Jaguar mixes style and substance with its new Sportbrake estate
Age-old tradition and cutting-edge innovation dovetailed as Jaguar unleashed its new XF Sportbrake on the craggy east coast of Scotland.
Against an equally dramatic backdrop, the stylish estate, a sibling of the marque's successful XF saloon, made an imposing entrance.
The car will be available here from mid-January, priced from €47,500 for the 2.2-litre (163hp) diesel, along with a 3-litre diesel, also tested, costing €61,500. However, prices may vary depending on the outcome of the Budget.
Jaguar expects to sell between 30 and 40 Sportbrakes in a full year, in the 'luxury estate' segment.
The Sportbrake is pitched against the formidable Audi A6 Avant, BMW 5 Series Touring and Mercedes E-Class estate and, in some respects, mainly in terms of style and personality, it outflanks them.
From the outside, with its swooping roofline, it is undeniably more eye-catching than its rivals. Inside, from a driver's perspective, it tingles with a plethora of electronic gadgetry, including the clever rotary gear selector which rises up when the ignition is turned on.
None of the instrumentation seemed superfluous as it all contributed to an impressive and rewarding level of performance over a challenging test route of some 300km.
Sitting on a wheelbase similar to the saloon, the Sportbrake's roofline gives the car a leaner, longer and slimmer appearance yet rear passengers still manage to have more headroom.
It's competitive, too, with the Audi A6 Avant and the BMW 5 Series, on space, with 550 litres with the rear seats in place and 1,675 litres with the rear seats folded flat. Only the Mercedes E-Class is slightly more accommodating.
Thus, like the flagship saloon, the Sportbrake is not a good-looker but eminently practical.
The 60:40 split rear bench can be folded flat by pulling a pair of levers, and the impressive self-levelling rear suspension is fitted as standard. Plus, an electrically powered tailgate eases the chore of loading and unloading.
For a sizeable vehicle it's economical. The 2.2-litre engine returns 55.4mpg and 135g/km of CO2, just nosed out by the BMW 520d SE Touring, which claims 57.6mpg and 130g/km.
The test cars came fully specced with blind-spot warning, tyre pressure monitors and a Parking Aid Pack, featuring front sensors and rear cameras, as well as adaptive cruise control.
The 2.2-litre diesel engine married to an eight-speed automatic gearbox, once into its stride, pushed the Sportbrake along with expected gusto but it took a while and handling was less impressive than in the three-litre.
In the latter, sharp steering, strong body control and exceptional grip at speed were to the fore and, using the accelerator paddles located on the steering column, it provided probably as much driving satisfaction as one could reasonably expect from a sporty executive estate.