Our cars: Jaguar XF Sportbrake - April
Week ending April 26
Driven this week 245 miles
Read the full Jaguar XF Sportbrake review
You can gauge a long-termer's appeal here at What Car? by how often the car keys are left hanging up in the office. Some are left for days without anyone taking them; others, like our new Sportbrake's, are never to be seen.
It's not surprising. The estate is practical, and looks the part, too, as most Jaguars have over the years (we'll tactfully ignore the S-type). That swoopy rear end might be shallower than some of its rivals', but the Sportbrake's boot is roomy enough to swallow all our photographer's gear, or shoot a video from, or just carry luggage for a family weekend away.
That shallowness could limit the car’s load-lugging ability, but loads come in differing shapes and sizes, and in the real world accessibility to the boot can be at least as important as capacity. The Sportbrake has no lip to haul things over, and also a useful remote release to drop the rear seats, which can then be split 60/40, or folded flat to the floor. Further, the flexible floor carries beneath it a hidden storage compartment, whose flaps can be folded and locked in an up position, to help carry smaller loads. There’s also a floor rail system, which allows optional nets and retaining bars to keep shopping in place or further divide up space.
For supermarket shopping it's ideal. On a visit to the tip it actually managed to carry quite a large amount of odd-shaped furniture, once the rear parcel shelf had been retracted. I’m also grateful for the automatic opening (via key) and shutting (via button) of the rear tailgate.
Now if I can just get my hands on the keys more often…
Week ending April 19
Driven this week 445
My first trip in our new XF Sportbrake this week and my first trip in Jag’s sleek new estate full stop. It was one of those trips that really tests a car too: a 300-mile round trip in the pouring rain after a day in the office on a mission to collect my six-year-old son and his clobber from his grandparents.
It turned out to be a great tool for the job. The Jag’s noticeably more refined at motorway speeds than my normal BMW 320d. Despite it looking its age, I still think the XF’s cabin is fantastic and a fair bit more characterful than the Germans', even if perceived quality is not quite as formidable.
As for the estate-ness part. I didn’t fill it to the brim but I was thankful for the added versatility over any executive saloon. Yes some posh wagons have more cubic litres, but the XF was big enough for me. I’ll be borrowing it again, that’s for sure.
By Chas Hallett
Week ending April 12
Driven this week 140
We've always liked the XF saloon at What Car?, and when, late last year, the new Sportbrake version joined the range, we liked that too. Not surprisingly, we've all been itching to get our hands on our new long-termer.
Jaguar says the estate adds 1675 litres of practicality to the existing mix of elegance and sophistication – or 'Life. Balanced', as their current ads have it.
Well it certainly looks the part. Indeed in its lustrous Stratus Grey metallic paint finish, our car is positively stunning to behold. Sitting on eye-catching 18-inch alloys, with blacked-out rear pillars and fashionably tinted rear glazing, it's already attracted several favourable comments from my neighbours. It may even be one of those cars that actually looks better as an estate.
Initial driving impressions are good. We've chosen the more powerful of the two 2.2-litre diesel engines on offer, the 197bhp version; interestingly, given the same size wheels, its fuel figures and CO2 emissions are claimed to be an exact match for the lesser 161bhp version – 54mpg and 139g/km CO2.
If a diesel automatic estate doesn't sound like a recipe for motoring fun think again: under the impulse of 332lb ft of torque, the XF chirrups its rear tyres away from a quick start, and responds eagerly to each tweak of the wheel. A first motorway and mixed roads jaunt from Surrey to deepest Kent, involving the M25 and the inevitable jams, produced an impressive 43.1mpg, at an average speed of 60mph.
Life. Balanced? Yes, I think we’re going to get on very well.
By Mark Pearson