In 1968, the pipe-smoking prime minister Harold Wilson launched an ‘I’m Backing Britain’ campaign. Basically, the country was going down the pan, but at least you got to wear funky badges.
Our car manufacturers were a joke. Yes we could do stunning designs and we knew how to make sports cars, but if you left them out in the rain for a fortnight, the doors fell off because of rust. The engine used a litre of oil every 100 miles and the word ‘reliable’ was never uttered. Dealers would watch through the letterbox as new cars were driven off their forecourt by gullible customers.
Fast forward to the 21st Century and I’m delighted to report that Jaguar Land Rover has got its act together. The latest Evoque is terrific; the I, E, and F-Pace Jags are brilliant and the F-Type is a proper sports car.
And the XF Sportbrake is a proper, er, sportbrake – or estate in English.
Now, here at Square Mile, we appreciate style. Please correct us if we’re wrong, but we reckon that the Jaguar XF Sportbrake is one of the best-looking estate cars around. OK, the Audi Avants (especially the A6) and the Mercedes Shooting Brakes (most of them) give the Jag a run for its money, but it’s certainly up there in the desirability stakes.
So, what’s on offer in the Jaguar XF Sportbrake range? £37,390 gets you into the XF Sportbrake with Prestige trim. Under the bonnet there’s a 2.0-litre 161 bhp diesel engine and everything goes to the rear wheels via a manual gearbox.
The basic options are impressive – sat nav, electric tailgate, a smartphone pack which Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, perforated leather seats, front and rear parking aids and smart alloys, but the really juicy and very desirable stuff is further up the range.
We like the R-Sport trim which only costs a further £1,600, but you get really smart and mildly aggressive body kit including side sills and a deep front bumper. There’s a multi-function steering wheel and extremely comfy yet supportive sports seats.
The star of the show is the engine: an epic 3.0-litre 296bhp V6 diesel
In terms of power plants, head for the diesel engines if you want economy, or petrol for refinement. If you intend using your Jaguar Sportbrake as a load lugger or towing vehicle on a regular basis, go diesel. If you are really using it as a holiday holdall and family cruiser, go petrol. Make sure you go for all-wheel drive which means you’ll also get the silky smooth eight-speed auto ’box.
As well as the entry-level diesel, you can also go for 177 and 237 bhp oil burners. However, head for petrol and your power output climbs from 237bhp to 246 and 296bhp options. The latter engine is properly quick: zero-to-60 mph takes just 5.7 seconds and top speed is limited to 155 mph. It’s thirsty, though, struggling to break the 30mpg barrier. The 237 bhp petrol engine isn’t far behind in terms of pace, but you’ll now manage 41.7mpg.
Now to the one we tried. Our Jaguar XF Sportbrake came with Portfolio trim and kicks off at £40,735. It adds an utterly brilliant Meridian sound system and powered front seats. The star of the show is the engine because you can opt for a 3.0-litre 296bhp V6 diesel. Granted, you lose the AWD, but you gain at the pumps because although you’ll still hit 60mph in a shade over 6 seconds, you’ll get 42.1mpg.
What you also gain is the most wonderful exhaust note. This is a tried-and-tested 3.0-litre across the Jaguar Land Rover range. It produces effortless power. There is no need to work the engine hard because power is available from just above tickover. It’s a gem of a powerplant.
The interior is spacious and has a top notch look and feel. If you drop the rear seats, you’ll have more than 1,700 litres of space. Leave the seats in place and the choky lab will still have plenty of space in which to roam.
The XF has always been – and still is – a terrific driver’s car. The air suspension at the rear is perfectly balanced and allows you to amble along, soaking up lumps and bumps, but it also stays incredibly taut when pushing on.
When you look at the rest of the Jaguar range, the XF Sportbrake is a bit of an oddball. Saloons and SUVs dominate the landscape. Thank goodness someone at Jaguar decided to stand firm and go with the lifestyle-oriented Sportbrake. It’s one of the best cars that Jaguar currently manufactures.
See more at jaguar.co.uk