Time well spent : Jaguar Sportbrake Diesel S Portfolio

Mike Humble:

Is this Grace, Pace & Space personified? The Jaguar XF Sportbrake Portofolio S 3.0D
Is this Grace, Pace & Space personified? The Jaguar XF Sportbrake Portofolio S 3.0D

The XF in saloon guise in my opinion anyway, is one of the smartest looking cars for those looking for that ideal balance of style and substance. For those who seek a little more room for occupants and their associated clutter, the XF Sportbrake gives you this and yet remains a handsome vehicle. In fact, I actually consider it to be a better looking vehicle than the saloon – this is no easy feat to achieve for a premium car manufacturer especially when estate cars tend to be viewed more workman-like than statesman. Either way its viewed upon Jaguar have certainly styled the Sportbrake to look no less svelte than the saloon version.

There is a choice of 2.2 and 3.0 diesel engines and the model loaned to us featured the 3.0 V6 twin turbo unit which develops a credible 275Ps of power. With the car weighing in at a portly two tonnes you need a little magic under the bonnet to grasp the horizon quicker if needed, we certainly didn’t find ourselves disappointed with the performance nor with the refinement. They claim to industry standard sprint to 60 comes along in a shade over 6 seconds but you have to actually time it to believe it or keep a keen eye on the speedometer – despite the pace it actually doesn’t feel that rapid. Of course you know its a diesel but such is the refinement the sensation of increasing speed is blunted and isolated from the cabin, just for the record… its not criticism either.

The 3.0 V6 diesel punches out 275Ps of power. The sensation of increasing speed is blunted thanks to superb refinement. Its not bad on the fuel either.
The 3.0 V6 diesel punches out 275Ps of power. The sensation of increasing speed is not as pronounced as you’d imagine thanks to superb refinement. Plus… not bad on the fuel either.

The computer controlled 8 speed ZF gearbox glides up and down its octave with all the ease of a penny whistle – none of the urgency and indecisiveness you tend to find on the 2.2 diesel version, the engine and gearbox are akin to Morecambe and Wise or French and Saunders – a class act. Hustling your way through heavy traffic or ticking off the miles at speed, the XF takes it all in its stride making almost any driving scenario as relaxing as a hot bath. Its rear air suspension gives a smoother softer ride than its saloon sibling but at the expense of handling. Its nothing like an overloaded Transit with a slow puncture though and its spirited handling remains predictable and safe it just feels ever so slightly floaty, especially with a full complement of passengers and luggage on an undulating quick A-road.

The steering refuses to join the current trend of E-PAS, instead it uses a traditional rack and pinion system with good old fashioned hydraulic assistance that gives a live running commentary of things underfoot through the rim. Its well weighted, quick in response and has plenty of feel. The huge meaty all round vented discs provide plenty of stopping power and then some with emergency back up systems of EBD, ABS and other safety related abbreviations should this big Cat run wild. It would be fair to say that the car is one of the most confidence inspiring machines I have experienced, plenty of clever electronics in the background keeping an eye out for you but none of the “in your face technology shows” that you tend to find in something German.

The Sportbrake has a safe and inviting interior that's well equipped and smells as good as it looks. Needs a little nip and tuck here and there but boy... is it refined and comfortable.
The Sportbrake has a safe and inviting interior that’s well equipped and smells as good as it looks. Needs a little nip and tuck here and there but boy it’s refined and comfortable. Ideal sized steering wheel with plenty of feel at the rim. Wiper stalk feels cheap and loose and the info-tainment font is getting ripe for updating.

Its a very comfortable motor too with good headroom and a nigh on perfect driving position up front. The seats adjust and move in every direction but sideways and a long trek up to County Durham found all occupants as fresh as a Waitrose cucumber at the end of the journey that included ice, rain and snow… all within a 5 hour period. Not a soul complained of any discomfort but rear legroom can at best be described as only adequate. Cargo-wise you have 550 litres of space with all the seats in use but with a neat one finger lever action it almost triples to nearly 1700 with a load floor that’s flatter than Norfolk. Thanks to the estate bodystyle there is no worry of rear headroom like some taller rear passengers may find with the four door thanks to an added 5cm of height to the roofline.

Equipment levels are pretty good in the Sportbrake with niceties such as leather heated seats, dual zone climate control, a superb Hi-Fi, decent Sat-Nav and privacy glass for the rear occupants. In terms of user friendliness, the controls are pretty much where you need them to be with the exception of the tailgate release, panel dimmer and rear fog lamp switch. These are mounted on a panel which is down to the right just above the throttle pedal which is a little out of view and a bit of a stretch to reach. Another interior niggle is quality related. The wiper stalk has a very stiff and un-damped feeling when actuating the rear wiper, it actually feels quite cheap and nasty. Outside, the fuel filler cap also disappoints if you like to wiggle and wobble – certainly not befitting a car that including options exceeds £60.000 but otherwise the XF feels decently screwed together.

Drop the rear seats and remove the rolling parcel cover and there is almost 1700 litres of space on an almost totally flat floor.
Drop the rear seats and there is almost 1700 litres of space on an almost totally flat floor with rustic cargo retaining points. The sliding load cover is fiddly to remove however.

Neither was I impressed with the optional ADC (adaptive cruise control). Firstly, why is this optional (£1700) when my hum-drum company Golf Bluemotion has it as standard equipment? And secondly, it brakes too eagerly and sharply when other cars get in the way despite whatever the desired distance programmed into the function might be. Minor niggles maybe but at this level potential customers used to Bavarian products will soon suss these little details much more than drivers lower down the automotive pecking order. Issues aside, there is little to dislike about the 3.0 V6 diesel Sportbrake generally. As a driving tool its unruffled, comfy, quiet and practical with strong performance, decent fuel consumption and to die for looks. Nor is it cheap but what is in the premium sector these days?

There's some nice hand crafted touches on the Sportbrake like this hand stitched leather trim for example.
There’s some nice craftsmanship touches on the Sportbrake like this hand stitched leather trim for example.

Not far from being perfect but one or two things let the side down… not massive things but as the saying goes: The devil is all in the detail. But after all is said and done the hold-all Jaguar is a lovely weapon of choice that’s only going to get better when the revised and face-lifted model comes online sometime in the not too distant future. It’s befitting of the words of Sir William Lyons himself – Grace Pace and Space!


The Humble Opinion:

A great looking car with a great driveline, the XF Sportbrake is a lovely car to drive or be driven in. A new model is in the pipeline but for now the current model still ticks the boxes for those of taste who want to drive and be seen in something less clinical than an Audi Avant or more interesting than a 5 series tourer. Smashing performance and a good ride comfort work well together and all occupants who travelled inside remarked about the way the outside world seemed miles away and isolated from the leather bound carpet clad interior.

Nicely trimmed and equipped with a flat and roomy cargo space, the XF Sportbrake manages to look better than the saloon which despite being with us for a little while now, still cuts a dash of style through the urban dross or motorway madness. It would be nice to see a little bit more rear legroom, a nip and tuck in the quality department and a more modern font to the info-tainment system but niggles aside I found the car relaxing, rewarding and talented in most areas and dare I say it… a car I would purchase with my own money – its unashamedly British and it looks good and I like it.

Model Tested: Jaguar XF Sportbrake 3.0D V6 Portfolio
Produced By: Jaguar Land Rover Group Castle Bromwich
Price As Tested: £63.45 including options

Engine: 3.0 V6 Twin turbo diesel with 275Ps and 600Nm of torque
Gearbox: ZF-HP electronic 8 speed automatic with paddle change facility
Performance*: 0 – 60 in 6.1 seconds with a 155mph maximum Emissions: 163G/km Economy: 46.3 combined* (40.4mpg on test) Suspension: Front coils & rear airbag
Brakes: All round vented discs
Cargo Space: 550 / 1700 Litres
Warranty: 3 years

*Claimed data from manufacturers

Equipment Highlights: Dual-zone climate – All round power windows – Built in Sat-Nav with Bluetooth / MP3 / Digital TV / DAB and multi media inputs – Rear air suspension – 60/40 split rear seat with one touch fold function – Rear privacy glass – Heated and electrically adjustable leather seats – Electric tailgate open & close.

THE HIGHS: Lovely refinement – Stunning performance – Well thought out cargo bay – Smart and inviting interior – Motorway cruising – Good economy – Supple ride – Head turning looks – Makes you feel special – Supportive and comfy seats.

THE LOWS: Rear legroom could be better – Over sensitive ADC – Build quality could be improved in minor areas – Expensive when ticking the options – Residual value tends to be poorer than average.

For more information on the Jaguar Sportbrake CLICK HERE

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