Jaguar's sleek estate gains an engine shared with the entry-level F-Type

What is it?

You might reasonably expect Jaguar’s F-Type and XF Sportbrake estate models to share few major mechanicals. You’d be wrong, though, because the two cars already take their eight-speed transmission and steering hardware from the same shelf, and now the same can be said for the engine.

Along with a subtle aesthetic refresh, for 2019 Jaguar has equipped its only estate derivative (the XE remains saloon-only) with the same punchy turbocharged 2.0-litre Ingenium engine you’ll find in the entry-level F-Type.

The principal numbers are identical, with 296bhp at 5500rpm and 295lb ft from 1500rpm. And while it’s still possible for customers in the US to get an XF Sportbrake with Jaguar’s supercharged 3.0-litre V6 and 375bhp, in the UK, because of new WLTP regulations, the downsized option tested here is now the most powerful petrol-powered variant. 

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What's it like?

The tractive benefits of four-wheel drive mean the XF Sportbrake really can shift. It rattles off the sprint to 62mph in 5.7sec, which is barely any slower than the F-Type. And if this engine feels a touch flat and asthmatic in the striking body of the coupé, in the Sportbrake its robust, satisfyingly torque-rich delivery better suits the utility brief. Through the all-important mid-range – overtaking territory – performance is just short of being conspicuously quick.  

The eight-speed automatic gearbox isn't ZF's latest but is adequately refined for touring duties and quick enough whether or not you're using the stubby wheel-mounted paddles. Strangely, in this application it can't match the almost undetectable cog-swapping qualities the same hardware achieves in the G30 BMW 5 Series.

And in truth, the XF Sportbrake has never matched the powertrain efficiency of rivals from BMW, Mercedes and Audi – and that, to put it bluntly, is a good reason you don’t see many on the road. In this resepct, an indicated 32mpg on the motorway stretch of our test route is poor, and supports our suspicion the claimed 1763kg kerb weight is optimistic.

Next to the Germans, the Jaguar’s interior also feels antique, even with the 10.0in display of Jaguar’s Touch Pro infotainment system and a suedecloth rooflining now fitted as standard. The reinvented XJ due next year will need to do far better, but equally it will struggle to place its driver as sweetly behind the wheel. The Sportbrake’s seats aren’t much to look at, but so comfortable are they that you could settle into them for a day-long schlep and hardly feel it at the other end.  

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They're mounted atop a largely aluminium chassis that remains unchanged from before. That means double wishbones at the front and, because this is the estate XF, air springs and an integral-link arrangement at the rear. Jaguar has tuned this set-up very well indeed, and on its sports suspension the 300 is pretty exceptional in its ability to simultaneously isolate hotchpotch road surfaces and retain a sensation of contact with the road and tight vertical suspension control. It's something mid-engined supercars, with their softened front spring rates, do supernaturally well. Though far less sophisticated in this regard, the Jag achieves something of that ilk.

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That composure lays the foundation for a high point in the car's dynamic repertoire. The electric steering will feel a touch too responsive for some but in terms of accuracy it has no equal in this class. It’s also beautifully weighted off-centre, thereafter accumulating heft in a linear fashion, and well synchronised with the car’s roll-rate. We should never underestimate the importance of good steering – for so many performance-car engineers it's the most important factor – and this Jag makes a virtue of changing direction.

The handling itself is subtle in its rearward balance, and on dry roads you're unlikely to tease the rear axle out of line. The Sportbrake is steadfast in its road-holding, predictable but fluid – exactly what you want for quick cross-country progress in horrid weather. 

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Should I buy one?

If you want a fast XF Sportbrake, you might also consider the top-spec diesel. You can't get it in the same R-Sport trim as the model tested here, so no sports suspension, and it's £5000 more expensive, but it is a V6 and packs a monstrous 516 lb ft of torque. It's also rear-drive only – arguably it's the firmer, more vivacious 300 that should be offered without the front driveshafts while the V6 diesel better lends itself to four-wheel-drive versaility, but there you go.

If diesel if off the menu, this line-leading petrol XF Sportbrake costs just under £45,000 in R-Sport guise. That makes it less expensive than its closest premium-grade rivals: the marginally quicker BMW 540i xDrive (£51,475) and the more economical diesel Audi A6 Avant 50 TDI (£49,525). Two fewer cylinders than either rival does mean the Sportbrake isn't quite as cultured on the move, however, even if strong performance is present and correct.

What isn't present is a cabin with the materials quality and digital brilliance to match those rivals. It's a familiar story for Jaguar, which seems to get within touching distance of the best interior in the class just in time for a new generation of 5 Series, Mercedes-Benz E-Class et al to move the game on. 

This is more easily forgivable in the smaller Jaguar XE. In the luxurious class the XF inhabits, handling polished to a shine that matches the swoopingly handsome exterior metalwork will suffice for only a small number of potential customers. They will love this quickest of XF Sportbrake models for those qualities. For the majority, however, Jaguar's likeable wagon remains a left-field, and increasingly aged, option.

Jaguar XF Sportbrake 300 R-Sport specification

Where Buckinghamshire, UK Price £44,700 On sale Now Engine 4 cyls, 1997cc, turbocharged, petrol Power 296bhp at 5500rpm Torque 295lb ft at 1500-4500rpm Gearbox 8-spd automatic Kerb weight 1763kg Top speed 155mph 0-62mph 5.7sec Fuel economy 36.2mpg CO2 155g/km Rivals Audi A6 Avant 50 TDIBMW 540i Touring xDrive

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Richard Lane

Richard Lane
Title: Deputy road test editor

Richard joined Autocar in 2017, arriving from Evo magazine, and is typically found either behind a keyboard or steering wheel.

As deputy road test editor he delivers in-depth road tests, performance benchmarking and supercar lap-times, plus feature-length comparison stories between rival cars. He can also be found on Autocar's YouTube channel

Mostly interested in how cars feel on the road – the sensations and emotions they can evoke – Richard drives around 150 newly launched makes and models every year, and focuses mainly on the more driver-orientated products, as is tradition at Autocar. His job is then to put the reader firmly in the driver's seat. 

Away from work, but remaining on the subject of cars, Richard owns an eight-valve Integrale, loves watching sportscar racing, and holds a post-grad in transport engineering. 

Join the debate

Add a comment…
irishboy4 5 February 2019

Give them a break

Guys and Girls. JLR are doing an amazing job, in house designed engines and beautiful modern body designs. Compare this with Mercedes who fit Dacia 1461cc diesel engines to the A and C class models and most of the entry level petrol engines used are the same as those fitted to the Clio.

jer 31 January 2019

I am not buying this narrative fully

I have been in the new A7 and the new 5 and E and they are better but there is nothing intrinsically wrong with the XF just the buttons are a bit small the screen a bit dull the design lacks a bit of the wow factor that the last version had when launched. But equally the Audi is a couple of prods to change the temperature, the BM is not much more interesting a bit dull with a PVC dashtop and the digital dash is an option on the E and the Audi if memory serves me right. So if the rest is so good and if you like a nice driving car well and good, but we are a dying breed unfortunately, how many people appreciate a steering rack and agility that just feels alive? I just wish they would fix the tiny buttons and open space around the gear selector which looks far worse than the previous one. It does also help that the Audis that get reviewed have all the special leather options. I would say though that it should cost a lot less than the 6 cyl BM.

Citytiger 31 January 2019

the sooner

JLR introduce the ingenium straight 6 (if they ever do) the better, why dont they just ask Volvo for the plans for the i6 that is no longer in use by Volvo, and was previously used in the Freelander 2 in certain markets..