The Jaguar XF saloon has been key to the recent upturn in Jaguar's fortunes, providing the company with a credible rival to high-profile German saloons.
Jaguar hopes the all-new XF Sportbrake estate version will build on that success: it offers the same blend of elegance and sophistication, but with a welcome boost in practicality.
What's the 2012 Jaguar XF Sportbrake like to drive?
The great news is that the Sportbrake XF is every bit as good to drive as the saloon it's based on.
In typical Jaguar fashion, the ride is a little firm at low speed, but pick up the pace and the suspension evens out lumps and bumps with a fluid action. Better still, the Sportbrake's sharp steering, strong body control and exceptional grip allow you to hustle it through corners with minimal fuss and complete confidence.
The Sportbrake also comes with load-compensating, self-levelling rear suspension, so even when the boot is full, the car is able to maintain its equilibrium.
Jaguar XF Sportbrake is as good to drive as the saloon it's based on
The marriage of the 197bhp 2.2-litre diesel engine and the eight-speed automatic gearbox isn't quite so convincing. The engine has plenty of low-down torque, so performance is lively. However, you feel some vibration through the base of the driver's seat at tickover, and there's some unwelcome diesel clatter under hard acceleration. CO2 emissions for the estate are the same 135g/km as they are on the saloon.
The shifts from the eight-speed 'box are fairly abrupt, and the gearbox has an annoying habit of downshifting even when you just want to build speed gently and smoothly.
Handling is sharp; self-levelling rear suspension comes as standard
Private buyers will be drawn to the more potent 3.0 V6 diesels. These are quieter than their four-cylinder counterparts, and the power delivery is exceptionally smooth. Whichever engine you choose, one of the Sportbrake’s great strengths is how effectively it blocks out wind and road noise.
Minimal wind and road noise at speed, but the 2.2-litre diesel engine is rather gruff
What's the 2012 Jaguar XF Sportbrake like inside?
Most versions come with a electrically-powered tailgate, which can be opened remotely – useful if you're returning from the shops laden with bags and toddlers.
With the tailgate open and the rear seats in place, the Sportbrake's boot is almost perfectly square.
Boot is a useful square shape; most versions have an electrically powered tailgate
Unfortunately, that swooping roofline makes the load bay rather shallow; it's fine for transporting old masters, but we doubt an Old English Sheepdog would be too impressed.
Levers mounted on either side of the boot make it easy to drop the rear seat backs to create a completely flat load bay, while lashing hooks on the boot sides and sliding tie-down points in the floor help to stop things shifting around on the move. The Sportbrake's boot is trimmed with rather lightweight materials, however, so if you're planning a tough life for your estate, you might want to look elsewhere.
Dashboard is identical to the saloon's; some cabin materials look rather cheap
Anyone coming to an XF for the first time is sure to be impressed by the pulsating starter button, rising rotary gear selector and rotating air-vents. Look beyond the gloss, though, and the frustratingly fiddly touch-screen and cheap-feeling dashboard undermine the ambience.
In terms of interior space, the Sportbrake is on a par with the Audi A6 Avant and BMW 5 Series Touring. Like those cars, the XF Sportbrake is effectively a four-seater, due to the transmission tunnel running down the centre of the car.
Should I buy one?
If you're looking for a sleek and sporty executive estate, the Sportbrake's striking lines, tidy handling and strong performance are sure to win your heart. If you're a company car driver, though, the Jag's relatively high CO2 emissions may put you off, because they make the Sportbrake relatively pricey to run compared with an equivalent BMW 520d Touring.
Our reviews are based on hard data and thorough testing in the real world.
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