Tested 13.12.17, Buckinghamshire On sale NOW Price £42,435
The petrol estate brings a level of refinement its diesel counterpart cannot match
Choosing a petrol version of the new XF Sportbrake means choosing Jaguar’s familiar 2.0-litre Ingenium turbo four-pot, presented in 247bhp tune (unlike the saloon, the load-lugger’s ‘S’ variant comes exclusively with diesel power). It also means the equally familiar eight-speed ZF auto ’box, and rear-wheel drive.
Although we’re testing it in aesthetically bolder R-Sport guise (up £2400 and 70kg on the saloon), all Sportbrakes come with firmed-up sports suspension, while adaptive damping is a £820 option that our car foregoes. As well as styling accents inside and out, the R-Sport gets front parking sensors to supplement entry-level kit that includes heated, eight-way electrically adjustable leather front seats, rear parking sensors, 8in touchscreen and estate-car niceties such as roof rails, self-levelling rear air springs and power tailgate.
The Sportbrake fulfils the practicality part of its remit well, closely matching the BMW 5 Series Touring and Audi A6 Avant for boot volume at 565 litres with its 40/20/40-splitting rear seats up and rising to 1700 litres when they’re folded flat. Moreover, the load space is usefully regular, with an electric load cover, curry hooks and no lower lip. Cabin space impresses, too, with ample room for four large adults plus a halfling, and sufficient nooks in which to stow your daily detritus.
Materials in the smartly presented interior range from tidily stitched dashboard leather to both soft and hard plastics, though I wouldn’t choose the optional veneer, which has an odd, embalmed finish to it. Switchgear doesn’t feel quite as robust as that of rivals, but while the optionally upgraded infotainment could do with a manual controller to supplement its 10.2in touchscreen, it has lots of features and is pleasingly responsive. The sports seats are comfortable but not especially well sculpted among their type.
The petrol Ingenium is less of a workhorse than the 237bhp diesel version, giving away 99lb ft and 100kg of towing ability to the oil-burner. But its refinement is far superior, emitting a gentle hum whose heightened pitch and volume as revs rise is barely noticeable once on the open road. Either dawdling in town or sitting at 2000rpm at 70mph in top, it’s both enjoyably hushed and unobtrusively managed by the gearbox, though downshifts can feel a bit lazy even in the torque converter’s most responsive setting.
Turbo lag is almost as gentle, but that’s partly because 247bhp doesn’t seem enough to make the 1705kg petrol Sportbrake feel that fast anyway. At 6.7sec, it’s 0.4sec slower to 60mph than the saloon, and though power delivery is steady all the way from 2500rpm to 6000rpm, it’s never especially keen, while Dynamic Mode, which also firms the tiller and heightens gearbox mapping, makes the throttle a tad bitey.
Deeper potholes brought a thud from the optional 19in alloys but, otherwise, the Sportbrake rides well and flows neatly over undulations taken at speed. Neither body control nor rear-end traction are much challenged driving this car within the constraints of its modest powertrain, but the responsive front end and natural-feeling steering help make it an enjoyable thing to sweep along back roads. The helm gives decent feedback, too, but could be more settled at a cruise.
Low demand precluded Jag from putting its 375bhp supercharged V6 in the XF Sportbrake, but I’d liked to have seen it battle the 540i xDrive Touring. RW
JAGUAR XF Sportbrake 2.0 25t R-Sport
The petrol Sportbrake is no express wagon, instead majoring on comfort, practicality and tidy handling
Engine 4 cyls, 1997cc, turbo, petrol
Power 247bhp at 5500rpm
Torque 269lb ft at 1200-4500rpm
Gearbox 8-spd automatic
Kerb weight 1705kg
Top speed 150mph
CO2, tax band 155g/km, 30%
Rivals Audi A6 Avant, BMW 530i Touring M Sport