Jag's practical, stylish new estate takes on BMW and Mercedes
Jaguar has teased us relentlessly over the last few months about a big-booted XF. First, it squiggled an elongate XF’s silhouette on Wimbledon’s Centre Court (Jags do a bit of official duty at Wimbledon each year), then it was photographed from a giant’s eye view (showcasing its new, full-length panoramic sunroof), but now we can finally see Gen Two of Jag’s Sportbrake in all its glory.
And a good-looking thing it is too. Mainly because it’s been styled by someone – Ian Callum – who knows how to make cars look good, not just… bigger. In fact, measuring 4,955mm, the new Sportbrake is actually 6mm shorter than the previous model. Saying that, its wheelbase has been lengthened by 51mm, to 2,960mm. This means that rear legroom has been improved and the rear load space increased. And that’s what estates are all about: lugging stuff.
Compared to the BMW 5 Series Touring and Mercedes-Benz E-Class Estate, the Jag actually loses out on the boot space war. With the seats up, there’s 565 litres – five litres less than the BMW but a similar amount to the Audi A6 Avant and Volvo V90. Even so, it’s still quite a bit shorter than the long-time class-leading Mercedes E-Class’s, especially with the seats down. But when the rear chairs are folded flat, the Jag can swallow a freezer thanks to 1,700 litres of space. And with standard self-levelling air-sprung rear suspension, whatever you choose to fill the car with will be levelled for Sherpa duty.
Like its saloon sibling, the Sportbrake has got a new lightweight aluminium chassis that’s lighter and stiffer than before. Shrouding the metalwork is an elegant and sophisticated design that doesn’t differ from the saloon version on the front, but grafting a big boot on the back through a cantrail (designer speak) that starts from thin A-pillars and progressively thickens to the D-pillar and big rear wing gives the impression the the Sportbrake is longer than the saloon. But it’s not, as they both share the same overall length. The major difference between the two cars are the taillights, with the estate getting new half roundel rear lights similar to the F-Pace, which are an evolution of the F-Type’s.
We’re fans of the XF saloon as it’s the best handling car in the class, so we’re hoping that still remains the same for the estate. And there are plenty of acronyms to keep you moving when you’re thin on traction. With the help of Land Rover, there’s a new All Surface Progress Control (ASPC), Adaptive Surface Response (ASR) and Intelligent Driveline Dynamics (IDD). However, if you think you’re really going to get stuck at some point down the line, you can option four-wheel-drive. And don’t worry about speccing that if you’re a driving purist, as Jaguar claims its electrical systems behind the scenes keep the car feeling like it’s rear-wheel-driven even though it’s not. That’s something we’ll be the judge of in the near future.
Engines? It has them: four diesels and one petrol. Bookended in oomph by a 160bhp 2.0-litre Ingenium diesel, chucking out 118g/km via a six-speed manual transmission at one end, then a 295bhp twin-turbocharged V6 diesel with an eight-speed automatic that can do 0-60mph in 6.1 seconds. Not exactly rip-snorting, but hopefully an XFR-S Sportbrake or SVR variant will be along in the future.
Inside, it’s very much business as usual in XF world. You can spec a full-colour 12.3-inch TFT instrument cluster, 10-inch central touchscreen called InControl, which has the swipe and pinch functionality of a smartphone, 20-way adjustable seats and that massive panoramic sunroof. And, because holding a button is far too labour intensive and easy, there’s a new gesture controlled sunblind which you wave your hand at like a wally to open and close. Oh, and there’s good news if you suffer from hayfever and/or flatulence, as Jaguar has incorporated a cabin air purification system for the first time that purifies the air, neutralises odours and removes bacteria by releasing magic e-ion particles into the air stream.
There’s no word on pricing yet, but expect it to be competitive with its Germanic rivals. Would the Jag sway you out of a BMW, Mercedes or Audi?