Superbly styled Jaguar estate
T HERE are two things that are new on this car, one at the back and one at the front. The one at the back is fairly obvious because the XF Sportbrake has an estate car body.
The one at the front is less obvious because it sits under the bonnet and it is the 2.2 diesel and the eight speed gearbox bolted to it. I'll deal with this later but let me just say that minor changes have brought about colossal improvements.
The Sportbrake is Jaguar's first premium-sized estate car and only second in its history following the earlier X-TYPE. Every panel from the B pillar backwards is new and it is a fraction longer overall and the roofline creates a bit more headroom for the rear passengers.
The power-operated tailgate lifts to reveal a big cargo area with handy cubby holes either side and with the back seats folded – a doddle to do by the way – you have 1,675 litres of space to play with.
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Set into the boot floor is a panel that splits into three sections to allow smaller loads to be neatly wedged in place and a tray mounted under the boot floor helps protect valuable items.
Jaguar has gone to some length to ensure that the Sportbrake drives as well as the four-door version and although it has been engineered to cope with greater weight in the back, and the estate is a little bit heavier, self-levelling air suspension means that to all intents and purposes they feel identical on the road.
That's at the back, but the changes under the bonnet are extraordinary. As it happens I had a 190 PS 2.2 diesel XF on test just a few months ago in September and while I loved almost everything about the car I could not get on with the power train.
The engine just lacked a little bit of power to cope with an eight speed 'box and it was not a happy marriage to say the least.
But now Jaguar has refreshed the engine line-up for its 2013 Model Year and the 2.2 is available in either 163 or 200 PS form which is the one I tested and although it has just 10 PS than before more the difference between my earlier test car and this is of night and day proportions.
The extra power and a remapping of the gearbox makes it as smooth as silk to drive, the changes are seamless and it just felt absolutely right.
The ratios are much better suited to the engine power now and the car is a dream to drive. I only had it for a day but that involved a quick blast down the M6 to a Mazda press event and I relished every mile. In eighth it sits at 70 mph needing just 1,500 rpm and you can see why Jag claims mid-50 mpg fuel consumption and CO2 outputs starting at 135 g/km. Company car drivers head this way!
The Sportbrake is a useful addition to the Jaguar range and plugs a gap that has been happily filled by the German makes. Now they have a rival, one that has been superbly styled and properly engineered – from the front to the back.
Our thanks to Stratstone Jaguar (Hanley) for the loan of its demonstrator. For more details call 01782 211830.