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Jaguar XF Sportbrake review: A worthy BMW 5 Series Touring rival?

The Good

  • Handles like the saloon
  • Stylish
  • Practical

The Bad

  • Couple of quality issues
  • Ingenium petrol is underpowered
4.5

The trusty estate is even less fashionable these days, but the latest Jaguar XF Sportbrake makes a strong case for shunning an SUV. But can it compete with the BMW 5 Series Touring?

When every manufacturer is busy pushing into the compact SUV market, Jaguar says its customers want an estate. This is despite the fact that estates have become the four-wheeled equivalent of the Swiss Army knife: Nobody uses one anymore, but they make a great deal of sense.

This is actually the second generation of the XF Sportbrake, which is just an estate/wagon/sportbrake [delete as appropriate] version of the XF saloon. Basically, you get more space plus a swoopy side profile.

It was 12 years ago when the first XF was designed, complete with an XJ6-inspired grille that would be considered miniature by today’s standards. What designers back then would have thought of today’s trend of grilles so large they have their own postcode.

Prices start from £34,910 for the most basic XF Sportbrake and its 161bhp petrol, which is rear-wheel drive. All-wheel drive can be had on pricier models, just in case you want extra traction.

Jaguar let us get behind the wheel of the 2.0-litre Ingenium petrol, 2.0-litre Ingenium diesel and a 3.0-litre V6 diesel variants, which are coming to the UK, on the roads of Portugal. Here’s our verdict.

Jaguar XF Sportbrake: How does it handle?

The Jaguar Sportbrake XF Sportbrake is not quite as sharp as the XF saloon – owing to the weight and length increases – but the difference is surprisingly small, which is testament to Jaguar’s efforts.

Whatever Portugal offered up in terms of corners, the XF Sportbrake responded with sure-footed handling. The steering, which you could make a case for being too heavy, really does provide feedback just shy of what you get from an Alfa Romeo.

Despite being relatively free of body roll and a little on the firm side, the XF Sportbrake avoids becoming uncomfortable on long journeys. It rides more smoothly and confidently than the BMW 5 Series, yet also feels more engaging.

Engine type is a particularly big factor, though. The 2.0-litre Ingenium petrol may make a lot of sense when diesels are enemy number one, but it makes the XF Sportbrake feel lethargic and reluctant – even in its beefiest 236bhp output.

It just about has the go for an overtake, but you practically have to push the pedal through the floor to make it happen and it always feels like there is a level of resistance. This will no doubt have the knock-on effect of making it thirstier on fuel.

The Ingenium diesel benefits from more preferable levels of torque, which it delivers in a much smoother, more effortless fashion. In a family wagon it just feels at home, where the petrols merely come across as a way of placating the anti-diesel crowd.

As for the 295bhp V6 diesel, it certainly makes the XF Sportbrake better in all respects but it is a smaller performance jump than its horsepower figure suggests. At lower speeds, the speed gain is immediate but it loses enthusiasm earlier than its Germanic equivalents.

There is nothing really to fault about the eight-speed ZF automatic. It shifts seamlessly and responds quickly enough to a desired change in pace, as well as provides the option of changing gears yourself using the paddles behind the steering wheel.

Not only that, the level of vibration it causes when the stop/start system kicks in reveals its grumblier side, which emphasises the old-school diesel vibe about it. A noticeable vibration noise at a smidge under 1,500rpm, the source of which was hard to verify, is of greater annoyance.

The V6 stands out tallest in terms of driver satisfaction but the Ingenium alternative is sufficiently good in all areas except the 0-62mph time, which is why it is our pick of the bunch. Sadly, there is no V8 version to give the Audi RS 6 something to fear.

What works?

Handles like an XF saloon.

What doesn’t?

Ingenium petrol engines feel lethargic.

Jaguar XF Sportbrake: Design, interior and practicality?

With a boot of 565 litres, the XF Sportbrake is only five litres shy of the BMW 5 Series Touring and both offer the same 1,700kg when the 40:20:40 split-folding rear seats are folded completely flat. Neither can compete with the Mercedes E-Class, which offers 640 and 1,820 litres.

Unfortunately the automatic tailgate lacks the foot gesture for ease of opening when carrying heavy items, unlike the 5 Series Touring, but it can automatically detect a low roof in, say, a multi-storey car park.

Towing is catered for to the tune of 2,000kg, which will be good news to those who like trailers and caravans, except for the 236bhp petrol, which manages 1,900kg.

The interior is what you get in the XF, which means the latest Jaguar entertainment display and the wrap-around dashboard that skirts the windscreen. It has areas that look and feel cheap, but on the whole the quality is decent. Not Audi or BMW decent, but close enough.

The navigation system is annoyingly difficult to follow, making it easier to make a wrong turning than it should be. It is also a tad laggy compared with the system you get in the 5 Series and lacks Apple CarPlay and Android Auto functionality.

Being longer than the XF saloon means the leg room is even more generous, with those in the early six-foot club easily accommodated. Head room is also good, even with that swoopy roofline eating into the space. The centre storage area and glove box could be a little bigger, though.

What works?

Boot space that rivals the BMW 5 Series Touring.

What doesn’t?

Some cheap plastics and one annoying dashboard vibration.

Jaguar XF Sportbrake: Should I buy one, then?

The Jaguar XF Sportbrake’s combination of a stylish design, saloon-esque handling and generous interior space makes it ideal for anyone who wants a versatile slice of motoring, especially when served in R-Sport trim.

A lack of technological prowess is ultimately outweighed by a satisfying drive (with the right engine) and a genuinely pretty design. It is the driver’s estate, then, that will stand out brilliantly among all those SUV alternatives you will probably end up buying instead.

Specification

Engine2.0-litre Ingenium four-cylinder diesel
Power236bhp at 4,000rpm
Torque368lb/ft (500Nm) at 1,500rpm
Acceleration0-62mph in 6.7 seconds (150mph)
Emissions153g/km of CO2
Economy48.7mpg (combined)
PriceFrom £34,910

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