What is it?
The new Jagaur XF Sportbrake, the company’s first estate car since the unloved X-type wagon. Its range is diesel only, kicking off with a 161bhp 2.2-litre (£31,940) and topping out with the 272bhp 3-litre V6 Diesel S model we’ve driven here, which starts at £44,355.
The rear suspension set-up is actually different to the XF saloon’s, coil springs replaced by self-levelling air suspension designed to counteract your furniture shopping and deliver identical feel and responses to its four-door sibling.
The Diesel S also gets Jaguar Adaptive Dynamics as standard, active dampers which continually adapt to conditions and which can also be altered by the driver. It’s optional on the lesser-powered 3-litre V6 diesel model.
What’s it like to drive?
The XF is already a great handling car, but having driven the saloon and Sportbrake back to back, the estate actually feels better.
You’re not rewarded with oodles of feel and feedback (and the steering is way too light), but the car responds very well to direction changes and you can get a real flow going, never deflected from your line thanks to the well judged ride and each corner needing just one input of steering. It’s a very satisfying car to drive quickly, with much better body control than an Audi A6 and less reliance on confusing chassis settings than a BMW 5-series.
This range-topping V6 diesel S engine is a cracker too. The standard-fit ZF eight-speed auto is as smooth as ever, and with no narrow powerband, more an even spread of smooth torque, progress is smooth and relentless. There’s enough grunt to light the rear tyres up, too. It’s light years ahead of the 2.2-litre four-pot diesel in terms of refinement (and, of course, pace), though that will doubtless be the model that mops up most sales in the Sportbrake range.
How does it compare?
Prices, performance and loadspace (1675 litres with the rear seats down) are all on par with equivalent A6 Avants and 5-series Tourings – no coincidence, we’d bet. The XF is a more appealing proposition to drive and, to our eyes, to look at. The only estate car with nearly as much style is Mercedes’ new CLS Shooting Brake. You’ll sacrifice 125 litres of bootspace and it costs nearly £9000 more than the XF, but it’s certainly an appealing alternative.
Anything else I need to know?
Introduced at the same time as 2013 model year XFs, the Sportbrake gets a number of tweaks, including Jaguar’s new Meridian sound system (replacing the Bowers & Wilkins unit, which we reckon sounded a bit better). A powered tailgate is optional on SE models, and standard on all others.