Unlike the XF saloon, the XF Sportbrake comes with self-levelling air suspension at the rear as standard. Happily, 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 a surprisingly engrossing experience. Indeed, this is 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. True, it doesn’t ride as well as the BMW 5 Series Touring, but it’s still very impressive. On models equipped with adaptive suspension, switching to Dynamic mode makes the ride rather firm and is best avoided unless the road is super smooth.
For those who live in the countryside, the XF Sportbrake can be specified with four-wheel drive. In most everyday driving scenarios, you’ll be completely unaware of its presence, but you’ll be grateful for that extra traction when accelerating out of damp roundabouts or driving on muddy roads. It could also come in handy if you're 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. We’d therefore recommend upgrading to the 2.0d 180, which provides enough performance for day-to-day scenarios and returns impressive fuel economy. That said, equivalent engines in the BMW 520d Touring and Mercedes E220d Estate are even stronger and transmit fewer vibrations into the interior. Refinement is generally a weak point for Jaguar's 2.0-litre diesel engines, which sound clattery and more agricultural than their aforementioned German equivalents.
The most powerful four-cylinder diesel in the XF Sportbrake line-up is the 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 low-rev pulling power (particularly useful for those who like to tow). However, it’s still not particularly quick or responsive, and costs a lot more to buy (see costs section for more info).
Instead, if you can stretch to it, we would recommend opting for the range-topping V6 diesel, which is available in the top two trim levels. It's far smoother than any of the four-cylinder units and, thanks to impressive levels of low-down grunt, can get the XF Sportbrake from 0-62mph in less than 7.0sec or tow up to 2000kg.
As for the V6 petrol, well, there isn’t one any more. Jaguar claims there simply wasn’t enough demand for a large-capacity, gas-guzzling XF Sportbrake. Instead, there are a couple of high-powered four-cylinder petrols, although your fuel bills will still need some thought. Both are 2.0-litre units, with 248bhp and 296bhp. The lower output offers acceptable straight-line performance, although you have to work it hard to get the best from it; the more powerful version is still a little lacklustre from a standstill, given its claimed 296bhp, but its in-gear acceleration is much brisker.
The automatic gearbox can be a little slow to respond when you need a quick burst of acceleration, yet tends to change down unnecessarily if you try to build speed more gently. Using the steering wheel paddles to change gear manually gives more control, and the changes are mostly smooth and seamless regardless of mode.