Jaguar XF Sportbrake — A very sexy wagon

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

Sportbrake in European parlance means luxury wagon and the mid-sized Jaguar XF has a version for 2018 that enhances the sex appeal of the sedan, but sacrifices none of the sedan's outstanding driving traits while adding a 32-cubic-foot cargo area under the hatch. Meet the Jaguar XF Sportbrake — practical, stimulating and fun.

Performance has not been sacrificed with the Sportbrake. The only trim level available (S for performance) comes with a healthy supercharged 380-horsepower V-6 mated to an eight-speed automatic driven by all four wheels. While performance is not blisteringly quick, it should satisfy most measured at around 5 seconds from 0-to-60 and 105 mph in the quarter mile. At the same time, gas mileage is a reasonable EPA-measured at 18 mpg city, 25 highway and 21 overall on premium gas.

When it comes to handling, the Sportbrake is very capable in the mold of a true sports car, a trait that is hard to find in a sport utility vehicle. The Sportbrake offers a driver's car with its low center of gravity, a near 50-50 front-to-rear weight distribution, all-wheel-drive grip, and great responsiveness.

The Sportbrake faces competition in a very small niche segment from such European vehicles as the Audi Allroad, Volvo V90 R-Design and the Mercedes E400 4Matic Wagon. It stands out in that crowd with a quiet interior, a pleasing ride, a light and lively demeanor, and an electrifying nimbleness. It indeed is a pleasure to drive whether on boring interstates, through the twists and turns of winding hill country or on rural back roads.

Four driving modes can be selected via buttons on the center console to alter the car's responses — AdSR (Adaptive Surface Response), Eco, Normal, and Dynamic. AdSR is intended for use during slippery weather and assists with low-traction launches. Eco is for better fuel economy, Normal aims for the most comfortable ride, and Dynamic tightens body control for sharper handling. As you might expect, we did a majority of our driving in the Dynamic setting. You might conclude that the Sportbrake nicely balances practicality with a true sporting nature.

The interior — although perhaps lacking the premium materials found in some vehicles — provides the driver a unique experience, a handsome layout with intuitive controls and a generally easy-to-use eight-inch touchscreen. You are welcomed home when you hit the pulsating starter button as the motorized rotary gear selector rises from the center console and the air vents slowly rotate open. Jaguar’s infotainment interface called InControl Touch is standard equipment and the touchscreen quickly responds to inputs, while physical buttons help in switching among the various submenus for phone, media, and navigation.

While we can vouch for the Sportbrake's driving prowess, what about the practical side — the reason people willingly pay more for this XF then the standard XF sedan. We've already mentioned the 32 cubic feet of cargo capacity behind the seats, but if you fold the back seats down space increases to a crossover-like 69.7 cubic feet. And Jaguar says that the Sportbrake can carry up to 220 pounds on the roof.

When it comes to passengers, front and rear headroom is good, comparable to most vehicles in the segment. Rear legroom is adequate and two passengers can successfully live together for long trips. However flat, stiff rear seat cushions had us wishing for more accommodating chairs.

Although standard safety is covered, to get the newest safety equipment you will have to pony up $3,495 for what Jaguar calls the Driver Assistance Package. The package is a necessity to us and includes adaptive cruise control, active parking assist, a 360-degree surround view camera, and blind spot monitoring. We think a vehicle carrying a base price over 70 grand should include most of these features as standard equipment.

But there are some neat standard features including a panoramic sunroof, a power tailgate with foot-swipe activation, S-trim body kit, rear self-leveling air suspension, front and rear parking sensors, and the Adaptive and Configurable Dynamics systems, which includes a suspension that adjusts on the fly.

There are other desirable options available — many added to our test vehicle — including the Technology Package, which brings a 10-inch navigation screen with a Wi-Fi hotspot, and a 825-watt surround sound system for $3,265; a Comfort and Convenience Package that includes heated and cooled front seats and heated rear seats for $1,805; and the Premium Interior Upgrade Package that includes four-zone climate control, suede-cloth premium headliner, ambient lighting, and premium carpet mats for $2,860. The bottom line of our test car, which carried a base price of $71,440, was $84,245.

Base price: $71,440; as driven, $84,245
Engine: 3.0-liter supercharged V-6
Horsepower: 380 @ 6,500 rpm
Torque: 332 foot-pounds @ 4,500 rpm
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Drive: all-wheel
Seating: 2/3
Wheelbase: 116.5 inches
Length: 195.0 inches
Curb weight: 4,045 pounds
Turning circle: 38.1 feet
Luggage capacity: 31.7 cubic feet
Cargo capacity: 69.7 cubic feet
Fuel capacity: 19.5 gallons (premium)
EPA rating: 18 city, 25 highway, 21 overall
Also consider: Audi Allroad, Volvo V90, Mercedes E400 Wagon

The Good
• All-wheel drive standard
• Comfortable cabin
• Generous passenger space
• Engaging driving demeanor

The Bad
• No V-8 engine option

The Ugly
• Price can skyrocket with options