Jaguar XF Sportbrake R-Sport
Over the years, the personalised family surname numberplate has spent its time moving from one Jag to another, all of which I was more than happy for my uncle to pick me up from school in.
He has always been into the sportier end of the Jag offering, XKs and multiple XKRs later and he's still impressed by the drive, comfort and space offered by his favourite brand. While I was happy calling shotgun, if he ever told me he was picking up any other family members on the way to the beach in South Wales I'd opt for a half an hour walk instead of practicing my knees-to-chest yoga move in the rear seats.
That's why I was very happy to find out I was being sent an XF Sportbrake to test for a week, just in time for a road trip home to see the family. Not only does it look sporty (not quite to my uncle's taste, I'll admit) but it can comfortably fit two passengers in the rear without giving anyone permanent back problems.
I must admit I'm a sucker for a good estate, and the XF Sportbrake is brave enough to take on likes of the Mercedes-Benz E-Class and Volvo V90 as close rivals. I recently ran the E-Class on long-term test, my favourite press loan to date, so it would be interesting to see how the XF compared.
Firstly, the space in the rear is pretty much on par with the E-Class. It's really quite impressive, with nearly as much space back there as Jag's taller F-Pace SUV, even with the panoramic sunroof we specced on the car. With the rear seats folded nearly flat if you're lucky enough to get a weekend away without a gang of kids, the boot space opens to a cavernous 1700 litres.
Put it this way, it's on par with the BMW 5 Series Touring meaning it is big enough to fit two full-sized adult bikes with their front wheel removed, two carry-on sized suitcases and some birthday presents. While it might not quite match the trusty E-Class in terms of size, it's still absolutely enormous and comes with lots of party tricks too, like runners to latch things down, nets and hooks galore, ensuring nothing rolls around in there on those bumpy country lanes.
Due to its lengthy physique, the reversing camera comes in handy. It's an option on this car in the Advanced Park Assist Pack which sets you back £1,150 but is really worth the splurge with front parking air, rear view camera, 360 degree parking aid and park assist included in the price. All these features are very accurate, and the reversing camera is probably the best and clearest I've used in any car.
Another worthwhile optional extra is the Jaguar activity key included in the Sportbrake Convenience Pack for just £980. This includes the powered gesture boot lid, keyless entry, and the key/watch itself. The big benefit of that is when you go out on your bike ride to the beach or for a run and you don't want the fear of losing your car keys or the inconvenience of carrying them in your pocket, you can leave them in the car and unlock it with the wristband. It's also waterproof, so I felt like a bit of a tech queen/lifestyle wanker on my weekend surf session with my Jag wristband.
Inside, the car is every bit as swanky as you would expect from Jag, especially with the
perforated grained red leather sport seats with contrast stitching on this particular R-Sport trim. Compared to an E-Class or V90 it looks slightly dated but there are some nice little touches dotted around. When you start the ignition the gear lever rises up and the air vents also roll over, bringing a nice bit of drama and making for a cool Insta story. Quality inside is great for the most part but for an almost £50,000 car there are some scratchy plastics further down which could be better.
Unfortunately, Jaguar’s InControl infotainment system feels at least a generation behind BMW's iDrive. The menus aren’t as intuitive and the touchscreen can be disappointingly sluggish to respond, as well as being difficult to use on the move. Luckily, the 10 inch touchscreen comes standard on R Drive trim, which is bigger than the 8 inch you get in the lower-level trims, but even that isn’t nearly as slick as the 5 Series’ system. Surprisingly, you can’t get Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, but there is a Jaguar app you can download on your phone to gain some control via the car’s touchscreen.
Luckily, the car makes up for any small faults with its driving etiquette. Though the 2.0-litre I got my hands on isn't the range topping diesel, it has plenty enough pull to succeed in what Jag's are best at - long drives. The ride quality and comfort is nothing but superb meaning the upgrade to adaptive dampers is unnecessary - road and wind noise is kept to an impressive minimum and it's able to iron out all those lumps and bumps in the road. The steering is sharp and the car is agile and upright through corners so your hungover mate can have a nice kip on the back seats undisturbed.
The eight-speed auto comes as standard on this engine (you can only get a manual in the lowest diesel in the range) and while it's a little slow to change up and down sometimes with this engine pairing, it's not too noticeable and is a very smooth operator.
The very best way of describing the XF Sportbrake is graceful, sexy, fun to drive, and practical. It may not be enough to convince my uncle to abandon his beloved sporty Jags, but as an estate lover, there's no other car I'd favour in its class.