Jaguar on to a winner
Posted on: 3rd Oct 2012
Variety. It counts for a lot. Rather than trying to cover all bases with one version, as has been Jaguar's way in the past, these days the company is on an even enough financial footing to be able to offer its customers something a little bit more specialist.
The Jaguar XF had long campaigned as solely a saloon model, but in a market sector that values a certain lifestyle statement, saloons were often seen as a little staid.
A 2011 facelift of the car came and went, but it wasn't until the latter part of this year that buyers could get their hands on the XF Sportbrake, a car that significantly broadens the number and type of buyers Jaguar can target.
It was first shown at the 2012 Geneva Motor Show and received a generally warm reaction from the motoring industry at large. Now it's a production reality and looking to put a number on the likes of BMW, Mercedes and Audi.
The XF Sportbrake is the first Jaguar to be launched without a petrol engine in the engine line-up. Jaguar reckon never to say never on that particular score, but for the time being at least, Sportbrake customers get to choose between a 2.2-litre diesel and a 3.0-litre - and both come in two differing states of tune.
The 3.0-litre diesel is available in 240 and 275PS flavours and there's an economical four-cylinder 2.2-litre, good for either 163 or 200PS.
The entry level 163PS 2.2-litre diesel will be quick enough for most, stopping the watch as it passes through 60mph in 10 seconds. The 200PS version, which is actually just as clean and economical, manages it in a far more sprightly 8.2s, on the way to a 142mph maximum. With 450Nm of torque available from only 2,000rpm, there's no shortage of muscle with this engine, and the XF eight-speed auto transmission means you're always plugged into the meat of it.
Design and Build
Jaguar is off to a good start on the Sportbrake as the XF is widely acknowledged as one of the cleanest pieces of styling in its class. The rear glasshouse is artfully integrated into the car's existing chassis hard points, with a genuinely sleek roofline which arches over the rear quarter-lights.
The one-piece tailgate incorporates a rear spoiler with integrated high-level stop light and a chrome blade finisher. The rear of the XF Sportbrake also sports full LED tail lights. The XF Sportbrake's styling can be accentuated on the Diesel S model.
The front bumper design features black mesh inserts for the lower air intakes. Sculpted side sills and a distinctive rear spoiler also feature.
At almost two metres in length and over a metre in width at its narrowest point, the XF Sportbrake's load space features 1,675 litres volume capacity when all the seats are folded down, which sounds impressive, and 550 litres with the rear seats in place - which isn't quite so brilliant but is nevertheless 50 litres up on the saloon.
Ease of use is a priority, so a power tailgate system is available. The XF Sportbrake can be specified with Integral Tie Downs which enable fitment of a range of accessories designed to increase versatility.
Market and Model
Prices run from around £32,000 to just over £50,000, which is about par for the course in the full-sized BMW 5 Series Touring/Audi A6 Avant-dominated executive estate sector. Most customers will be attracted to the 2.2-litre diesel, which is offered in SE, SE Business and Luxury trim levels.
The mid-level Premium Luxury version is sure to be popular and is fitted as standard with soft grain leather seats, a 600w stereo, Bluetooth, cruise control with speed limiter, hard disk satellite navigation, a heated front window, heated, electrically adjustable front seats and 18-inch alloy wheels.
Cost of Ownership
The 2.2-litre engine is going to mop up over 75 per cent of all XF Sportbrake sales, so it's this that we'll look at in closer detail. It's a modified Ford unit, mounted longitudinally and featuring a host of new parts, including a water-cooled turbocharger and low-friction pistons.
A combined consumption of 55.4mpg isn't quite up there with the best of the German opposition maybe, but it needs to be set against the 46mpg of the 3.0-litre diesel XF Sportbrake models.
The Jaguar XF was always an easy car to recommend if you wanted a saloon. Unfortunately, not that many people actually do. They want the status of the aspirational badge, but also want an element of practicality, of being able to get the goods in at IKEA or get the rubbish out to the tip.
Of course, the advertisers would have us believe that these cars are bought by thirtysomethings with snowboards, jetskis and dazzling smiles but the truth is a little more prosaic. The XF Sportbrake does the practical things very well.
So far it's hard to pin a single black mark on TATA Motors' stewardship of Jaguar. Everything is bang on the button. The XF Sportbrake continues that winning run of form. It's good looking, well specified, offers that additional element of utility and trades on Jaguar's now excellent reliability and customer satisfaction record.
In other words, it can't fail.