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

Our Verdict

Jaguar XF Sportbrake 2019 road test review - hero front

Range-topping four-pot petrol engine sparks mid-size exec’s mid-life reappraisal

31 January 2019
Jaguar XF Sportbrake 300 R-Sport 2019 UK

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.  

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.

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. 

 

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, E-Class et al to move the game on. 

This is more easily forgivable in the smaller 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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Comments
15

31 January 2019
OTR price is £48,490, not as quoted as above so not that good value

31 January 2019
So it had a poorly made and bland interior, a lumpy gearbox and the engine is two cylinders short of rivals.

It handles nicely and has good performance but the review states that this will appeal to a small percentage of customers.

So why 4 stars?

31 January 2019
hackjo wrote:

So it had a poorly made and bland interior, a lumpy gearbox and the engine is two cylinders short of rivals. It handles nicely and has good performance but the review states that this will appeal to a small percentage of customers. So why 4 stars?

Because driving dynamics have a higher weighting than many other aspects of a car when judged by Autocar. Although in reality the goalposts do move somewhat to often give some Jaguars a higher rating than what they deserve. Any other car would probably have received a 3/3.5 star rating based on this review. And I'm not a Jaguar basher as I have a XE and it's nowhere the class leader as proclaimed by this magazine.

31 January 2019

Dynamics should indeed be a high priority. Faithful, predictable handling and sweet steering make all journeys more comfortable, not just when you want to have fun.

Good ergonomics are much more important than squishy plastics, and dependability is worth more than perceived quality.

31 January 2019
Lanehogger wrote:

hackjo wrote:

So it had a poorly made and bland interior, a lumpy gearbox and the engine is two cylinders short of rivals. It handles nicely and has good performance but the review states that this will appeal to a small percentage of customers. So why 4 stars?

Because driving dynamics have a higher weighting than many other aspects of a car when judged by Autocar. Although in reality the goalposts do move somewhat to often give some Jaguars a higher rating than what they deserve. Any other car would probably have received a 3/3.5 star rating based on this review. And I'm not a Jaguar basher as I have a XE and it's nowhere the class leader as proclaimed by this magazine.

The XE is class leader and for good reason. Dynamically it's superb and simply outclasses everything else in the class and by the sound of things, is still ahead of the new 3 Series. The XE's engine range is superb too, delivering refinement, punch, performance and economy. And for example, look at Jaguar's 2.0 turbo petrol which can deliver up to 296bhp in the 30t while the similar engine in the 3 Series can only muster a pathetic 254bhp in the equivalent (and latest) 330i. Accomodation isn't great, granted, but it's a saloon and if you want space and a large boot, you buy a SUV instead. Interior quality is superb too, feeling more robust that the plastics found in many rivals which are far too squidgy, feeling more like a stress ball. And what the XE also possesses is superb reliability, far better than a A4, C Class or 3 Series. And the next time you're on a motorway, check out which cars are on a hard shoulder, broken down. They're almost all German and not old models either.

6 March 2019
Roadster wrote:

Lanehogger wrote:

hackjo wrote:

So it had a poorly made and bland interior, a lumpy gearbox and the engine is two cylinders short of rivals. It handles nicely and has good performance but the review states that this will appeal to a small percentage of customers. So why 4 stars?

Because driving dynamics have a higher weighting than many other aspects of a car when judged by Autocar. Although in reality the goalposts do move somewhat to often give some Jaguars a higher rating than what they deserve. Any other car would probably have received a 3/3.5 star rating based on this review. And I'm not a Jaguar basher as I have a XE and it's nowhere the class leader as proclaimed by this magazine.

The XE is class leader and for good reason. Dynamically it's superb and simply outclasses everything else in the class and by the sound of things, is still ahead of the new 3 Series. The XE's engine range is superb too, delivering refinement, punch, performance and economy. And for example, look at Jaguar's 2.0 turbo petrol which can deliver up to 296bhp in the 30t while the similar engine in the 3 Series can only muster a pathetic 254bhp in the equivalent (and latest) 330i. Accomodation isn't great, granted, but it's a saloon and if you want space and a large boot, you buy a SUV instead. Interior quality is superb too, feeling more robust that the plastics found in many rivals which are far too squidgy, feeling more like a stress ball. And what the XE also possesses is superb reliability, far better than a A4, C Class or 3 Series. And the next time you're on a motorway, check out which cars are on a hard shoulder, broken down. They're almost all German and not old models either.

I'm guessing you might like Jaguars!

But at least with BMW you can get a 6-cylinder turbo-petrol, as in the 340i, which is way more powerful than any 2.0 litre turbo-petrol XE!

I'll agree I don't see many Jags on the hard shoulder, but then nobody bought them so you aren't going to see many are you?

If a saloon doesn't offer enough space, with a BMW you just buy a Touring - but Jaguar don't make an estate do they?

Limted options with a Jaguar - probably due to a piss-poor range!

 

6 March 2019
Roadster wrote:

Lanehogger wrote:

hackjo wrote:

So it had a poorly made and bland interior, a lumpy gearbox and the engine is two cylinders short of rivals. It handles nicely and has good performance but the review states that this will appeal to a small percentage of customers. So why 4 stars?

Because driving dynamics have a higher weighting than many other aspects of a car when judged by Autocar. Although in reality the goalposts do move somewhat to often give some Jaguars a higher rating than what they deserve. Any other car would probably have received a 3/3.5 star rating based on this review. And I'm not a Jaguar basher as I have a XE and it's nowhere the class leader as proclaimed by this magazine.

The XE is class leader and for good reason. Dynamically it's superb and simply outclasses everything else in the class and by the sound of things, is still ahead of the new 3 Series. The XE's engine range is superb too, delivering refinement, punch, performance and economy. And for example, look at Jaguar's 2.0 turbo petrol which can deliver up to 296bhp in the 30t while the similar engine in the 3 Series can only muster a pathetic 254bhp in the equivalent (and latest) 330i. Accomodation isn't great, granted, but it's a saloon and if you want space and a large boot, you buy a SUV instead. Interior quality is superb too, feeling more robust that the plastics found in many rivals which are far too squidgy, feeling more like a stress ball. And what the XE also possesses is superb reliability, far better than a A4, C Class or 3 Series. And the next time you're on a motorway, check out which cars are on a hard shoulder, broken down. They're almost all German and not old models either.

31 January 2019
Lanehogger wrote:

hackjo wrote:

So it had a poorly made and bland interior, a lumpy gearbox and the engine is two cylinders short of rivals. It handles nicely and has good performance but the review states that this will appeal to a small percentage of customers. So why 4 stars?

Because driving dynamics have a higher weighting than many other aspects of a car when judged by Autocar. 

Unless they're reviewing a VAG appliance, in which case soft plastic and silver painted plastic are the most important aspects of the car ownership experience.

31 January 2019

Dear-o-dear, o-dear, o-dear.....  Why would you ? And how much ?  Who, please tell me, who is actually in charge at 'Coventry' ? Find'em, sack'em and move on. Quickly.

31 January 2019

I'm surprised to see that this unit doen't incorporate the new interior with improved tech and perceived quality that was shown a couple of days ago in this very magazine. In any case, it's only a question of days that we see it in a test. 

I presume that it will take care of the majority of the issues highlighted in the article and the comments. In case your're wondering: https://www.autocar.co.uk/car-news/new-cars/updated-jaguar-xf-gets-latest-diesels-and-new-tech

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