Jaguar XF Sportbrake review

Category: Estate car

The Jaguar XF Sportbrake strikes a convincing balance between form and function, but engines aren't a strong point and neither is interior quality.

Jaguar XF Sportbrake 2021 front cornering
  • Jaguar XF Sportbrake 2021 front cornering
  • Jaguar XF Sportbrake 2021 rear cornering
  • Jaguar XF Sportbrake 2021 dashboard
  • Jaguar XF Sportbrake 2021 rear seats
  • Jaguar XF Sportbrake 2021 infotainment
  • Jaguar XF Sportbrake 2021 right tracking
  • Jaguar XF Sportbrake 2021 right tracking
  • Jaguar XF Sportbrake 2021 left tracking
  • Jaguar XF Sportbrake 2021 right tracking
  • Jaguar XF Sportbrake 2021 badge
  • Jaguar XF Sportbrake 2021 front seats
  • Jaguar XF Sportbrake 2021 interior controls
  • Jaguar XF Sportbrake 2021 boot open
  • Jaguar XF Sportbrake 2021 front cornering
  • Jaguar XF Sportbrake 2021 rear cornering
  • Jaguar XF Sportbrake 2021 dashboard
  • Jaguar XF Sportbrake 2021 rear seats
  • Jaguar XF Sportbrake 2021 infotainment
  • Jaguar XF Sportbrake 2021 right tracking
  • Jaguar XF Sportbrake 2021 right tracking
  • Jaguar XF Sportbrake 2021 left tracking
  • Jaguar XF Sportbrake 2021 right tracking
  • Jaguar XF Sportbrake 2021 badge
  • Jaguar XF Sportbrake 2021 front seats
  • Jaguar XF Sportbrake 2021 interior controls
  • Jaguar XF Sportbrake 2021 boot open
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Introduction

What Car? says...

The Jaguar XF Sportbrake – on paper at least – stands a very good chance of being all the car you’ll ever need.

Yes, we know there’s no such thing as the ultimate all-round car because people have varying needs and wants. But the Sportbrake is essentially a Jaguar XF with an even bigger boot, so in theory it should give you the same luxurious interior and class-leading handling as the saloon, with extra space in the back for your dog to enjoy the experience as well.

Like the XF saloon, the Sportbrake – which, when translated out of Jaguar-speak, simply means ‘estate car’ – has been treated to a mid-life refresh. That update introduced a heavily revised interior (developed in conjunction with the F-Pace SUV), a more sophisticated 11.4in touchscreen infotainment system, a mild-hybrid diesel engine and a rationalisation of the trim line-up.

That last change was more significant than it might sound because it has had the effect of dropping the base car’s list price well below that of some important rivals: the Audi A6 Avant, BMW 5 Series Touring, Mercedes E-Class Estate and Volvo V90. A bold move by Jaguar, then. 

Are the new features and general quality enough to keep the car relevant against such strong competition, though? Over the next few pages of this Jaguar XF Sportbrake review, we’ll tell you everything you need to know, from what it’s like to drive and how practical it is, to how much it will cost you to buy and run.

If you do decide to buy one – or indeed a vehicle of any make or model – remember to take a look at our free New Car Buying service here. It’s a hassle-free way to save a fortune on a range of great cars, including the XF Sportbrake.

Overview

The Jaguar XF Sportbrake is a very competitive luxury estate. If sharp handling is your top priority, it is, without doubt, one of the most enjoyable cars in its class to drive. While the interior isn’t quite as polished as that of an Audi A6 Avant or BMW 5 Series Touring, a competitive list price and a generous standard equipment list (which includes a rather superb infotainment system) more than make up for it.

  • Class-leading handling and a strong diesel engine
  • Good amount of standard equipment
  • Big, if not class-leading, boot
  • Interior quality lags behind Audi and BMW
  • Fuel economy and CO2 emissions inferior than rivals
  • So-so resale values
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Performance & drive

What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is

In terms of engines, the sole diesel in the Jaguar XF Sportbrake line-up, badged D200, is our favourite. It might not be quite as quick on paper as a BMW 520d Touring (0-62mph takes 7.6 seconds in the BMW opposed to 7.8 in the Jaguar), but it feels impressively punchy from low revs and is plenty quick enough to whisk you up to motorway speeds without any fuss.

Four-wheel drive is available, but, since the rear-wheel drive version is cheaper, more economical and has more feelsome steering, we wouldn’t bother unless you live in a particularly weather-beaten part of the country.

Surprisingly, the range-topping 296bhp 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol P300 (only available with four-wheel drive) doesn’t feel significantly quicker than the D200 diesel, despite having significantly more power. That’s because you really have to rev it out to tap into the full performance on offer – peak power comes in at a heady 5500rpm.

Jaguar XF image
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While a revvy petrol engine might sound well suited to a sports-orientated estate, the eight-speed gearbox (fitted to all XFs) can be a bit sluggish to respond when you ask for a quick burst of acceleration, and that rather undermines the point of plumping for the most potent engine. 

If you have your heart set on a petrol XF Sportbrake, we reckon your best bet is the less powerful 247bhp P250. It provides perfectly adequate performance, and is more frugal, cleaner, and quite a lot cheaper than the P300. It has the same gearbox sluggishness as the P300, along with some other refinement issues that we’ll get to later.

The XF Sportbrake keeps you comfortable in standard SE-guise too, with expansion joints and larger road scars passing beneath the car with minimal fuss, while its body stays well tied down over dips and crests. True, it doesn’t ride quite as well as the BMW 5 Series Touring, but it’s still very impressive.

Rear-wheel drive R-Sport models with either the D200 or P250 engine have a lower, stiffer sports suspension set-up, but low-speed ride comfort suffers as a result. If you go for one of those models, we’d recommend opting for adaptive suspension, which Jaguar calls Adaptive Dynamics, as it strikes a good compromise between tight body control and a pliant ride. 

Unlike the XF saloon, the XF Sportbrake comes with self-levelling air rear suspension. Happily, it doesn’t upset the XF’s wonderfully innate sense of balance and composure, even on the roughest of surfaces, so threading the car down a twisty road is a surprisingly engrossing experience. Its steering is also beautifully weighted, precise and quicker than the rack in the 5 Series Touring, making it one of the sweetest-handling estates you can buy. 

In terms of refinement, the D200, might not be quite as hushed as the Audi A6 Avant 40 TDI under hard acceleration, but it’s quiet and subdued around town and at a cruise. The P300 petrol is even smoother and quieter. It’s just a shame that the latter doesn’t make a more sporty sound when revved to the redline.

Wind noise, meanwhile, is not a major problem, with only a slight whistling from the windscreen pillars at higher speeds, although there is a fraction more road noise than you get in the A6 Avant or 5 Series Touring. You might also notice a few engine vibrations through the steering wheel at a cruise, while the standard eight-speed automatic gearbox can frustrate with its tendency to dawdle during shifts.

The Jaguar XF Sportbrake's petrol engines suffer from a stop-start system that likes to dilly-dally, especially in the P250 we tried. It isn’t the smartest system we’ve tested because it requires you to stab the accelerator to wake up the engine, and can often leave you languishing at the traffic lights. Diesel engines have a much more unobtrusive alternative incorporated within its mild-hybrid tech, which manages to cut the engine in and out without delay and fuss.

Jaguar XF Sportbrake 2021 rear cornering

Interior

The interior layout, fit and finish

It’s easy to get comfortable behind the wheel of the Jaguar XF Sportbrake. Even entry-level R-Dynamic S-grade models get heated 12-way, electrically adjustable front seats (with adjustable lumbar support).

Stepping-up to an SE or R-Dynamic HSE trim gets you 16-way electric seats with a memory function, which lets you save your preferred seat settings and recall them at the touch of a button. 

In terms of visibility, seeing out of the front of the XF Sportbrake is easy enough: its thin windscreen pillars mean very little is obscured at junctions. That said, when you look over your shoulder while reversing, you’ll find the steeply raked rear pillars and relatively small rear screen make seeing obstacles trickier than it would be in, for example, a BMW 5 Series Touring or Mercedes E-Class Estate​​​​​​.

Thankfully, all XF Sportbrakes come with front and rear parking sensors and a 360deg camera, while LED headlights are standard on every version. Stepping up to SE or R-Dynamic SE trim also gets you an automatic main beam function, while Pixel LED lights are available as an option. Those can stay set to main beam even when you don’t have the road to yourself by shaping their light output to avoid dazzling other road users.

One area of the XF Sportbrake’s interior that looks particularly impressive is the Pivi Pro infotainment system. Its convex display helps it to blend into the dashboard neatly. It’s not just there to look pretty, though. It comes packed with loads of functionality, including live sat-nav, cellular internet, over-the-air updates and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto smartphone integration. 

In terms of useability, it's one of the best touchscreen systems in the class, thanks to its straightforward layout – there’s a fixed line of conveniently placed digital shortcut buttons placed close to the driver and a handily configurable home screen. However, like all touchscreen-based systems, it’s more distracting to use on the move than the iDrive system in the 5-Series Touring, which can be controlled using a physical rotary controller.

R-Dynamic S-grade Sportbrakes get clear analogue dials as standard, but if you go for an SE model or above (or tick an option box) for Jaguar’s Interactive Driver Display, they are replaced by digital dials on a 12.3in screen. These put a wealth of useful information just below your sightline and make the optional head-up display a worthwhile extra rather than an absolute must.

The rest of the dashboard is well laid out and easy to get the hang of, with physical buttons for the climate control and media volume. That’s not the case with the Audi A6 Avant, which uses a touchscreen for the climate controls. While that looks great, it's distracting to use while driving.

The standard 180W sound system is perfectly acceptable, but music lovers can pick from two upgrade options: a 400W Meridian Sound System with 12 speakers (standard on R-Dynamic HSE models) or a more powerful version of the same system with a 600W and 16 speakers. So far we’ve only sampled the former and it is utterly fantastic, with weighty bass notes balanced by crisp, precisely drawn highs.

As we mentioned earlier, as part of its latest update, the Jaguar XF Sportbrake interior was overhauled with a big focus on improving material quality. Some things did improve. The buttons feel nicely damped and there are now denser-feeling plastics throughout the interior.

It is a shame, though, that the hide used on the leather seats still doesn’t feel particularly plush or expensive, while the fake plastic metal-effect trim in our test car looked cheap compared with what you get in an A6 or 5-Series. Granted, it does edge the E-Class for interior quality, but it’s a close-run thing.

Jaguar XF Sportbrake 2021 dashboard

Passenger & boot space

How it copes with people and clutter

As with the Jaguar XF saloon, interior space is one of the Sportbrake’s strongest assets. Up front, two tall adults are able to stretch out thanks to copious leg and head room – even if it is slightly less cavernous than the BMW 5 Series Touring.

In the rear, head and leg room are good enough for 6ft tall adults to sit behind similarly-sized folk in the front – even with the optional panoramic roof fitted. If you want even more space, the Volvo V90 is more capacious, but the XF Sportbrake offers a touch more knee room and foot space under the front seats than the 5 Series Touring.

In terms of boot space, it loses out to the Mercedes E-Class Estate​​​​​​ by quite some margin. Its load bay is also smaller than the 5 Series Touring, although larger than the V90's. The Jaguar XF Sportbrake’s 40/20/40 split-folding rear seats lie completely flat when folded down, resulting in a long, well-shaped extended boot that Jaguar claims can take a decent-sized fridge-freezer.

Jaguar XF Sportbrake 2021 rear seats

Buying & owning

Everyday costs, plus how reliable and safe it is

The Jaguar XF Sportbrake comfortably undercuts all of main rivals, including the Audi A6 Avant, BMW 5 Series Touring and Mercedes E-Class Estate. That’s rather impressive when you consider how well-equipped it is as standard. Jaguar finance deals could be better, though, and resale values are not as strong as with its key competitors. 

The entry-level 2.0 diesel D200 has the lowest CO2 emissions in the XF Sportbrake line-up and is the logical choice for company car drivers. In base form, the low emissions put it in a lower benefit-in-kind (BIK) category than an equivalent A6 Avant or E-Class Estate. While we have yet to put the XF through our True MPG testing procedure, we saw a rather impressive average of 49mpg from the D200 on our mixed test route. 

In terms of equipment, entry-level R-Dynamic S-grade cars have 12-way electrically adjustable leather seats, cruise control, automatic LED headlights and wipers, LED daytime running lights, a powered tailgate, front and rear parking sensors, and the 11.4in Pivi Pro infotainment we mentioned earlier, all fitted as standard. 

Stepping up to an SE-grade car gets you some useful additional kit for a relatively small jump up in price from the base trim, including 19in alloy wheels, keyless entry, 16-way electrically adjustable seats, digital dials, directional indicators and additional safety kit. You can also get the SE in R-Dynamic form.

Range-topping R-Dynamic HSE trim gets luxuries such as 20in alloy wheels, sport seats with Windsor leather, a fantastic 400W Meridian Sound System and adaptive cruise control with steering assistance.

Jaguar as a brand was in 21st place out of 31 car manufacturers in the latest What Car? Reliability Survey – ahead of Audi and Mercedes, but way behind BMW. The XF scored a mid-table result in the luxury car class, with a solid score of 92%, putting it well ahead of the previous generation Audi A6, which finished last.

Every XF Sportbrake has a host of safety equipment as standard, including automatic emergency braking (AEB), traffic sign recognition, a lane departure warning system, a driver attention monitoring system and six airbags. There’s also an optional Driver Assist Pack for entry-level R-Dynamic S models, which adds blindspot assistance, a clear exit monitor, adaptive cruise control, a rear collision monitor and a rear traffic monitor that warns you if you’re about to reverse into the path of oncoming traffic. 

The Jaguar XF Sportbrake received a maximum five-star safety rating from Euro NCAP, scoring solidly in all four test categories. A closer inspection of the results reveals that it isn't quite as good at protecting child or adult occupants as the E-Class Estate, although they’re almost identical to those of the 5 Series Touring.

An alarm and engine immobiliser are fitted to deter thieves. Indeed, security firm Thatcham Research has run its security test and awarded the XF full marks for its resistance to being driven away and four stars (out of five) for its ability to resist a break-in.

Jaguar XF Sportbrake 2021 infotainment
At a glance
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Target Price from £40,825
or from £540pm
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From £34,490
RRP price range £40,825 - £49,505
Number of trims (see all)3
Number of engines (see all)3
Available fuel types (which is best for you?)diesel, petrol
MPG range across all versions 31.8 - 52
Available doors options 5
Warranty 3 years / No mileage cap
Company car tax at 20% (min/max) £2,592 / £3,537
Company car tax at 40% (min/max) £5,184 / £7,074
Available colours