Our cars: Jaguar XF Sportbrake - May
Week ending May 31
Driven this week 350 miles
Read the full Jaguar XF Sportbrake review
Grace, space and pace, Jaguar used to claim of its cars, but we haven't been too sure if its recent products fulfilled all three. Our Sportbrake's been on active long-distance service this week, transporting me and my family on a half-term break to Cornwall, so it was a good chance to see what our modern Jag could do.
Loaded with luggage and enough paraphernalia to keep young children happy, the Sportbrake seemed to have the space issue sussed. The handsome and well-appointed interior was an excellent place to spend time, with more than enough room for four; only the infuriatingly fiddly sat-nav lets the side down.
The self-levelling air suspension helped keep the Sportbrake on an even keel, too, and that competent chassis helped play a large part in transporting us from Esher to Whitsand Bay in remarkable time: the trip readout told us that the 220-mile journey was completed at an average speed of 62mph, and 38.3mpg. So pace too, and with economy older Jags couldn't have matched.
Admittedly, we were lucky to find the usually traffic-laden roads empty. However the performance of the Jag was never less than graceful, whether hustling confidently round tight Cornish lanes (its steering and handling a tactile pleasure), or dismissing cautiously driven Citroen Xsara Picassos on the straights with its eager torque.
Parked up outside a pukka restaurant, it was my wife who remarked how ideal the Jag had been, fulfilling family holiday duties while exuding an air of elegance that 4x4 rivals couldn't match.
Grace, space and pace? On this evidence yes, definitely.
Week ending May 24
Driven this week 300 miles
I've just had the good luck to borrow the What Car? Jaguar XF Sportbrake long termer for the weekend. It was my daughter's wedding and I needed something that would transport me and my sons to the venue in appropriate panache, and with a large volume of the paraphernalia that was also required by my daughter, including all her extensive honeymoon luggage!
The XF fitted the bill in every department - externally impressive (especially sporting white ribbons) and internally exuding a proportionate level of quality. The car drove and handled as I had hoped and expected, smooth and quiet, with seamless automatic transmission changes, and almost transparent operation of the eco friendly stop-start system. The controls were intuitive, and I had no trouble getting to grips with the audio and sat-nav options straight away. Other than a marginal feel that the pedals could have been a tad further apart (although that could have been my wedding shoes), this is a very good car indeed - and my wife really liked it too. Hmmm..... can I keep it a bit longer please?
By Mike Cronin
Week ending May 17
Driven this week 540 miles
I’ve just returned from a long weekend in south Devon with the Jag. It proved the ideal car in more ways than one. First, it was my mum’s birthday, and I wanted her to experience all the fineries that a Jaguar can muster (Mark Pearson mentions many of them below).
She sat up front and dad was relegated to the back seats (craning his neck to see around the front headrests), and both had entirely positive things to say as I chauffeured them down the lanes to our destination at Salcombe.
Once there, I felt pretty chuffed with my choice of car. The South Hams area isn’t short of a bob or two. In fact, it seemed that much of South West London had joined us for our break, as the roads were full of new Audis, BMWs, Porsches and Range Rovers, so the Jag felt right at home.
The parents might have been delighted, but I have a few niggles. Like Mark, I also noticed the automatic gearbox’s reluctance to make up its mind at low speeds, and its over-eagerness to drop down a couple of cogs at the merest brush of the accelerator pedal on the motorway. Naturally, this sends the engine revs soaring, and the four-pot diesel is pretty unrefined when extended.
I also noticed that the rear window’s washer has given up the ghost, the rear footwell floor mat locator lugs don’t fit through the mats’ securing rings, and that the driver’s seat has already developed an annoying squeak. We ended up having to replace the same seat on our Jaguar XJ long-termer, so this doesn’t bode well.
Week ending May 10
Driven this week 575 miles
With all of its options, our Jaguar XF Sportbrake is a £40,000 car, so I was a bit put out to find another one parked next to it at the supermarket last weekend.
At least ours has the extras; folding heated door mirrors, a front parking aid, a swish Meridian stereo and a Winter Pack option, which has proved a welcome addition. In effect it’s just heated front seats and a heated windscreen, and, at £570, it seemed extravagant. However it's proved to be a real benefit, warming up the occupants and clearing an icy windscreen within seconds.
I'm not so sure about the £590 Meridian stereo. We chose the 380W upgrade to the system, which replaces the standard 10-speaker unit with an 11-speaker set-up. It lets you alter audio settings via the (rather fiddly) touch-screen, and includes technology that compensates for ambient sound in the cabin.
Clever stuff, in fact so clever I can't figure out how it works. All I know is the resulting output is not quite as impressive as I thought it would be. Certainly pop music is relayed really well, and speech is reasonably clear, but classical music still sounds a bit one dimensional to my untrained ears (and One Direction still sound like One Dimension too, but I suppose that can't be helped either).
Week ending May 3
Driven this week 485 miles
Most of the time, our XF Sportbrake goes about its business with exactly the hushed refinement you'd expect from a Jaguar. Just occasionally, however, it all goes a bit wrong.
The problem is the eight-speed automatic transmission. Most of the time, it works marvellously, changing ratios quickly and smoothly. However, approach a roundabout at a crawl, see a gap and put your foot down – and nothing will happen for a disturbingly long time. There’s a noticeable lag before instruction becomes action, as the Jag tries to drop into first gear. Around town too, it can seem to hunt for the right gear to be in. It’s not as bad as the six-speed auto in our long-term Evoque, but it runs it close.
On the motorway, the Jag can cruise serenely at 70mph at just 1500rpm in that high eighth gear. The trouble is, ease the accelerator a little and the gearbox drops a gear, perhaps two, and that makes the diesel more vocal and the drive less unruffled than it should be. Odd this, because it’s pretty much the same auto as the one in our long-term BMW 320d Sport, and that has no such problems. Presumably, the difference is in the software controlling it.