Despite station wagons being on the losing end of the battle with SUVs and the fact that us Aussies aren’t nearly as fond of diesel-powered passenger cars as the Europeans are, Jaguar has decided to launch a wagon variant of the XF, known in Jaguar speak as the Sportbrake, with diesel engines for both the entry-level and range-topping versions.
The car you are looking at here is the Jaguar XF Sportbrake S 30d – the most powerful and luxurious version of the ultra-niche performance wagon in question.
To anyone who may have the misconception that wagons are a bit drab and daggy, this thing flies in the face of that idea. Personally, I think it looks even better than the already handsome XF sedan, as the long sweeping roofline and the strong character lines down the side of the car give it some real sex appeal, while the sheer length of it only goes to enhance its presence.
Our kitted-out test car was brimming with technology, such as the 10.2-inch InControl Touch Pro infotainment system and 12.3-inch digital instrument display, with both of these displays being very high quality, along with an excellent Meridian sound system.
All the switchgear throughout the cabin is similarly high quality, and in the XF it does feel better laid-out than in some other Jags, with particular regard to the positioning of the window switches and seat memory controls.
In terms of trim, the brown leather and satin rosewood trim combination of this car is how they should all come in my opinion, with the chocolatey leather having the perfect tone to brighten up the interior while also seeming subtle and classy. The wood gives it that touch of British charm too, while the hexagonally-patterned metal inlays it’s paired against usher in some modernity.
For rear seat occupants, there’s plenty of head- and leg-room once you’re in, with the only real complaint being that the centre armrest is on a bit of an odd angle.
There’s also a retractable cargo barrier-come-sunshade in the back as well – a very clever inclusion, I must say.
And, of course, we can’t skip over the Sportbrake’s huge boot. Not only is it an incredibly deep space, but it’s practical in plenty of ways other than size. There’s a 12-volt outlet in there, easy-access handles to lower the rear seats, elasticated pockets to store oddities in, and, most cleverly of all, adjustable tie-down hooks.
It even has self-levelling air suspension in the rear to account for the heavy loads you are able to carry back there – yet another bit of clever thinking. Practical? You bet this thing is.
Under the skin, the XF Sportbrake can be had with three different engines, all of which are backed by an eight-speed automatic transmission and rear-wheel drive. While lesser versions have either a 2.0-litre four-cylinder diesel or petrol engine, you’ll find a 3.0-litre twin-turbocharged diesel V6 under the bonnet of the S model tested here.
The most powerful engine available in the Sportbrake, peak power is rated at 221kW while torque stands at a whopping 700Nm. That’s enough to hustle it from 0-100km/h in 6.6 seconds – not by any means slow, but also not especially fast.
However, straight line speed isn’t what the Sportbrake S is about. With torque being the key figure it touts, instantaneous and effortless acceleration when already at speed is this engine’s real party trick. Put your foot down at any speed and it really will pull itself along thanks to the twin-turbo setup that allows you to stretch out the torque lower down as the first turbo is on boost, while the latter turbo gives the engine its second wind as you hit 3,000rpm.
It’s a shockingly quiet engine too, both under acceleration and on idle, with none of the usual diesel clatter, nor any roughness to its tone higher up. This, combined with the effortless acceleration, makes it deceptively quick, and it’s easy to lose track of just how fast you’re going as it is incredibly well-mannered at higher speeds.
It’s almost the perfect car for eating up the miles in, as it feels as luxurious to drive as it is to simply be in. The only reason I say almost is that the factory-fitted Goodyear tyres produced a deafening amount of road noise on the type of coarse-chip country roads that you’d find on any road-trip in the country.
In the handling department, you can certainly feel the weight of the Sportbrake through the bends – both in terms of the weight of the big V6, as well as the extra weight at the rear end – so at times it doesn’t feel quite as sweet as the XF sedan, particularly compared to those fitted with a lighter four-pot engine.
With that being said, it does handle very well for a car tipping the scales at 1,855kg. It turns in nicely, has excellent levels of grip, and corners flatly – all of which inspires confidence.
If, like me, you find the steering too heavy in the car’s Dynamic mode, you are thankfully able to configure it to your liking, as the normally-weighted steering helps to counter the extra weight of the big engine and wagon body style. I also found it handled more confidently with the suspension set normally too, with it being just a tad too rigid and unforgiving in Dynamic.
Like with most of Jaguar’s sportier offerings, the Sportbrake’s chassis makes getting it sideways a doddle. The healthy power, communicative and responsive steering, long wheelbase, and the extra weight over the rear makes initiating and controlling oversteer easy, helping it to deliver that classic rear-wheel drive fun.
You also have to keep in mind that this isn’t a sports car – it’s a big family wagon, and it drives far better than it has any right to when you’re giving it ten tenths. That it can handle as well as it does – and that it can feel spritely enough to match – while still carrying an air of luxury, and having the ability to fit in everything and the kitchen sink, is quite astonishing.
The other thing that is astonishing – and this time, it’s not in a good way – is the price. I’ll preface this by saying that you get what you pay for, but what you’ll be paying for an S model like this is at least $123,450. However, in the case of our test car, the lengthy options list drove the cost up to an eye-watering $154,250.
Some of those options – namely, the safety equipment wrapped up in the $4,360 Active Safety Pack – should really be standard fit, while there are admittedly some other optional extras that you can live without.
You do get a lot of car for the money though, it’s hard to argue with that, but it is a sizeable cost to get one of these on your driveway. I’d also put forward the point that the Sportbrake isn’t available here with Jaguar’s supercharged petrol V6 – although it is available with it in other markets – which would drive up its sporting credentials just that bit more and would perhaps make the dollar figure slightly more justifiable.
Design and Comfort: 9.0/10
Performance and Handling: 8.5/10
Equipment and Features: 8.5/10
While incredibly costly to buy, the XF Sportbrake S is all the car you’d ever need. It looks great, has a plush interior, is powerful and surprisingly efficient, feels fantastic to drive both relaxed and in anger, and it’ll easily accomodate the average family’s 2.4 children plus all of their things as well.
Although it does have its rivals to contend with from the other European luxury brands, none of them are doing it quite the way Jaguar is – that is, opting for a torque-rich diesel instead of petrol power – which only goes to make it more unique and interesting than it already is just by being a Jaguar wagon.
The only problem I can see is that the equally practical F-Pace – the larger of Jaguar’s two SUVs which is also based on the XF chassis – is far more affordable to buy. However, it’s not quite as fun to drive, and nor is it nearly as sexy a car as this, so my vote, perhaps predictably, is that you buck the current trend and go for the wagon instead.
2018 Jaguar XF Sportbrake S 30d pricing and specifications
|Price (Excluding on-road costs):||From $123,450
As tested: $154,250
|Warranty Customer Assistance:||3 years roadside|
|Country of Origin:||United Kingdom|
|Service Intervals:||12 months/26,000km|
|Engine:||3.0-litre common-rail direct injection V6 twin-turbocharged diesel:
221kW @ 4,000rpm, 700Nm @ 2,000rpm
|Power to Weight Ratio (W/kg):||119.1|
|0-100km/h (seconds):||Claimed: 6.6|
|Combined Fuel Consumption (L/100km)||Claimed: 5.9/Tested: 7.6|
|Fuel Capacity (L):||66|
|Body:||5-door wagon, 5-seats|
|Safety:||5-star ANCAP, 6 airbags, ABS, BA, EBD, ESC, Lane Departure Warning, Blind Spot Assist, Reverse Traffic Detection, Driver Condition Monitor, Torque Vectoring by Braking, 360-degree camera, front and rear parking sensors, ISOFIX|
|Dimensions (L/W/H/W-B) mm:||4,955/2,091/1,496/2,960|
|Turning Circle Between Kerbs:||11.61|
|Kerb Weight (kg):||1,855|
|Boot Space (L):||565|
|Towing Capacity (kg):||Braked: 2,000|
|Entertainment:||10.2-inch InControl Touch Pro SD Navigation, AM/FM/DAB+, CD/DVD, Bluetooth, USB, AUX, iPod
825W Meridian Digital Surround Sound System
Photos by Justin Cribbes