6 Dec 2013

Jaguar XF Sportbrake S Portfolio Review

Matt Hubbard reviews the Jaguar XF Sportbrake S Portfolio

Jaguar XF Sportbrake S Portfolio

We Brits are a nation of dog lovers.  There are 8.5 million dogs in the UK and 25% of households own a dog.  Also, 49% of 'young people' now go to University (compared to 8% when I was at Uni).

You might think that's a weird opening statement in a car review.  But it's not.  Honestly.

When Jaguar was freed from Ford ownership it put together three new models, the XF, XJ and new XK.  That's saloon, saloon, sports car.  All are very fine motors in their own right but not very practical.

All those models were priced so that, in the main, buyers were middle-aged, high earners and a lot of middle-aged high earners own a dog (or two, or three) and have children who go to university.

So in order to accommodate those people who need an estate car for their dogs and their offspring's university gubbins Jaguar created the XF Sportbrake.

And those people who would naturally have bought an Audi, Mercedes or BMW were then able to buy a British Jag.  This was a sensible move by Jaguar.

The XF Sportbrake was launched in March 2012.  Created by Ian Callum and his team it was, and still is, a beautiful car.  The XF's front end and flanks remained but the aft was transformed into an estate.  It was the best looking estate on the market.

Then in June 2012 Mercedes launched the CLS Shooting Brake and everybody had to decide which they liked best - XF Sportbrake or CLS Shooting Brake.

Deciding you like a Mercedes is easy.  Everyone likes Mercedes-Benz.  Posh, expensive but accessible.  "Lord, won't you buy me a Mercedes Benz," as the song goes.  Buy a CLS Shooting Brake and you will be universally admired.

Life is not so simple for Jaguar.  Recent Jaguar employee Harry Metcalfe stated recently,

And he's not wrong.  Many people consider the Jaguar image blighted by a lack of new models over the years, a slight whiff of 'old mans car', and the X-Type.

But Harry's also right in that once you have tried one you will be hooked.  The Jaguar XF Sportbrake is a corker.  A googly to the goolies of the Germans.

A Jaguar interior feels special.  The materials, the gizmos, the touch and feel of everything in the cabin. The perfect weight of the controls.  The XF Sportbrake interior is exactly the same as the XF saloon's, which I covered in detail in my XF S review.

The seats are comfortable, the driving position is sublime, the controls easy to operate and the Meridien sound system brilliant - although you still cannot Bluetooth music from your smartphone to the stereo.

The back seats are big enough for three adults.  At 5 foot 10 I had 6 inches of room in front of my knees sitting behind the driver's seat, which was set quite far back.

The boot is long and wide and could accommodate three Labradors or a term's worth of university stuff with ease.  It comes with a strange metal frame which you can fit into a pair of rails to compartmentalise the load space.  It's a nice idea that doesn't quite come off in execution.  Being metal on metal it has a tendency to rattle.  If I owned the car the frame would live in my garage.
Jaguar XF Sportbrake S Portfolio

The rear hatch opens automatically via a button on the keyring or in the cabin.  Strangely you can open it automatically but have to close it via a button on the boot lid itself.  The new Honda Accord Tourer's boot opens and closes via a keyring mounted button.  Jaguar needs to redress this.

The engine choice in the XF Sportbrake is either a 2.2 4-pot diesel or a 3 litre V6 diesel of varying outputs.  The test car was a 3 litre V6 with 275bhp and 442 lb ft of torque.

This meant it was very fast.

With 442 torques on hand the Sportbrake S is a most accomplished car capable of barreling along at an astonishing pace.  The only gearbox option is an 8-speed automatic unit which changes up with alacrity but sometimes takes some time to get from high to low gears on kick down.

You can opt to change gear via wheel-mounted paddles and the 'box reacts almost instantly to your digital inputs.  Use the 'manual' gears a few times in Sports mode and the gearbox thinks you want to keep on doing so.  In order to go back to fully automatic requires a turn of the gear knob from S to D and back.

S, or Sports mode, means the gears change up faster and down slower.  The gear change time is also slightly reduced.

The XF Sportbrake is a great car for almost any road condition.  On motorways it's a mellow cruiser and with adaptive cruise control makes life easier for those who spend a lot of time on our overcrowded motorway network.
Jaguar XF Sportbrake S Portfolio

On back roads it's a fine hustler with just a tad more roll than the XF saloon, although the self-levelling air suspension at the rear does its best to accommodate the extra weight of the estate.  

With so much power on tap you can have real fun, although the car is so well insulated it's easy to overdo things and go a touch too fast.

The price of the test car was £51,995 - £3k less than the equivalent CLS Shooting Brake.  You could pay circa £40k for a 3 litre V6 Sportbrake with 240bhp which does 0-60mph in 6.7 seconds.  Or you could go all the way down to the bottom of the range and pay £31,945 for a 2.2 litre with 163bhp and 0-60 in 10 seconds.

This is where the XF Sportbrake gets interesting.  At £31k it's priced waaaaay under the cheapest CLS, which is the £49,390 250 CDI.

At £31k the XF Sportbrake is in Ford, Vauxhall and Honda territory and it's a vastly superior car to any of those.

Jaguar has done a great job with its only estate car.  It has made people think it matches the CLS Shooting Brake but has priced it so it can compete with everything from Ford to Mercedes.  That's quite some achievement.

That goes some way to getting people over the line and into Jaguars.  

What Harry says is true.  You should try one.  You'll be hooked.


Price - £51,995.
Engine - 3 litre, V6, turbocharged, diesel
Transmission - 8-speed automatic
0-60mph - 6.1 seconds
Top speed - 155 mph
Power - 275 bhp
Torque - 442 lb ft
Economy - 46.3 mpg 
CO2 - 163 g/km
Kerb weight - 1880 kg

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Article by Matt Hubbard