So, this is our last weekly update on the Sportbrake, and it’s time to recap on its year with us.
First things first: this Jaguar was definitely one of the most popular cars we’ve ever had on the What Car? fleet. On average, I’d get at least two requests a week from colleagues wanting to borrow it, whether for long adventurous holidays, or short trips to the tip.
Why? Well we all liked the XF saloon, and the Sportbrake is more practical. Under that swoopy rear end the boot was big enough to swallow a photographer’s gear, or a couple of bicycles, or bulky items of furniture, even if it was a bit shallow.
On top of that, we chose the 197bhp 2.2-litre diesel, and, with an eight-speed automatic and good on-paper economy, we seemed to have the ideal car for covering the ground quickly.
In truth, though, I think the real reason everyone wanted to borrow it was because it’s so incredibly good looking. Our lustrous Stratus Grey metallic paint looked great; Sport trim brought with it 18-inch alloy wheels, and with a deep front spoiler and side sills, blacked-out pillars and tinted rear glass, the Sportbrake looked positively stunning – it attracted favourable comments wherever it went.
So did the interior. Stylish black leather seats and the aluminium and black trim on the fascia gave the car an air of luxury. Friends and family loved it - for most people, travelling in the Jag was a real sense of occasion.
However, our first impressions had been a little mixed. It was easy to find the right driving position (with electrically operated seats and steering wheel), but the seats themselves were disappointingly flat and had little lumbar support. Those thick pillars limited visibility – we were thankful for the parking sensors, which made manoeuvring our lengthy Sportbrake a lot easier. We warmed to the old-fashioned instruments, but were less impressed by the fussy switchgear and fiddly touch-screen, which was woefully slow in use.
Opinions were divided on the issue of engine refinement. The Jag’s four-cylinder motor is an old unit that always sounds like a diesel: there’s a low-speed gruffness that spoils the wafting quality you expect a Jag to have.
We weren’t sure about the transmission either. Around town, it suffered from a really annoying lag. Put your foot down to exploit a gap and there’d be a noticeable hesitation before instruction became action, as if it couldn’t quite make up its mind which gear to go into. Combined with the engine’s limited powerband, progress could often be rather frenzied, adding unwanted fuss to an otherwise calm cabin.
No such problems with the chassis though. The ride was impressive: firm around town, but supple at higher speeds. Cornering was sharp, with high grip levels and beautifully precise and well-weighted steering: our car was always a delight on twisty roads.
Perhaps we enjoyed those twisty roads too much, though: our 32.7mpg overall fuel figure was disappointingly low. The digital dash read-out could show results in the high 30s (our True MPG figure was 40.8mpg), but filling up at the pumps revealed we seldom got better than 35mpg – still not bad, maybe, for a heavyweight luxury estate.
At least our 15,000 miles were trouble free. We visited our local dealers (Guy Salmon in Thames Ditton) only once, to have the xenon headlights re-aligned. Other than that nothing broke or fell off, and aside from some well-worn Pirellis the car stood up well to some pretty hard use in its year with us.
In summary, then, it’s too expensive, the boot’s not as practical as some of its rivals’, we weren’t convinced by the engine and gearbox, the interior’s a bit hit and miss, and it’s not as economical as we’d hoped.
Yet, despite this, as regular readers of these updates will know, we really liked the Sportbrake. It’s good-looking, has a great chassis, and served well as either long-distance cruiser or family transport. It might not have the quality or depth of engineering of some of its rivals, but it has a charm and a kerb appeal they can’t match. We’ll certainly miss it here in the office.
Price when new: £37,440
Price now new: £37,945 (Now R-Sport model)
Extras: Stratus Grey Metallic paint (£650); Meridian 380W Sound System (£590); Winter Comfort Pack (£570); front parking aid/reversing camera (£500); Mirror Pack (£430)
Total price new: £40,180
Current part-ex value: £24,875
Overall test fuel economy: 32.7mpg
Worst test fuel economy: 23.5mpg
Best test fuel economy: 42.4mpg
Official economy: 55.4mpg
CO2/tax liability: 135g/km
Contract hire: £454 pm
Cost per month: 66p
Insurance group: 33
Typical quote: £865 pa