An estate with personality problems
The big, spacious estate; we love them. There's just something different to them compared to their SUV and Sedan cousins. Everyone can appreciate an estate and especially one that looks like the one we drove across Switzerland. Our idea of an estate should be like the new Jaguar XF Sportbrake. We had the chance to drive Jaguar's largest estate to the beautiful Engadin Area. This turned out to be a perfect chance to see some scenic views and drive up daring mountain passes.
Let's talk about Jaguar's largest estate today. The XF can be optioned in a Sportbrake configuration, which is their term for estate. This estate is all the things that you want it to be, good-looking, very spacious, and exceptionally comfortable. Our test car was configured in a rather modest dark gray metallic color but the interior was finished in stunning dark tan and black-combo leather. Like the new F-Pace SVR, the overall layout and infotainment are very similar but nonetheless beautiful. The inside was filled with light by the large panoramic sunroof and huge windshield. This gives the interior atmosphere that other estates lack. Other interesting things include aluminum paddle-shifters that feel tactile and exceptional to the touch as well as a starter button that pulses to the resting heart rate of an actual Jaguar. The general look and feel of the interior are great.
There are one or two things that do not live up to the standards of the rest. Like some other car manufacturers, Jaguar has decided to put touch-capacitive buttons on the steering wheel and they might be the worst ones in its class. You have to perfectly aim for the buttons to make them work, otherwise, you're just pushing a button that will do nothing. This is the case with several multimedia controls and cruise-control buttons that are located on the steering wheel. Another area where the XF could see improvement is the gearbox. Since Jaguar opted for awesome feeling paddle shifters, it would've been great to include a fast and responsive gearbox to suit; but no. Sadly, the inputs you give are mere suggestions if the gearbox is going to respond. Like the touch-capacitive buttons on the steering wheel, you have to hope that the paddle you just operated will do something. This is a great shame because the engine (a 2.0l four-cylinder) pulls through the entire rev range. But as soon as you run out of revs, the whole car just stops accelerating because of the slow gear changes. The sluggish gearbox doesn't only affect performance, but also fuel consumption. It's almost one to two liters higher in fuel consumption than its closest competitors.
Some might say that performance is not the main goal of the XF, but shouldn't it be? Because this is the top-of-the-range P300. A 2.0l turbocharged four-cylinder borrowed from the Jaguar F-Type produces 300 horsepower and 400 nm of torque. As mentioned before, the pull is good but it's the gearbox that is letting it down. There also isn't an option for a Plug-In Hybrid (unlike some other estates) and it doesn't even get the 48V Mild-Hybrid option that you can get in some lesser Diesel versions of the XF. Dynamically, the XF Sportbrake handles well enough. It can be fun if you want it to be, you'll get used to the slow gearbox and learn to operate it with care. We suggest leaving it in Automatic, which is a shame because of those pure-aluminum paddle shifters. Otherwise, you'll bounce off the rev-limiter several times. The XF also performs well in the looks department. It is unmistakeably a Jaguar; in the front, there is a large grille flanked by mean-looking front lights and large air-intakes. The rear is clean and we love that Jaguar has hidden the exhausts in the diffusor instead of opting for fake exhausts. You'll recognize that the tail-lights resemble the ones Jaguar fits on the F-Type. Sound-wise the XF is no vicious cat. The engine note is overwhelmed by the large turbo that spools up under acceleration, but when you lift off you'll hear some nice turbo noises as well. Not boring, but could be more exciting, since the F-Type P300 (with the same engine) sounds amazing. A lost opportunity or a conscious choice? Maybe the latter, since an estate is supposed to be comfortable and also understated. During the week of driving the XF, we had the feeling that its strongest point is understatement. That's exactly the thing we want from an estate. If you would fit the F-Type exhaust, the whole idea of the car would be ruined. Another reason to get this car is the enormous boot and very spacious back seats.
To call the XF Sportbrake a sporty estate might be a little bit of a long shot. Consider it as a supremely comfortable cruising machine that can perform dynamically if you need it to. But we'll be honest, we expected more of the P300 drivetrain and dynamic abilities. We dislike cars that are branded as sporty and then underperform. Several estates do not need this treatment and are still more sporty. Take away the badges and sporty marketing drama and make something that has a fixed identity and not an estate with personality problems.