Wagons need to be reinvented, apparently. Faced with the pretty young SUVs, some believed that they needed to visit Botox clinics and department store fashion halls in an attempt to look alluring yet less needy than a Desperate Housewives character.
Cue the 2018 Jaguar XF Sportbrake S First Edition and arguably a visual success.
This long, wide and low wagon gets looks everywhere it goes. Okay, that might be because, at almost 5.0 metres long, the XF Sportbrake can be tough to park. But also given that this black S First Edition was fleshed out with 20-inch alloy wheels and matte-silver detailing, it looks on the prowl rather than meekly retreating to demure domestication like some practicality-focused wagons could be accused of.
So, then, can this Jaguar wagon turn Cougar and hunt down premium SUV buyers?
Perhaps surprisingly, the XF Sportbrake starts as the most affordable premium large wagon on sale, at $90,400 plus on-road costs. That’s for the R-Sport automatic with a 132kW/430Nm 2.0-litre turbo-diesel four-cylinder claiming an 8.8-second 0-100km/h and combined-cycle fuel consumption of just 4.8 litres per 100 kilometres.
Even the R-Sport with a 184kW/365Nm 2.0-litre turbo-petrol four – claiming a 7.1sec 0-100km/h and 7.1L/100km – is more affordable than rivals, at $91,400 (plus orc). A BMW 520d Touring asks $99,900 (plus orc) with near-identical performance and fuel usage to Jaguar’s diesel, as do Audi’s (soon-replaced) A6 Allroad and Mercedes’ (still fresh) E220d All Terrain at $112,855 and $109,900 (plus orc) respectively.
All of which neatly segues to this XF Sportbrake S at a seemingly hefty $123,450 (plus orc). But its 3.0-litre twin-turbocharged diesel V6 ups outputs to 221kW/700Nm combined with 6.6sec 0-100km/h and 5.9L/100km claims.
None of the above competitors can touch it in those respects, although Jaguar does charge a hefty $5500 surcharge to move from XF sedan to Sportbrake; and this First Edition flagship spirals the above pricetag to $137,300 (plus orc). And that hurts…
THE INTERIOR | RATING: 3.5/5
It might figure that, sure, Jaguar charges a premium to move from sedan to Sportbrake, and sure, the most powerful diesel in its class should command a $14K premium over its next-priciest rival, the Benz E220d All Terrain. However, even then this XF Sportbrake S is not nearly as well-equipped.
Sure, swivelling LED headlights, an electric tailgate, a panoramic glass (but not opening) roof, leather seat trim, powered front seats, a head-up display, 360-degree camera, automatic reverse-park assistance, lane-departure warning and even an electrically adjustable steering column are standard. And the First Edition further adds a 10.0-inch touchscreen (up from 8.0in) to the already included 380-watt Meridian audio system, digital radio and satellite navigation.
Incredibly, though, heated front seats, a blind-spot monitor, rear cross-traffic alert and adaptive cruise control are all optional, all of which Benz offers as standard; although its premium audio, head-up display and panoramic sunroof are $4990 extra.
Either way, how are buyers meant to be attracted to a wagon when they are so pricey relative to an SUV? For example, Jaguar’s F-Pace SVR can be had with a 5.0-litre supercharged V8 for $140,020 (plus orc).
Otherwise, the only other criticism that can be levelled at this second-generation XF is that the dashboard looks plain. The theatrical, swirling quartet of vents on the first generation (from 2007) remain on the outer reaches only, and the original model’s stitched-leather door tops have vanished. For all the infotainment and active safety technology upgrades, the look of this cabin has taken a step back from where it was.
From there, though, it’s all high-fives inside.
Fit and finish is tight, and ergonomically the touchscreen works as effortlessly as the voice control and trip computer and climate controls do. Where a big BMW or Benz can bamboozle with technology, this Jaguar just makes everything clear and simple.
The front seats are beautifully supportive and adjustable, while the rear bench is as deep and generous as expected of such a large car. Both headroom and legroom are expansive, and almost everything surrounding the space front and rear feels high quality – with the exception of the plasticky and hollow door handles, that is.
And despite arguably looking quite sexy on the outside, the load area of this big XF is as large and practical as such a long vehicle would suggest. Jaguar claims a volume of 565 litres, but the enormously square space looks and feels much larger than that.
ON THE ROAD | RATING: 4.5/5
Compared with the XF S sedan, the XF S Sportbrake scores rear air suspension with load-levelling function, meaning its behind will never sag. And nor does this Jaguar feel droopy on any road – in fact, it’s a brilliant grand tourer (GT) slash sporty wagon.
Even on 20-inch tyres, the adaptive suspension’s Normal and Dynamic modes are both utterly superb and truly superior to the 5 Series Touring and E-Class All-Terrain. It might not match the plush and wafting progress of the latter, but the enormous upside is ride quality that remains entirely isolated yet level over every single bump.
It’s not often we can say ‘every single bump’ but it is the case here. Normal simply skews a millimetre towards the compliance end while Dynamic ever so subtly tightens the screws without ever being too firm.
Bravo, Britain, because beautifully weighted and measured steering completes a dynamic picture so well-resolved that it could have been born for Aussie conditions. It really is reminiscent of a Holden VF Series II Calais Sportwagon … if it had 700Nm adaptive suspension used in HSVs, that is. And compliments don’t come any higher.
The 3.0-litre twin-turbocharged V6 diesel is also a delight. It is so distantly raunchy and refined, yet piles on speed instantly and quickly, teaming perfectly with an intelligent and slick-shifting eight-speed automatic transmission.
On a long country drive we saw a freeway best of 6.1 litres per 100 kilometres, which couldn’t quite match the 5.9L/100km official combined-cycle consumption claim, but was still superb given the performance. And an overall 7.3L/100km including traffic and spirited driving was also excellent for an 1855kg large wagon.
Ah, weight. This is probably the only area where the XF S Sportbrake cedes dynamism to its 5 Series Touring rival. While the Jaguar remains tight and involving when driven enthusiastically, aided by a beautifully judged electronic stability control (ESC), it never really feels up on its tippy toes and immediately agile.
Forget the 520d Touring for a moment, because its $115,500 (plus orc) 530i Touring petrol sibling with a 185kW/350Nm 2.0-litre turbo four-cylinder manages to beat this V6 diesel XF from 0-100km/h by a tenth (claiming 6.5sec). And that’s mostly because at 1640kg it is a staggering 215kg lighter, an advantage of which the BMW puts that to good use by feeling supernaturally light and nimble through bends.
Everything is relative, though, because this First Edition still delivers sizeable driving enjoyment compared with any SUV. Thank the grip of the 20s, the tight suspension that keeps the long nose pinned through corners, and the ability to skew the wagon into place on corner exit thanks to 700Nm being delivered to the throttle at 2000rpm.
SAFETY | RATING: 5.0/5
ANCAP rating: 5-stars – this model scored 36 out of 38 possible points when tested by Euro NCAP in 2015.
Safety Features: Dual front, front-side, and full-length curtain airbags, ABS, ESC, 360-degree camera, lane-departure and forward collision warning with autonomous emergency braking (AEB).
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: Three years/100,000 kilometres.
Servicing: A five-year/130,000km capped-price servicing package costs $2200.
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
The A6 Allroad is good but old. The 530i Touring offers a lush cabin, superior technology and brilliant handling, but its steering and suspension are not as finessed as this Jaguar, while its turbo-petrol engine is not nearly as energetic or economical, despite official claims. The BMW is therefore its equal, depending on priorities
Meanwhile the E-Class All-Terrain is only let down by a slow four-cylinder diesel. It’s otherwise a sweetly high-tech tourer without any sporting bent. This Sportbrake is ultimately broader in character, though, unless all-wheel drive is required.
Audi A6 Allroad BMW 5 Series Touring Mercedes-Benz E-Class All-Terrain
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL RATING: 4.0/5
One-part fast and enjoyable sports wagon with delightful driver connection, two-parts lush and premium GT, the XF S Sportbrake First Edition is a brilliant large car.
Indeed, when optioned nicely, it is difficult to think of a more cohesive package for the price given how well it blends urban running, with cross-country touring, and edgy mountain-pass pace. But yes, Jaguar certainly asks a pretty penny for the privilege.
The price of this diesel should be lower and more options should be standard. Its technology is not quite to BMW and Mercedes-Benz standards, either, so it’s a double-whammy that some active safety equipment costs extra as well.
At least there’s a good chance dealers will be desperate to move existing stock, because this high-priced, high-quality large wagon doesn’t desperately need to convince buyers that it is better than most SUVs. Stylishly and effortlessly, it is.
- Interested in buying Jaguar XF? Visit our Jaguar XF showroom for more information.