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FIRST DRIVE: Sportbrake puts Jaguar back on the map, writes Ian Mallon

PART of the great pleasure in reviewing cars for a living is getting to drive them on Irish roads before anyone else.

Obviously not many motors are being shifted from garage forecourts anywhere around the country, so that privilege is even more relevant in these dire times of economic austerity.

But when the humble motoring opinion-former finds himself reviewing one of the higher end models, that pursuit can become almost vulgar and showy.

During the Celtic Tiger it was quite acceptable to find yourself behind the wheel of a car in the €100,000 price bracket.

But nowadays anything around €50k with the 131 registration plate can seem to observers that you must be a bullet proof IT mogul, as the heads turn at every moment.

The feeling of being watched by all-comers hit home recently when I found myself in the company of the fabulous Jaguar XF Sportbrake.

 

Sleekness

 

Gone are the days when estates or station wagons were boxy rigid-looking things.

This is now the era of sports wagon – a very clever play with words in which I, oh, you get it.

Since Audi, BMW and Mercedes introduced their array of sporty tanks to the road, the station wagon has become the epitome of sleekness and pace.

With the Sportbrake, Jaguar have brought that look of sheer sports practicality onto a new level with a machine that is almost otherworldly even due to the fact that there are not many new luxury models on the roads any more.

This is sleekness personified, so much so that the Sportbrake looks longer than any other car I have ever driven before and this is down to a streamlined profile, thanks to a sleek extended roofline.

It is aggressive looking too – but in a very subtle kind of way – a Katie Taylor on wheels.

This is thanks mainly to the fabulous full-LED lights, a sure fire winner in all new luxury cars.

The real joy of this car though, comes not from the skin but rather what's under it – through power and performance.

The Sportbrake comes in two main forms, 2.2 litre diesel and 3.0 litre diesel, which can get from one to the ton in 10 and six seconds respectively – it just depends on how much of a hurry you're in, I suppose.

The 2.2 litre comes comes with 163bhp and the 3.0 comes in V6 variants.

What the Sportbrake re-emphasises is that Jaguar have come full circle from the bowler hat-wearing brand of the past.

Jags now are sexiness personified – who hasn't drooled over the XK? – and are a truly inspiring brand of modernity and coolness.

The Arfur Daley types of the Sarf London East End who didn't drive anything but a Jag are now an image of a bygone age.

The quality is still there, but the conservativeness and wide boy image are truly dead.

The Sportbrake is a a kind of dream machine of what we can hopefully aspire to once the dreaded shackles of austerity eventually loosen.

It is a big car for big dreams and when you drive it you can see why.

Handling is a dream, onboard luxury is to die for, with wall-to-wall leather and quality materials in the cabin.

The power and sophistication is breathtaking as is the CO2 count of 139g/km and annual tax of €280.

Functionality is the name of the game with station wagons and the Jag is certainly not left wanting.

The cargo area of the XF is nothing short of gargantuan, with 560 litres of luggage room which is an equal match for Audi A6 Avant and the BMW Touring.

The Jaguar Sportbrake will cost you from €47,220.


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