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Jaguar XF Sportbrake D200 R-Dynamic S AWD

Sportbrakes are like busses it seems. You don’t see one for ages and then two come along at once. Here I’m driving the XF Sportbrake which follows hot in the tyre tracks of the VW Arteon, which I reviewed here.

The term Shooting Brake was first used in the 1890s to describe a horse-drawn wagon used to carry shooting parties, their equipment and game but has come to define a sub-genre of estate car that’s deliberately a little more sexy, svelte and sporty but, as a result, is often compromised as an out and out load-lugger.

Jaguar XF Sportbrake (50866494)
Jaguar XF Sportbrake (50866494)

With that in mind it’s perhaps fitting to start by looking at just how practical the XF is in Shooting Brake guise.

As with the saloon version there’s plenty of room for even taller adults to stretch out thanks to a generous amount of space for both heads legs and elbows while the rear can cope with another pair of six-footers slid in behind thanks to a decent amount of knee room and space beneath the front seats for their size nines.

Now to the boot which is where things are a little less rosy, in a practical sense at least. It’s smaller than the load spaces of two of its main rivals – the Mercedes E-Class estate and BMW 5 Series Touring – but bigger than the V90’s. The 40/20/40 split-folding rear seats do create a completely flat floor when lowered with, say Jaguar, space enough for a decent-sized fridge freezer.

Jaguar XF Sportbrake (50866633)
Jaguar XF Sportbrake (50866633)

It’s easy to get comfortable behind the wheel. Not only is there all that space but even the entry-level R-Dynamic S-trim is fitted with heated 12-way electrically adjustable front seats with adjustable lumbar support.

The seating position is quite low and sporty but visibility is good, out the front, thanks to thin A-pillars but steeply-raked rear pillars and relatively narrow rear screen make seeing out the back tricky. There is, though, help at hand thanks to Jaguar including front and rear parking sensors and, more impressively, a 360-degree bird’s eye-view camera as standard across the range. Every Sportbrake also gets LED headlights.

It was only about eight years ago that I was lamenting the quality, or rather the lack of it, of the infotainment system. Slowly but surely the company has worked at improving the systems in their cars and the latest incarnation, the Pivi Pro, is one of the best in the class.

Jaguar XF Sportbrake (50866652)
Jaguar XF Sportbrake (50866652)

The screen looks gorgeous. The graphics, the choice of fonts and colours all look classy and elegant. It’s crisp, clear and responds instantly to inputs. There’s lots of functionality with built-in live sat-nav, cellular internet, over-the-air updates and Android Auto and Apple CarPlay smartphone integration, which is particularly well implemented.

Like all touchscreen-based systems it is more distracting to operate on the move than systems that use physical controls but life is made a little easier by its simple and spacious layout that includes a column of on-screen shortcuts and customisable homescreen.

S-trim Sportbrakes are fitted with clear analogue dials as standard but Jaguar’s Interactive Driver Display which puts a 12.3in LCD screen in their place, is available as an option and standard on SE-grade cars and above.

Jaguar XF Sportbrake (50866339)
Jaguar XF Sportbrake (50866339)

The Jag gets a thumbs up for including physical controls for the climate control and media volume. It’s much more convenient than having to fiddle around with the touchscreen to adjust the temperature in the car.

For audiophiles who find that the 180W sound system simply won’t do, there’s the option to choose between either a 400W Meridian set-up with 12 speakers or one with 600W and 16 speakers.

The 400W system was fitted to my review car and it does sound very impressive and, in my opinion, well worth the £820.

Jaguar, as part of the latest update, have focused their attention on material quality in the cabin and, in most respects, those efforts have paid off. The buttons, switches and dials all feel nicely damped and the plastics certainly feel more robust but there are still some areas that require a little more work.

Jaguar XF Sportbrake (50866620)
Jaguar XF Sportbrake (50866620)

The leather on the seats, for example, doesn’t feel particularly luxurious or expensive while there’s some bits of metal-effect trim that fails to achieve the desired effect of raising the perceived quality of the cabin and does, in fact, have the opposite effect.

There’s one diesel engine in the line-up – the D200 driven here – and it is a fine companion to the XF Shooting Brake. It’s punchy, flexible and refined. All-wheel-drive is available but, unsurprisingly, it does impact on economy as well as adding a few more pounds to the list price compared to rear-wheel-drive cars. It does offer lots of traction and inspired confidence even in the torrential downpours we’ve been experiencing this year.

The saloon offers class-leading dynamics and the same is true of the Sportbrake. It comes with self-levelling air suspension at the back but that does nothing to upset the XF’s natural balance and composure, even on the untidiest of road surfaces, so weaving your way through a series of challenging corners is an engaging experience, heightened by the fact that the car feels wrapped around you, leaving you in no doubt the driver is the focal point.

Jaguar XF Sportbrake (50866514)
Jaguar XF Sportbrake (50866514)

The steering is perfectly judged too – precise and beautifully weighted – meaning that the XF is one of the best-handling estates on the market.

Refinement is good – the diesel engine can be heard under heavy acceleration – but when you’re idling around town or cruising along the motorway you have to strain your ears to pick up any noise emanating from beneath the bonnet. There’s a little wind noise – whistling around the A-pillars at speed, to be precise – and some road noise, but neither is too intrusive.

There’s the odd engine vibration through the steering wheel and the eight-speed automatic can feel a little lazy at times.

If you want a practical estate car that’s brilliant to drive, it’s hard to steer yourself away from the XF Sportbrake. Yes, the interior quality isn’t quite a match for its rivals while the fuel economy and emissions figures aren’t quite as good but the XF fights back with competitive pricing, a generous amount of kit and that big boot. Oh, and a rather superb infotainment system.

Jaguar XF Sportbrake D200 R-Dynamic S AWD

Price: £37,415

As tested: £42,230

Engine: 2.0-litre I4d MHEV

Transmission: 8-speed automatic

Max power: 205PS

Max torque: 430Nm @1,750 – 2,500rpm

Max speed: 143mph

0-60mph: 7.5sec

Fuel consumption (WLTP) mpg

Low: 41.2-38.8

Medium: 48.2-45.1

High: 57.1- 52.5

Extra high: 48.2-44

Combined: 49.5-45.8

Emissions (CO2) g/km: 150-162

For more information visit www.jaguar.co.uk

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