by Morgan Carter
Wagons aren't a common sight these days, with most manufacturers having discontinued their offering over the past few decades in favor of crossovers, which is what makes the Jaguar XF Sportbrake such an interesting proposition. With a choice of a turbo four-cylinder developing 296 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque, or a supercharged V6 with 380 hp and 332 lb-ft, the Jag never lacks in power. Paired with these powertrains are an eight-speed automatic transmission, an all-wheel drivetrain, and a performance-tuned suspension that allow the wagon to deliver a surprisingly engaging driving experience, despite space for a family and all their stuff. The XF also supplies a fair amount of cargo space, but all this comes at a pretty hefty starting price of $65,150. For much the same price, you can pick up the far more luxurious Mercedes-Benz E-Class Wagon, or you could save yourself a pretty penny and go for the equally capable Volvo V90.
The Jag XF Sportbrake enters the new year in the USA with almost no changes to mention. Full smartphone integration, with both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, now comes standard on both trim levels. Two all-new paint colors expand the palette for additional customization: Eiger Grey and Portofino Blue.
Gone are the days of chunky station wagons. Sleek athleticism is the flavor du jour, and the XF Sportbrake from Jaguar delivers it in droves. Riding on 19-inch alloy wheels, or 20-inchers on the upper-tier S, the Jag has a sporty flair that some of its more conservative rivals aren't willing to match. The grille is unimposing, though, and comes bordered by xenon headlights on the standard Prestige, with available adaptive LED variants and LED J-blade daytime running lights. The S looks even more aggressive with its S-style front and rear bumpers, gloss-black extended side sills, and tailgate spoiler. Both models come standard with a panoramic sunroof and hands-free power liftgate.
Wagons are generally long, broad vehicles, and the Jaguar XF Sportbrake doesn't break from tradition in terms of dimensions. It measures in at 195.1 inches long with a 116.5-inch wheelbase, while folding in the mirrors only reduces its width to 78 inches. The wagon stands about as tall as the average sedan, though, at 58.9 inches high. But it weighs quite a bit more, with curb weight ranging from 3,885 - 4,036 lbs. This is pretty average for the segment, though, with both the Mercedes E-Class and Volvo V90 sporting comparable weights.
Each model of the XF Sportbrake gets its own engine. The lower-tier Prestige is powered by a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder that directs 296 hp and 295 lb-ft to all four wheels. Paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission, this powertrain doesn't struggle to move the hefty wagon at all, smoothly accelerating it from 0 to 60 mph is just 5.7 seconds. Even more power rests under the hood of the S trim, with a 3.0-liter supercharged V6 developing 380 hp and 332 lb-ft. Paired to the same drivetrain and transmission, this powertrain launches the wagon to 60 mph in a brisk 5.3 seconds, rivaling the Mercedes E-Class and besting the Volvo V90, while putting many hot hatches to shame, too. Unlike the Volvo, which offers both front- and all-wheel-drive, the Jag offers no other drivetrain options, but this isn't unusual for wagons.
Wagons are often deceptively athletic drivers, and the XF Sportbrake doesn't disappoint in this regard. Unfortunately, this improved handling does come at the expense of comfort, with the firm suspension struggling to absorb some harsher road abrasions. You may enjoy swinging the long body of the XF around sharper twists and curves on the sloping hills during cross-country drives, but once you're on the wide-open stretches, cruising along the less-well-maintained tarmac, the constant grind and vibrations will quickly wear away your good mood.
On the plus side, the steering is well-tuned. At lower speeds in town, it is light and precise, making the hefty wagon a lot easier to maneuver. But reach top speed, and it tightens up quite nicely. Switch to Dynamic mode and if gains a bit more heft. Regardless of mode, the wheels are quite communicative, so you shouldn't struggle to figure out what the wheels are doing, even if you may sometimes have a hard time seeing around the wagon's large body.
Much like comfort, road noise can be a problem for the XF, with the cabin doing a poor job of damping exterior sounds. At least the engine sounds good, particularly the V6, so you won't hate it when it intrudes into the cabin. Still, you may want to opt for the upgraded sound package to help drown out some of the unwanted tire noise.
As you'd expect, the turbo inline-four engine delivers the better fuel economy of the two powertrains, with the EPA estimating its mileage at 21/28/24 mpg across the city/highway/combined cycles. The supercharged V6 sacrifices some efficiency for its extra power, getting 18/25/21 mpg. These figures aren't overly impressive, but they do match the Merc E-Class' V6 mileage figures. The Volvo gets slightly better results from its four-cylinder T5 engine at 21/31/25 mpg. Equipped with a 19.5-gallon fuel tank, the Jag has an overall estimated range of 468 miles with its four-cylinder and 409 miles with the V6.
There is space within the cabin for up to five passengers within the Sportbrake, with even the rear seats supplying enough room for most adults to slide in with relative comfort. But if you're only transporting grown-ups, you may want to stick to four passengers, as the rear middle seat is a bit on the smaller side. The front seats come standard with heating and power-adjustability, but it can still be a bit tricky to find an optimal driving position. The steering wheel hangs a bit low for comfort, but power tilt-and-telescoping comes standard, so you should be able to reposition it with ease. Perforated grained leather upholstery is standard at any trim level, but the top-tier S gets more elaborate color options. Gloss black and Burl Walnut finishers come standard, with the S getting more premium Satin Grey wood or Carbon Fiber trimming.
When it comes to hauling cargo, it's hard to beat a station wagon. With the rear seats upright, the Jaguar XF wagon offers an impressive 31.7 cubic feet of space. This is a good middle ground between the E-Class' 35 cubic feet and the V90's 25.5 cubic feet, giving buyers more than enough space to pack a month's worth of groceries or even load up the camping gear for a weekend away. However, for the latter, you may want to free up even more space. In such an event, the rear seats can be folded down in 40/20/40 split to free up a total of 69.7 cubic feet, launching the XF ahead of both its rivals. With so much space, you could easily pack for a whole vacation for the remaining two passengers.
Small-item storage is adequate but less impressive. Both rows of seats get access to a pair of cupholders each, and the door pockets all-around are quite spacious. There is a standard glove compartment and a relatively spacious center armrest cubby. There aren't any extra storage bins or trays, though.
The XF Sportbrake comes equipped with quite a few nifty features that help to justify its pretty high starting price. The base model gets leather-appointed seats with power-adjustable heated front seats that offer four-way lumbar support. Dual-zone climate control works in concert with the standard panoramic roof to regulate cabin temperature while still letting passengers enjoy the natural lighting. A five-inch color driver information display is placed between the analog dials, while keyless entry and ignition, cruise control, and an auto-dimming rearview mirror come standard. There are two 12-volt power outlets in the cabin to keep devices charged, and forward collision avoidance, and front and rear sonar comprise the safety suite. The S further bolsters the safety offering with rear cross-traffic alert, blind-spot monitoring, lane keep assist, lane change alert, and a driver-attention system. It also replaces the front seats with 18-way power sport seats. Heating and ventilated front seats are available, along with heated rear seats, soft-close doors, adaptive cruise control, a head-up display, quad-zone climate control, and a 12.3-inch interactive driver information display.
The designers at Jaguar finally decided to drag the XF Sportbrake into the modern age by adding standard smartphone integration, but not much more was done for the new year. Nevertheless, it offers everything you need to keep yourself entertained over long trips. The Touch Pro system is operated from the ten-inch touchscreen interface, which comes programmed with Bluetooth capabilities, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and navigation. Standard listening options include AM/FM Radio with an auxiliary input jack, and a USB port, with audio channeled through an 11-speaker sound system. The S model adds SiriusXM to the mix, but a CD/DVD player can be optioned on along with an upgraded 16-speaker Meridian Digital Surround Sound System.
While J.D. Power doesn't supply a reliability rating for the 2020 Jaguar XF Sportbrake, no official recalls have been issued for the vehicle, either. Jag supplies a comprehensive warranty package for the XF that includes bumper-to-bumper, powertrain, and roadside assistance for 60,000 miles/60 months. A complimentary maintenance plan is also offered over the same period.
Neither the NHTSA nor the IIHS has given the Jaguar XF Sportbrake a review for crash-test safety. However, the wagon comes equipped with a host of driver-assistance technologies. Mechanical safety features include ABS, stability and traction control, as well as six airbags: dual front, front side, and side curtain. The base model comes with front and rear sonar, as well as forward collision warning and emergency brake assist. The upper-tier S gets automatic high beam assist, lane keep assist, lane departure warning, a driver attention system, blind-spot alert, and rear cross-traffic alert. Further available features include a surround-view camera, traffic sign recognition, and park assist.
The station wagon market in the USA is not as booming as it once was, so what sets each entrant apart from its rivals is even more apparent these days. Thus, it is easy to see why the Jaguar XF Sportbrake is an utterly average competitor in the segment. It certainly isn't a bad choice, but there are better ones out there.
Where it does impress is its lively handling dynamics and cavernous maximum cargo capacity. Fold the rear seats down, and leading rivals like the Mercedes-Benz E-Class and Volvo V90 can't hope to compete. But the Merc is far more luxurious inside by comparison, leaning far more towards comfort than performance. Even so, the German wagon offers a lot more power even at its base level, absolutely thrashing the Jag when you look at the AMG variant.
Similarly, the Volvo leans more towards modern sensibilities and affordability, presenting buyers with a well-appointed wagon that still manages to keep running costs down thanks to its fuel-efficient engine. It also offers a significantly cheaper front-wheel-drive model, if you don't live in an area that warrants constant all-wheel-drive capabilities.
However, neither rival is quite as fun to drive as the XF Sportbrake, and many will find that appealing. If you don't mind the questionable ride comfort and high price tag, the Jaguar is certainly worth a look, but don't discount its rivals just because they aren't as athletic.
The XF Sportbrake asks for a pretty hefty investment for what you get, especially when compared to the base price of more popular wagons, like the much cheaper Volvo V90. The entry-level Prestige will set you back $65,150, while getting access to the V6 on the upper-tier S spec requires an initial capital outlay of $71,800. However, many desirable features, such as extra driver-assistance tech, come at additional cost, so don't be surprised if your final MSRP is closer to $80k. The prices of the Jaguar XF Sportbrake exclude tax, licensing, registration, and Jaguar's standard $995 handling fee.
Both configurations are quite capable and competent family wagons, but the extra power on the V6-powered S model comes at the expense of comfort, even with the adaptive suspension. Since we doubt you want to hear the kids whining about their aching bottoms during cross-country trips, we suggest sticking to the base Prestige. It may accelerate a smidge slower than the S, but it boasts the same maximum speed, and comes with smaller 19-inch wheels that give it better ride comfort. It also gets leather upholstery, dual-zone climate control, and a panoramic sunroof as standard. You'll probably want to throw on the Vision Assist Package for the adaptive LED headlights, blind-spot monitoring, and rear cross-traffic alert, but this still won't raise the price to the same level as the standard S model.
While both wagons in the US may be similarly priced, the Mercedes-Benz E-Class is a whole league above the Jag XF in terms of luxury and refinement. Even the base engine trounces the best engine in the Sportbrake, with 362 hp and 369 lb-ft developed by the Merc's twin-turbo V6. An even stronger AMG variant is available, and the E-Class comes with a more refined nine-speed automatic gearbox. The XF does win in overall cargo capacity, but it falls short in standard trunk space and basically everywhere else, too. The Mercedes offers a plusher interior, a much smoother ride, more tech and safety features, and comparable fuel economy. If you're going to be shelling out $70k for a luxury wagon, you may as well go with the brand that wrote the book on luxury engineering - Mercedes-Benz.
Less ostentatious than the Jaguar XF Sportbrake or Mercedes-Benz E-Class, the Volvo V90 is still a popular and competent competitor in the segment. It looks good and boasts superior build quality to its British rival. Add to this the V90's extensive list of safety and tech features, and it's not hard to see why it is a leader in the family wagon market. Offering all-wheel-drive or a cheaper front-wheel-drive model, the V90 comes with a turbo four-cylinder engine that develops 250 hp and 258 lb-ft or a twincharged version of the same that develops 316 hp and 295 lb-ft. Both powertrains boast better fuel economy than their counterparts under the hood of the XF Sportbrake, further enhancing the V90's value proposition, although they lack the excitement of the supercharged V6. But, while the Volvo can accommodate the same number of passengers in superior comfort, it can't match the impressive cargo capacity of the Jag, maxing out at 54 cubic feet. Still, unless you desperately need that extra space, the Volvo V90 is the winner in this competition.
Check out some informative Jaguar XF Sportbrake video reviews below.