First Drive : Jaguar XF Sportbrake

David Ross, Honest John

You can forgive Jaguar for the rather elaborate name. What we used to call an estate is now rather more grand thanks to the Sportbrake label. But then this is more than simply an estate version of the XF. The Sportbrake is a key model for Jaguar as it looks to widen its appeal – it’s a car that has plenty of impressive alternatives out there, the BMW 5-Series Touring to name just one.

It’s certainly a good looking car with a low and aerodynamic shape while the rear itself is one of the neatest estates around. It has a great stance and is more than simply an XF saloon with an extra bit grafted on the back. In fact you could argue that it’s better looking than the saloon. The new XF look, introduced when the model was facelifted early last year, means the Sportbrake has plenty of road presence too.

Inside the it shares the same high quality and boutique-inspired interior with plenty of intriguing touches like the metal gear selector dial that rises out of the dash and the air vents that rotate open when you start the car. Even that has a touch of class with a start button that pulses red like a heartbeat.

It’s one of our favourite interiors with a simple yet elegant design and easy to use controls. Crucially it doesn’t try and copy rivals like Audi and BMW, instead the Jaguar has a sense of British-ness that’s a refreshing change. That’s not to say it’s old fashioned though. Of course you can get the traditional wood veneers finishes but there are also aluminium and piano black trims. The central touchscreen controls the main functions including the navigation, radio and climate. It’s not the best system around, but is at least easy to use and clearly laid out.

While the XF Sportbrake may look sleek, this isn’t style over substance. It has a usefully large boot with 550 litres of space and although this is a few litres less than rivals like the BMW 5 Series Touring, the wide boot area has been designed to be user-friendly with vertical sides and no load lip. There is also a useful floor rail system, similar to Audi’s set-up, that’s available with adjustable straps and bars. Jaguar is keen to point out that you can get a set of golf clubs in sideways.

The rear seats can be folded down via levers in the boot, so you don’t have to lean in through the side doors, plus once down they create a level load area almost two metres long. The tailgate opening is wide too, so it’s genuinely possible to actually use that space for boxy or large items such as furniture or fridges. Although it’s unlikely someone who bought an XF Sportbrake would be picking up white goods from Curry’s or a sideboard they’d bought on eBay.

One neat touch is the soft close tailgate, so you don’t need to slam it shut. Plus there’s the option of electric opening and closing. Elsewhere, those sat in the back get more headroom than in the XF saloon thanks to a higher roofline.

There are no petrols in the XF Sportbrake range and at the moment no XFR version although that’s likely to change. For now we get four different diesel models based on two engines. The entry-level model is powered by a 2.2-litre diesel that was added to the XF when it was facelifted last year and is shared with the Land Rover Freelander.

There are two versions of the 2.2D with a base 160bhp model which is aimed primarily at company car drivers thanks to its lower list price – the SE version comes in at less than £32k. The more powerful version has been tweaked so now has 197bhp looks ideal on paper.

The 55.4mpg economy is another big appeal while emissions of 135g/km are impressively low for a car this size. However the engine isn’t particularly impressive and lacks the pulling power you’d expect given the torque available. It’s fine for pottering about in and indeed acceleration in a straight line seems pretty good, but it’s the combination of the four-cylinder diesel and standard eight-speed automatic which doesn’t quite work.

While the gearbox is well suited to the larger engines in the Jaguar range, it doesn’t get the best from the smaller 2.2-litre diesel and seems to constantly hunting for the right gear. As a result the engine spends a lot of time at high revs where it’s intrusively noisy – hardly in keeping with Jaguar’s refined image. It often kicks down when you’d expect it to just pull from low revs which makes progress far from smooth.

The 3.0-litre V6 diesel is the model to go for if you want performance. There are two versions – the standard 237bhp model and the 3.0 D S with 272bhp. It’s the perfect engine for the XF Sportbrake with effortless acceleration and huge reserves of pulling power. It even manages to sounds good. It’s genuinely quick too with the S managing 0-60mph in 6.5 seconds. Official economy is 46.3mpg for both models although you’ll probably see late 30s in reality.

All XF Sportbrake models come with self-levelling rear air suspension instead of the coil springs of the saloon and as a result the car is always level even if it’s fully laden or towing a trailer. It feels as good as the standard XF when it comes to handling. It’s as confident in corners and equally as agile, although like the XF saloon, the ride is fairly firm and not as smooth as you’d expect. That said overall refinement is mightily impressive and at motorway speeds there’s very little wind or road noise.

Launching an estate version of the XF is an obvious move for Jaguar given the popularity of cars like the Audi A6 Avant and Mercedes E-Class Estate. The brand has managed to create a sleek and stylish estate that’s still practical and good to drive. The only let down is the 2.2-litre diesel engine which doesn’t quite deliver what it promises on paper. Compared to a BMW 520d Touring it’s disappointing.

But that shouldn’t detract from the rest of the Sportbrake which shows great attention to detail. The beautifully finished interior and impressive refinement are the stand out elements of what is a hugely desirable estate, but it’s the user-friendly and versatile boot that will be the big appeal for most potential owners.

Keith Adams
Latest posts by Keith Adams (see all)


  1. I can see why they have no petrols. Look at the lease fleet company car herds of anything german, and they are all x20d/30d, cdi or tdi.

    Is it to be called Sportbrake, or XF Sportbrake? The former might cause confusion if they put out a small saloon (XE?) and release an estate of it – ‘Not quite as sport as the sportbrake’ ?

  2. Tootling along yesterday, the inside of the 205 was lit up by what I thought at first was a firework display. A glance in the rear view mirror showed a brand new 12-reg Jag (not a Sportbreak) with the most ridiculous Daylight Running Light design you’ve ever seen – the trails were longer than the Christmas lights strung across my village High Street. I honestly thought they was some “Mister Spoons” add-on from a motor factor but, no, they were the real thing.

    I know Jags have always been a bit louche but they are almost beyond parody now.

  3. I’ve seen those huge banks of day running lamps too, which look a bit OTT. Having said that, the new Sportbrake is a fine looking car. A former colleague years ago used to call all Estate cars “Shooting Brakes”, before the advent of “Sports Tourer” and “Touring”.

  4. A shame that loading lip is so high off the ground though. There is a lot of wasted space benath the boot floor (though it does contain the self leveling gubbins). I guess because of the tail light postion, lengthening the boot would give an Ill proportioned look.

  5. Not as bad as the fairy lights on some Audis.

    When I was being inevitably tailgated by such a punk, I thought the sun was low behind me. But then I saw the sun in front of me, and ran through a quick double-sun scenario before discarding this as unlikely.

  6. They have been doing some sort of press event on these cars in East Lothian in the past few days – yesterday on my way to work around the country lanes I saw eleven XF Estates, all reg OV62, heading to a remote farm where they are all converging each day.

    Nice looking car (I have an X-type myself and this might be a choice once a few years depreciation have kicked in) but personally not a fan of the highlighted-eyebrows LED daytime lights on the latest design.

  7. @Keith, when they hit banger teritory I might, but looks like they won’t be on the list when they do but if modern deisel reliabilty is anything to go by they won’t last that long anyway. In their pointless effort to make diesels perform like petrol engines they have eliminated the diesel engines reliablity, to the point it’s now more unreliable than the petrol engines. What they should have been doing is to make petrol engines as economical as diesels (something they have been able to do since the 70’s, look up ‘stratified charge’) and in fact a few now seem to have realised this

  8. Having owned two XJ’s in the past, this is on my wish list when i retire.

    At last a Jag with space to carry dogs, the X Type was just too small.

  9. @Stewart

    Good call. I used to be a fan of the old diesels, mostly XUDs and old Merc lumps.
    Had an HDi and it was a headmelter.

    Went back to petrol, a Honda no doubt, and while it costs me at the pumps, I save on ridiculous bills.

    Modern ones are alright for high miles but have became too unreliable, not only do they want them to drive like petrols but emissions controls mean they had to add things like FAPs and EGRs etc.

    I reckon my next car might be a big petrol that’s had an LPG conversion. There is an LPG garage near work and a garage in my local town. The whole LPG front has been quiet recently, with hybrids being flavour of the month.

  10. @14
    When its LHD as in the photo it is often possible for a new British model to have a German registration plate…….:)

  11. I was invited to a pre-launch event at my local Jaguar dealer a few weeks ago. I didn’t get to drive it, but did look around it properly and this is a really nice car, so far ahead of the current style 520d Touring, that I took for a test drive before I chose the Freelander 2, that it’s hard to credit the difference.

    The lack of a petrol option in the UK is all but irrelevant, virtually everyone sold in the UK is likely to be a 2.2D.

    As for the German plates, it seem obligatory for any European car launch to have photos with the car with German plates. They seem to be essential for any new car to be taken seriously, sad really.

  12. …..”the SE version comes in at less than £32k” Gutted! My competent, but dull German company car came it at £33k, with a couple of extras. I gave up a beautiful Alfa 156 Sportwagon for it, and regret it every time I see one. This is (for me) one of the only truly elegant cars on today’s roads, and in this form, reminds me very much of my beloved Alfa…..if only my fleet manager could see his way clear to allow a British designed, engineered and made car onto the list instead of the endless Audis, Beemers and Mercs…….maybe in 4 yrs time, when my car is up for replacement…….sigh!

  13. This is almost certainly the replacement for the X-type.

    I love the XF and having driven one for a while they feel so right.

    Give it a couple of years (I don’t buy new on principle) and I will go for one.

    Nice to see British cars that look and feel so good.

  14. @18
    The lack of a non performance petrol is important, it is becomming more and more clear as things go on that Deisel does not work. In acheiveing petrol eninge perfomance they have created woefull relaibility, they have yet to get close to the refinement of a petrol engine, and the ecomony is not actually that great anymore, although this is conveniently hidden by the lack of a spark plug option. It should also be rememberd that Diesels need more serviceing, they always have, modern diesels service shedules brought in to compete with the petrol engine may in fact be the casue of a lot of the modern high millage diesel issues we are seeing, so the overall cost of ownership is far more marginal than it may first appear

  15. Sorry guys.
    I’ve only done 70,000 miles in my X diesel (total mileage now 165k), so it’s obviously too soon for one of these catastrophic failures you keep warning me of. And it’s only doing 50mpg. Drat.
    XF’s a bit big for us – we’ll wait for the next X-type. Especially if the XF is auto-only.

  16. The improved torque of a diesel engine makes it much more relaxing to drive, I’ve been a diesel user for years. Petrol (even these ecotech 1.0 Ford jobs) doesn’t come close due to the drop-a-cog requirements to make progress.

  17. @krs
    is that what your trip computer says? Petrols are getting close to that now, and not the 1.0s, the 2.0s, hell even my ’95 petrol SAAB gets 40 (tank to tank calculation). As for the relaiblity you are lucky.

    Yes changing down gear is such a hardship in a Diesel, unless you like the sound a gearbox makes when you drop a bag of spanners in it at high speed. Unlike a petrol engine that normlly sounds lovley when you drop a gear and boot it

    It’s also worth bearing in mind that crude oil when cracked yeilds 47% petrol, 23% heating oil and deisel, and 18% others.. (including LPG), although this varies from well to well but thats the overall. The car manufacturers know this.

  18. @9 – “What they should have been doing is to make petrol engines as economical as diesels (something they have been able to do since the 70′s, look up ‘stratified charge’)” along with active lean burn this died a death when the cheical companies lobbied for legislation that effectivly made catalysts mandatory. Catalyts only with gasoline engines running at 14.5:1 so its hard to get stratified charge to work with them. Most fuel saving devices we see (stop/start and cyclinder deactivation) are just cycle beaters.

    Personaally, i work in car engine research and still choose a Gasoline engine over Diesel.

  19. @KRS – considering my X-type only has 56k on it and a full Jag service history – your post has given me a lot of comfort.


  20. At last, an all British-made, premium-badged and stylish estate car offering to take over the mantle of the much missed (and loved) Rover 75 Tourer.

    Admittedly this is the only estate car offering I have warmed to since the 75 Tourer went on sale over eleven years ago. I really hope it sells well and, for the sake of ‘halo’ benefits, hope there will also be an XF-R variant in the not-too distance future. Even if it will ultimately be a minority seller in relation to the oil burner variants.

  21. @26
    stratifed charge is not dead.. yet, VW’s FSI and TFSI motors are such, as are the GDI motors, although short sighted legislation has placed on petrol engines does seem to have limited its effectiveness, I have also been lead to belive that fiats Twin Air motor is also a stratified charge motor. Hondas CCVV motor of the 70’s managed to meet all califonias emmision requirements without a cat, so if the exhaust is that clean then putting a cat in shouldn’t really force the Fuel air ratio back to stioc but it won’t be going much of anything

  22. Stewart 25 – you seem to think me gullible and ignorant.
    FYI my trip computer says 48mpg over a 550-mile tankful, but the fuel pumps at 2 local filling stations both indicate 50 (typically – sometimes more).
    I can make the trip computer say 99.9mpg, but I don’t expect that over a full tank!
    Computers sometimes tell lies – some big, some small.
    As for petrol cars, I hired a 1.6 Astra lately, a new car with a 16V engine, smaller and lighter than the Jag. Its trip computer (sorry – didn’t brim it) told me it was doing 36mpg on a similar duty cycle to the Jag doing 50.
    “Luck” in reliability: it helps to be a chartered mechanical engineer, who drives and maintains the car with mechanical sympathy. I have owned four diesel-powered vehicles, and found them all to be more reliable than petrol-engined cars. I once got 67mpg brim-to-brim from an Escort diesel van – not many petrol cars or vans can do that.
    Andrew P 27, you are welcome.
    PS Stewart 25, I can’t hear the engine at 70 in 6th, but yes, if I drop it to 5th, there is a distant throb. You really should be more careful with those spanners.

  23. I have orderd a 2.2d Sportbrake as a replacement company vehicle. Seemigly not a good choice of engine. Hope the Stereo is good.

  24. The reason that that car is on German plates is probably because it’s a German press car. Car companies will often send cars round the world for TV programmes, magazines etc to review them in each country.

    Petrols will follow, I think. I did read that they’ll get the full range of engines. So hopefully 550 bhp of XFR-S too.

  25. @krs
    say hi to an aeronautical engineer..

    Safety is no accident.. neither is reliability
    seems Jag got their trip computers from the same place SAAB did then, mine seems to think it’s doing 37. I have to say I had the misfortune of driving an 06 1.2 corsa for a while an that thing managed to use more petrol than my 2.5 V6 omega.. so I am not that surprised. But the old 2 litre SAAB is doing 40MPG, my old 1.8 VVC coupe would easily reach 44 mpg without trying, even my 1.8 golf mk2 GTi would get over 40
    But look about you will find you are the odd one. The old IDI motors were incredibly reliable I will agree but also very noisy, low powered and generally unrefined , but the current crop seem to be failing rather badly with DMFs, injectors and a host of other normally expensive parts failing, mostly as a result of trying to make a diesel motor to do what it can’t really do, perform like a petrol one. Pugs 2.0 HDi is about the only one I would say has a chance of longevity, but that’s a warmed over XUD

    And be thankful of sound proofing, although maybe you could get another few MPG without it.

    Diesel has never really made it in aviation.. where high torque (for swinging propellers) is more important than BHP, the reason is they were either too heavy or if not too unreliable to be considers for use in an aircraft. The Germans did try it but they have not repeated that mistake.

    the Gas turbine is a CI motor of sorts, and is about the only CI motor I’d consider in a car

    And by making this diesel only Jaguar have destroyed any sales chances it had in it’s largest market, as that market has no tax incentives for diesel and diesel is a huge negative selling point there

  26. @36

    “Diesel has never really made it in aviation.. where high torque (for swinging propellers) is more important than BHP”

    You have just contradicted yourself. Diesels ARE, compared to petrol, high torque, low BHP, due to the higher combustion pressures and lower flame-front speed.

    “And by making this diesel only Jaguar have destroyed any sales chances it had in it’s largest market, as that market has no tax incentives for diesel and diesel is a huge negative selling point there.”
    What markets that then? Largest market for luxo-estate is Europe, which is predominantly diesel.
    You didn’t read the article fully:
    “There are no petrols in the XF Sportbrake range and at the moment no XFR version although that’s likely to change.”
    or my earlier post [35].
    Petrol WILL follow.

  27. @DeLorean’s Accountant
    no you read that again, I am fully aware that they have those as a positives, and on first sight you would think there would be many Diesel aircraft engines as a result. However there are so few as to be prectically none. why? those that are reliable enough are far to heavy to be considered. Those that are light enough are not relaiable enough (there are no laybys in the air)
    The largest car market in the world.. and although it may not take the same %age of esates as europe, it still takes more units (which is what really matters) is the USA, where tractor engines are seen as somthing to be left on the farm and not on your drive. In making this diesel only they have handed all those sales to the germans

  28. As I said, petrol XF estate will follow (for the 3rd time) but diesel was obviously seen as most important in terms of sales, or they wouldn’t have launched with it.

    “it [the USA] still takes more units”. Not according to an article on Audi’s sales:
    “The most popular engine will be the 2.0-litre 177PS TDI turbodiesel unit which will take 75% of Avant sales, more or less the same as the A6 Saloon range.”
    [ Motortorque – Sept. 2011 ]

  29. I know and they were pre-prod. cars. I understand that feedback from Team Sky was used for further development of the car. Team Sky did and still do use X-Type estates too. I saw a Team Sky X-Type at the Tour of Britain.

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