by Gabe Beita Kiser
There aren't many manufacturers left willing to cautiously wade into wagon territory. But in a segment that continues to shrink, Jaguar persists with the mid-sized XF Sportbrake. For 2019, the Sportbrake has been lightly refreshed, making the luxury wagon slightly more diverse with the inclusion of a new engine. The new motor is a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder unit in the Prestige model with outputs of 296 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque, alongside the returning 3.0-liter supercharged V6 that makes 380 hp and 332 lb-ft. These models compete with other luxury offerings from Mercedes-Benz and Volvo, the class-leaders. Surefooted handling is guaranteed with a standard all-wheel-drive system on both models and one gearbox option - an eight-speed automatic. Keen drivers will appreciate the smart handling, but outright luxury and comfort are not as prominent as in the German and Swedish offerings. Pricing starts at $64,575 and peaks at over $70k.
The XF Sportbrake now features a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-pot as standard, a new inclusion for the 2019 model year. In addition, both variations of the wagon are now fitted with Jaguar's Touch Pro infotainment system, which comprises a 10-inch touchscreen and Jaguar's InControl smartphone integration. Unfortunately, the Sportbrake differs from the regular sedan in that the update did not include Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The new touch interface is connected to an 11-speaker Meridian audio system.
If it ain't broke, don't fix it. Ian Callum's design principles focus on simplicity and elegance, both of which are well executed in the Sportbrake's appearance. 19-inch wheels are standard on the Prestige model with the S being upgraded to bigger 20-inch items. The overall look of the wagon is sleek, with flair added to the taillights and design of the xenon headlights. S models get a unique body kit to further differentiate them, while both models feature a panoramic sunroof as standard.
The two models of the XF Sportbrake are virtually identical, with only curb weight differentiating the two. The Prestige weighs 3,885 lbs while the S weighs 4,045 lbs. The length and wheelbases of both models measure 195.1 inches and 116.5 inches, respectively. Height with the roof antenna is 59 inches while the width is 78.2 inches.
The base engine is now a 2.0-liter turbo with 296 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque. Thanks to all-wheel-drive and an eight-speed auto, acceleration is smooth and drama-free, although using the paddles for manual shifts is less than perfectly silky. The S model features a 3.0-liter supercharged V6 that produces 380 hp and 332 lb-ft, making acceleration much more lively, and adding a sporty tone to the engine note with more enthusiastic power delivery. Sharing the same drivetrain and transmission setup as the base model, the S can embarrass hot hatches off the line.
The XF Sportbrake's handling is rather sporty, featuring a firm ride and well-weighted steering, alongside sharp, well-tuned brakes and decent composure at higher speeds. However, a car like this is not intended to be so sporty that its comfort is compromised. The Sportbrake suffers from a stiff ride that does not cope well with smaller bumps. This problem is only compounded in the S model, which is fitted with bigger wheels. In addition, the afflictions of the wagon extend to omnipresent road-noise, which can be acceptable in a sports car, but certainly not in a premium luxury brand's family wagon.
The base model's four-cylinder turbo is the one to pick for the best economy figures. EPA estimates are listed as 21/28/24 mpg on the city/highway/combined cycles, with the S model's V6 returning 18/25/21 mpg on the same tests. Both variants are fitted with a 19.5-gallon gas tank, which gives the Prestige an estimated average range of 468 miles, while the S will manage around 409.5 miles between fill-ups. This is on par with the Mercedes E-Class wagon's figures, but the Volvo V90's worst economy figures match the Jaguar's best.
The Sportbrake seats a maximum of five, and most adults will find the cabin a relatively comfortable place to be, with ample legroom and headroom even for taller individuals. The exception in the back is the middle seat, which is a tad small, with a raised transmission tunnel eating into legroom. The driver's seat is also not ideally designed, which - despite multiple adjustment options - does not easily make for a perfect driving position. The steering wheel also encroaches on one's knees, while the accelerator pedal is also a little too close to the transmission for comfort. Getting in and out of other seats is easy.
The Sportbrake's trump card, and the reason that one purchases a vehicle like this, is its cargo space. With the seats up, the Jag boasts an impressive 31.7 cubic feet of volume, up from 19.1 in the sedan. The roofline affects the opening, but loading is simplified with a hands-free power liftgate. Folding the rear seats down in their 40/20/40 configuration expands available storage to a whopping 69.7 cubic feet, with more storage beneath the false floor. The cargo area will easily swallow two bicycles, or at least six large suitcases.
The Jaguar XF Sportbrake is decently equipped as standard, featuring a heated steering wheel and front seats with available ventilation and heating in the rear. Dual-zone climate control is standard, with four-zone available. A push-to-start button is also fitted, along with keyless entry, while a hands-free power liftgate adds convenience to loading duties. Self-leveling rear suspension balances heavy loads for better stability, and with park sensors front and rear and numerous available driver aids, the XF is safe too. Among these assists are forward collision warning with auto emergency braking, lane-keep assist, and blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert. A park assist system, 360-degree parking camera, and adaptive speed limiter for the cruise control are also available.
The Sportbrake's infotainment system is accessed through a newly-available 10-inch touchscreen. This is connected to audio supplied by Meridian, which is comprised of 11 speakers dotted around the cabin. Two USB ports, Bluetooth connectivity, and Jaguar's InTouch smartphone integration system are the available sources for media, while a hard drive is also fitted for storage. A 4G WiFi hotspot is also included, but Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are not. Satellite radio is standard on S models and optional in the base Prestige trim. Navigation is standard for both trims and can be voice-activated. While the updated infotainment system is a step in the right direction, it ultimately misses out on some key features, while user-friendliness could be improved.
No J.D. Power reliability rating is currently available for the XF Sportbrake, but no recalls have been issued by the NHTSA, either. Jaguar covers the wagon with a standard five-year/60,000-mile basic and drivetrain warranty, which also includes roadside assistance and complimentary maintenance.
The XF Sportbrake has not yet been tested by either the IIHS or the NHTSA and therefore has not had any crash test results published thus far. At least various advanced driver-assist features are standard, including forward collision warning, automatic braking, lane-keep assist, blind-spot monitoring, a surround-view camera, cruise control, and a parking assist system. Front, side, and curtain airbags are installed, and LATCH anchors are present in the rear.
The Jaguar XF Sportbrake is by no means the best available wagon in the segment. Sub-par refinement, a less-than-accommodating driver's seat, and a shortage of commonplace infotainment connectivity solutions like Apple CarPlay and Android Auto all hold the XF back. However, it is spacious and fairly economical with respectable mpg figures. A faster model with more dynamic acceleration is available in the S too, and in a world full of turbocharged variants, a supercharged family wagon is just damn cool. Yes, Mercedes offers better options, more luxury, and an arguably better badge, but as an alternative that is still good enough to stick with the establishment in key areas like cargo space and basic equipment, the Jag is a great choice. Not everyone wants to fall in line by simply buying the best in class. Rather, sometimes it's the failures and foibles of a vehicle that give it character, and this XF Sportbrake is most certainly rich in both. Not perfect, not the best, but good enough and a great looking change from the norm.
The XF Sportbrake starts at $64,575 before tax, licensing, registration, and Jaguar's standard $995 destination charge. This gets you plenty of standard tech, a 2.0-liter turbo-four, and 19-inch wheels. Its more powerful sibling, the supercharged S variant, starts from $71,215 and upgrades a number of the standard features, while also throwing in 20-inch rims and a unique body styling kit. Both feature eight-speed auto gearboxes and all-wheel-drive only. Fully loaded, you can expect to pay over $75,000 for all available options.
As a premium luxury wagon, the XF's base price is already fairly high. Considering its bigger and less comfortable wheels, inferior fuel economy, and more noise, the top S trim is unworthy of your hard-earned cash. Instead, we'd go for the standard Prestige model and add the Vision Assist package, which upgrades the headlights to adaptive LEDs and adds auto high beams, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic detection, emergency braking, and lane-keep assist - the most important additions to the S model. With the Prestige's standard rearview camera, keyless entry, a power liftgate, leather interior, navigation, and dual-zone climate control, this would be a perfectly specced Sportbrake with compelling value, still being considerably cheaper than the S.
The Jaguar is not in the same league as the Mercedes when it comes to refinement, luxury, or even power, especially when you consider the available AMG variant. The Mercedes offers a quieter cabin, better legroom, and a more comfortable place to sit for both the driver and other occupants. In base form, the Merc is also almost as powerful as the top Jag offering, producing 362 hp and 369 lb-ft from its 3.0-liter twin-turbo V6. All-wheel-drive is also standard here, but the automatic gearbox has an extra gear, making it especially quiet when cruising. The Jag does pull some points back with a bigger cargo area and a lower base price, but the awkward infotainment system and general quality lags far behind the Merc. Unless cargo capacity is a top priority, we'd feel much more relaxed signing a cheque for the E-Class.
No longer the preserve of grandparents and European architects, Volvo's offerings are now more advanced and trendy than ever before. Gorgeous design, great build quality, and a widely publicized commitment to increased safety have helped grow the Swedish brand into a tour de force that matches - and in some cases betters - the usual German offerings. The V90 is no exception and includes essentially all the Jaguar's optional safety features as standard. Matching cargo space and more standard features like satellite radio also make for a compelling argument in favor of the pretty Swedish wagon. In addition, if you don't need all-wheel-drive capability, the V90 is available in front-wheel-drive guise, saving a huge chunk of change - over ten grand, to be more specific. The base 2.0-liter turbo model is also much more economical, although it does lose out in the power stakes. Its four-wheel-drive top trim will boost the twin-charged four-pot over 315hp, add a huge suite of options, and still cost less than the Jag. It's a no-brainer.