The R-S Sportbrake’s £82k list price makes it around £5k more expensive than Audi’s 552bhp RS6 Avant and just a few hundred quid cheaper than the 549bhp Mercedes-Benz CLS63 Shooting Brake. That’s ambitious pricing, given that it’s less powerful and is shaded on standing-start acceleration, especially by the all-wheel-drive RS6 (4.6sec to the Audi’s 3.9sec), although unlike its German rivals, the British car is allowed to run to a governed 186mph.
Compared with the regular Sportbrakes, the R-S gets an aggressive body kit that is said to reduce lift and improve stability. There’s a deeper front bumper with larger air intakes at the front for improved engine cooling, a prominent carbonfibre rear diffuser and a bigger roof spoiler, while it rides on 20-inch forged alloy wheels and bespoke Pirelli P Zero tyres.
Underneath, the standard model's rear air springs have been replaced by steel coils and there’s a new rear subframe that contributes to a 30 per cent increase in lateral suspension stiffness all round. The XFR-S saloon’s adaptive damping, active electronic rear differential and stability control settings have all been adopted but recalibrated for use in the Sportbrake, too.
What's it like?
With 502lb ft of torque being sent to the rear wheels via Jaguar’s excellent ZF-derived Quickshift eight-speed automatic transmission, the venerable supercharged V8 provides deep reserves of grunt and energetic in-gear response, although it never feels as unrelentingly ferocious as its bi-turbo German rivals.
The V8 soundtrack is a little more subdued than expected from inside the cabin – especially next to the raucous V8 F-types – but it’s appealing nonetheless, at least in Dynamic mode.
The tightly damped ride is quite jittery, especially at low speeds, but the Jaguar belies its near two-tonne kerb weight with crisp, balanced handling and mighty front-end grip.
However, this isn’t always the most fluent of cars on a twisty road; there’s something slightly odd about the steering’s weighting and consistency that has you taking bites out of hard-charged corners rather than carving a clean line, and throttle response can be rather abrupt in the transition from braking to acceleration.
There’s more than enough grunt to give the traction control a workout at times, too, especially in the wet, but we’re told there’s no likelihood of an all-wheel-drive R-S Sportbrake.
Inside, the R-S Sportbrake gets the same black leather and piano black or carbonfibre trim as the saloon, with contrast piping and stitching on the big, supportive seats and around the upper cabin. Some of the trim looks a bit cheap, but it’s a comfortable and roomy cabin, with a generous-sized load bay to match and a powered tailgate as standard.
Load capacity is 550 litres with the rear seats upright and 1675 litres with them folded flat – which they do if you remove the rear headrests. That’s just a few litres shy of the RS6 in both cases and usefully more than the CLS Shooting Brake in two-seat mode.
Should I buy one?
You’ll be in the minority, but that could be a good thing if you’re a fan of the fast estate concept.
The R-S Sportbrake may not be quite as fast, refined or composed at high speeds as the RS6 and the big AMG Mercs, but there’s a sense of naughtiness and fun about it that will put a smile on its driver’s face on a regular basis.
Combined with its handsome looks (more so than the boy-racerish, big-winged R-S saloon), comfortable cabin and estate practicality, the R-S Sportbrake is a highly appealing alternative to the German opposition.
Jaguar XFR-S Sportbrake
Price £82,495; 0-60mph 4.6sec; Top speed 186mph; Economy 22.2mpg; CO2 297g/km; Kerb weight 1967kg; Engine V8, 5000cc, supercharged, petrol; Power 542bhp at 6500rpm; Torque 502lb ft at 2500-5500rpm; Gearbox 8-spd automatic