourishes lend the car enough of a sense of occasion. Physical buttons for the heating and air-conditioning are present, correct and simple enough to use, and while both heated front seats are controlled with a single button and the touchscreen, this is a small bugbear.

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Another minor niggle is the driving mode selector. A feature like this should be intuitively usable, and controllable without taking your eyes off the road. But in XF Sportbrakes you select the modes via a long, thin switch with buttons at each end. Problem is, this switch’s slender double-ended nature (and the fact it’s flanked by other buttons) means a cursory glance is required when making your selection – not what you want when the call of the open road presents itself.

And while we’re focusing on the negatives, the infotainment setup is nowhere near as slick as Mercedes and BMW’s systems. Its menu structure isn’t as intuitive, Apple CarPlay is noticeable in its absence, and while an eight-inch screen is standard, you have to pay extra for a 10-inch system (something all 5 Series Tourings come with), even in top-spec cars.

Those gripes may make it sound like we don’t like the XF Sportbrake’s interior, but that’s not the case. Stepping from the immensely sophisticated and complex 5 Series into the XF Sportbrake actually brings with a sense of settled calm, and while this may be hard to pin down in an objective sense, it’s a palpable feeling engendered by the Jag’s ‘got it right first time’ interior design. Material quality, as well as fit and finish, are genuinely impressive, too.

Equipment

Prestige – the entry-level trim – comes with heated, power-adjustable fabric seats, automatic wipers and lights, a powered tailgate, cruise control, sat nav and ambient lighting.

Upgrade to R-Sport for around £2,300 and you get a light bodykit, 18-inch alloys and leather seats. Top-spec Portfolio adds softer Windsor leather and some nicer interior trim details, but you have to pay £650 if you want the 10.2-inch infotainment system.

Options

Other options include adaptive cruise control and a head-up display (both are over £1,000 each and the head-up display has old-fashioned graphics), a bird’s-eye reversing camera, a self-parking system, a gesture-controlled boot release (activated by waving your foot under the bumper) and a host of extra safety systems, including blind-spot monitoring and lane-keeping assistance. The panoramic sunroof – new for this version of the XF Sportbrake – costs £1,100 and lifts the interior ambiance further.

Taking a different approach to German rivals means the Jaguar XF Sportbrake is calm inside – although the infotainment system is a pain

3.8 / 5

This really is a game of two halves, because while the Jaguar XF Sportbrake should be a very safe car, it may not be a very reliable one.

Jaguar XF Sporbrake reliability

There’s no way to sugarcoat this: the Jaguar XF saloon came last for reliability in our 2017 Driver Power customer satisfaction survey, which generated detailed reports on 75 cars. Over 30% of XF owners reported faults with their cars and while the XF Sportbrake is a new model, Jaguar had a rough time of it across the board in our Driver Power poll, with 25% of customers having problems with their vehicles.

Other areas of the XF saloon ownership experience garnered more praise, with ride and handling being (rightly) praised, although the infotainment system got some (deserved) stick.

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Safety

The independent safety experts at Euro NCAP have yet to test the XF Sportbrake, but the saloon is built on the same mechanical backbone and scored the full five stars. With 92% adult occupant and 84% child occupant ratings, the XF impressed its testers.

And while nobody wants to be hit by a car while out walking, the XF is one of the better cars out there when it comes to pedestrian impacts: its 80% score in this area was partly thanks to the active bonnet, which pops up if it detects an imminent impact with a pedestrian, keeping soft body parts away from hard engine components.

If you want to make the XF Sportbrake even safer, tick the £2,000 ‘Active Safety Pack’. This bundles adaptive cruise control with blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert (which scans behind you when reversing) and lane-keeping assistance. You can also get beefier brakes for £210, and these seem too cheap to pass up.

The £500 self parking system is, in our experience, more likely to be a gimmick than a useful feature, but the 360-degree bird’s-eye reversing camera will make low-speed manoeuvring safer, even if Jaguar asks a hefty £1,000 for this.

Excellent safety credentials, but the Jaguar XF Sportbrake’s saloon sibling has a poor reliability record

4.7 / 5

Not an area where the Jaguar XF Sportbrake has much to worry about

If you’re looking at executive estates like the Jaguar XF Sportbrake, it’s likely this section will be important to you. If you’re in a rush, know it’s a practical car that matches the 5 Series Touring, but plays second fiddle to the E-Class Estate in this area.

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Jaguar XF Sportbrake interior space & storage

The slightly cramped rear seats of the XF’s predecessor have been dealt with for this latest model, and it’s spacious in the back. Legroom (unless you’ve a really selfish occupant in front of you) is strong in the rear and the slightly tapering roofline fails to have an impact on headroom. The glovebox and door bins are well sized and shaped, although the central cubby under the front armrest is shallower than you might imagine, being deep enough for a wallet and phone, but not much else.

Boot space

Raw numbers first: at 565 litres, the XF Sportbrake’s boot is just five litres smaller than the BMW 5 Series Touring’s, but 75 litres down on the wardrobe-swallowing E-Class Estate. Drop the individually (40:20:40) folding rear seats and space rises to 1,700 litres, which is the same figure BMW quotes for the Touring and 120 litres down on the E-Class.

Data is all very well and good, but you’ll be impressed when you actually see the boot. The power-operated tailgate is the first positive point, while the numerous lashing points are also welcome. With the rear seats folded, the flat load area is another a strong point and the XF Sportbrake’s sleek lines definitely don’t come at the expense of practicality.

Towing

While full figures are forthcoming, we expect the Sportbrake to match the saloon’s towing capability. That would give it a 2,000kg limit, although the 161bhp diesel engine is capped at 1,600kg. A detachable tow bar costs £700, though for the sake of an extra £290 you could have an electronically deploying example, which you’ll most likely come to appreciate if you’re a regular tower.

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