Unlike the saloon model, the XF Sportbrake comes with self-levelling air suspension at the rear as standard. It doesn’t upset the XF’s wonderfully innate sense of balance and composure, even on the roughest of surfaces, so threading the XF Sportbrake down a twisty road is an engrossing experience. Indeed, it’s one of the sweetest-handling estates you can buy.
The XF Sportbrake keeps you comfortable as well, 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. Ultimately, it doesn’t ride as well as a BMW 5 Series Touring, but it’s still very impressive. On XF Sportbrake models with adaptive suspension, switching to Dynamic mode makes the ride a bit firm, so it's best avoided unless the road is super-smooth.
For those of you who live in the countryside, the XF Sportbrake can be optioned with four-wheel drive. The great thing is that, in most day-to-day driving environments, you’ll be completely unaware of its presence; but when accelerating out of damp roundabouts or driving on muddy roads, you’ll be grateful for that extra traction. It could also come in handy if you are planning on using your XF Sportbrake for towing.
We’ve yet to try the entry-level 2.0d 163, but from our experience in the saloon it feels rather underpowered. Therefore we’d recommend upgrading to the 2.0d 180. It provides enough performance for day-to-day motoring and returns impressive fuel economy. That said, equivalent engines in the BMW 520d and Mercedes-Benz E220d are even stronger and transmit fewer vibrations into the interior. Refinement is generally a very weak point for these 2.0-litre diesel engines, which sound clattery and more agricultural than the aforementioned German equivalents.
The most powerful four-cylinder diesel in the line-up is Jaguar’s new 237bhp 2.0-litre four-cylinder Ingenium unit. On paper, it sounds like the one to have, offering brisk straight-line performance and even greater pulling power (for those who like to tow). However, in reality, we found the motor to be rather hesitant and languorous, which is disappointing for a relatively high-tech twin-turbocharged unit.
Instead, if you can stretch to it, we would recommend opting for the range-topping V6 diesel. It is far smoother than any of the four-cylinder units and, thanks to impressive levels of low-down grunt, it can also pull up to 2000kg, which is 400kg more than both the XF saloon and F-Pace SUV can manage.
As for the V6 petrol – well, there isn’t one. Jaguar claims there simply wasn’t enough demand for a gas-guzzling XF Sportbrake. So if you want a petrol-powered wagon, you’ll have to settle for a 2.0-litre four-cylinder 246bhp unit. It offers acceptable straight-line performance, but you have to work it hard to get the best from it.