2018 Jaguar XF Sportbrake Review

2018 Jaguar XF Sportbrake - "Brake" is a misnomer, this wagon hauls.

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Sportbrake is play on the British colloquialism shootingbrake, which is a term that describes a sporty station wagon. In this case, the Jaguar XF Sportbrake is a 4-door wagon based on the midsize XF sedan. Sportbrake seats five and comes standard with all-wheel drive. Direct competitors include the Mercedes-Benz E-Class and Volvo V90. In reality, though, the XF Sportbrake also competes with compact with midsize luxury crossovers.

While other markets get several variations of the Sportbrake, in the U.S. we have a sole model offering that lists for $70,450. It includes a supercharged 3.0-liter V6 that makes 380 horsepower and mates to an 8-speed automatic transmission. Maximum towing capacity is 4,400 pounds.

Standard features include 8-inch touchscreen infotainment system with navigation, emergency brake assist, front and rear parking aids, rear-view camera, lane keep assist, blind-spot monitor with cross-traffic alert and power tailgate and sunroof. Optional equipment includes 380-watt Meridian sound system, heated and cooled front seats, adaptive cruise control, four-zone climate control and head-up display.

Acceleration with the supercharged 3-liter six is outstanding. Jaguar claims the Sportbrake will reach 60 MPH from a standstill in a scant 5.3 seconds -- and there is no reason to doubt that number. The engine provides plenty of motivation off the line and exceptional passing response. In addition, it mates well to the smooth shifting 8-speed automatic. Though no manual transmission is offered, the driver can control gear selection using steering-wheel-mounted paddles.

Jaguar's all-wheel-drive system does not have a low range and is intended for on-road use only. In practice, it quickly shuffles power to the wheels with the most traction to prevent wheelspin and get the XF moving quickly on almost any surface. It is important to note that, despite having all-wheel drive, the available summer tires should not be used in the winter.

EPA ratings for the XF Sportbrake of 18 MPG city, 25 MPG highway and 21 MPG overall are understandably underwhelming given the vehicle's performance potential. Even in gentle suburban commuting, it is tough to top 20 MPG overall. In addition, premium-grade gasoline is required.

In addition to outstanding acceleration, the Sportbrake lives up to its name by providing exceptional road holding and handling characteristics. Though the front suspension is unchanged from the sedan, at the rear the Sportbrake swaps the sedan's coils for computer-controlled air springs to keep the ride height constant regardless of the load it's carrying. No matter, the XF Sportbrake is a sports sedan first and a wagon second. The suspension is firmly tuned and maintains tight control of wheel motions over bumps. The ride can get a bit busy, even harsh, over badly broken pavement, but, overall, the Sportbrake has a firm European ride makes it a joy to drive.

Helping with the athleticism, the firm steering has a direct feel that encourages drivers to seek out twisty roads. The brakes have ample stopping power but can get a bit grabby at lower speeds, which makes it sometimes difficult to come to a smooth stop. Interior noise levels are among the lowest in the class and are a testament to the XF's solid build.

The XF's interior is a mishmash of shapes and materials - mostly pleasing and upscale. Thankfully the instrument cluster is all business with two large dials framed by a nice meaty steering wheel. The center stack features a large touch screen with Jaguar's new infotainment system. Climate controls are mostly buttons and dials. There's also a large dial for gear selection, which, although designed to save space, takes up most of the center console.

Jaguar's InControl infotainment system is a welcome upgrade from the previous system. It's much more intuitive and responds more quickly to input. For best results, it requires owners to subscribe to a service that helps build a profile for more intuitive navigation searches, etc. Unfortunately, it does not support Apple Car Play or Android Auto.

Despite a bit of a dip-and-dive entry through the narrow door opening, front-seat room is actually quite good. There's ample leg room and decent head room. The seats are firmly padded with lots of adjustments. Rear-seat space is also quite good -- perhaps best in class. Two adults will have no problem getting comfortable, but taller adults might ask front-seat occupants to scooch forward a bit.

Despite the wagon profile, outward visibility is just average. This is due to a high beltline, thick roof pillars and large rear-seat headrests. Thankfully there are front and rear parking sensors.

With more than 70 cubic feet of overall cargo space, the XF Sportbrake is perhaps the best cargo hauler in the class. However, when you have the back seats in use, cargo capacity drops to just 32 cubic feet -- still considerably more than any sedan but a few feet less than the Mercedes-Benz or Volvo. Interior storage disappoints thanks to a tiny center console bin and middling map pockets.

Make no mistake the Jaguar XF Sportbrake is likely the most expensive wagon you can buy. That high price of entry is offset by its extensive listing of standard equipment and fantastic engine. Taking price out of the equation for a moment, the XF is fun to drive, roomy and luxurious. So, if you are looking for a super sporty cargo hauler with all-wheel drive and don't want to step up into the crossover ranks, the XF should top your shopping list.



Mark Bilek

Mark Bilek is the Director of Communications and Technology for the Chicago Auto Trade Association and the General Manager for DriveChicago.com. He is also responsible for developing and maintaining the Chicago Auto Show Web site.

Mark has been reviewing vehicles for two decades. Previously, he was associate publisher at Consumer Guide, where he oversaw publication of Consumer Guide Car & Truck Test, Consumer Guide's Used Car Book, and ConsumerGuide.com. He was also responsible for publication of "Collectible Automobile" and hardcover automotive titles.

In 2001 and 2002 he served as president of a Midwest Automotive Media Association. Mark has appeared on ABC TV, Fox News, and Speed Channel as an automotive consultant. Previously, he was a regular on WGN Radio's Steve & Johnnie show and now fills in for Paul Brian on the Drive Chicago radio show on WLS. Mark lives in the northwest suburbs with his wife and three sons.

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