Factfile Engine: 2.2 litres, four cylinders, turbocharged Top speed: 140mph Price: £36,440 Power: 197bhp at 4000rpm Fuel/CO2: 55.5mpg, 135g/km www.jaguar.co.uk
I am rarely less than impressed by Jaguars ability to develop new product on an amount of money that probably wouldn’t pay the postage bill of one of its big rivals. Last year Jaguar sold fewer than 50,000 cars while BMW Mercedes and Audi are all past the 1.25 million mark. ‘Minnow’ doesn’t begin to cover it.
And yet the cars appear in their build quality, chassis configuration and looks, rarely if ever to give anything away to the opposition. Take this new Jaguar Sportbrake (why can’t these manufacturers be honest enough to call their cars estates?) its design is so well integrated it suggests the XF was always designed to be an estate rather than having estate bodywork grafted on in the second half of its lifetime.
It doesn’t turn the smart XF saloon into some kind of gargantuan beast of burden, but if you liked the idea of an XF but have dogs, children with vast amounts of clobber to take back to school or enjoy long driving holidays, this car is for you. Self-levelling rear suspension means there is really remarkably liffle degradation in ride quality, in fact I thought it slightly smoother when fully laden.
In other areas, the XF is starting to show its age slightly which, when you remember its core structure dates back to last century’s S-type is perhaps not too surprising. The off-the-peg Ford/PSA four cylinder engine gives credible performance and economy, but rival motors from Audi and especially BMW offer a beffer blend of the two as well as significantly enhanced refinement. Jaguar knows this and is just starting the process that will result in its own engine factory, but it is years rather than months away.
The XF Sportbrake is another Jaguar that’s beffer than it has any right to be. It’s not class-leading but it is certainly competitive. That combined with those clean looks and its new-found practicality should ensure it enjoys the success its modestly-resourced engineers surely deserve.