Great British Cars That America Missed Out On: Jaguar XFR-S Sportbrake

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Jaguar had never made a sporty wagon before the XFR-S. We don't think it's going to be its last...

Jaguar has a long history as a maker of desirable performance cars. It's a heritage that stretches all the way back to the 1930s, when SS Cars (as Jaguar was known back then) was building sporty roadsters. Unsurprisingly, then, Jaguar and its incarnations in the past have made quite a few noteworthy speed machines over the last 80 or so years, across a wide array of bodystyles.

The XK120 and XKE (the latter being better known outside of the States as the 'E-Type') filled the role of the racy two-seaters, with the S-Type and XJR giving the Leaping Cat a sports sedan with the teeth to take on the might of AMG and the M Division. What Jaguar has never had a stab at, though, is a sporty station wagon. Yes, there were versions of the XJS and XJR with bigger trunks, but they weren't official Jaguar projects, so they don't count. In fact, the closest Jaguar had ever come to making a sporty wagon was with a one-off prototype of the old XJ40 that was built in the 1980s. That is, until it gave the feral XFR-S Sportbrake the green light...As its name suggests, the Jaguar XFR-S Sportbrake shares a lot with the XFR-S sedan.

Under the hood, for instance, is the same supercharged 5.0-liter V8 that produces 545 hp – a fairly standard output, in a world where Audi can get 600 hp out of an RS6 Avant's twin-turbocharged V8, but pretty startling when the car was launched in 2013. Likewise, the XFR-S Sportbrake came with all the bold, brash styling details that we'd grown accustomed to from the XFR-S, like those not-exactly-subtle 20-inch alloy wheels, gargantuan air intakes in the front bumper and carbon fiber-shrouded vents in the front fenders. To really make the Sportbrake stand out, you could even spec it in the incredibly bright 'French Racing Blue' paint scheme.

Flashy styling touches and a punchy engine, however, only go so far in making a desirable high performance load lugger. What really helps sell a car like this is the way it drives, and Jaguar managed to pull out all of the stops with this one. Despite just squeezing under the two-tonne kerb weight barrier, the Jaguar XFR-S Sportbrake is pretty good fun to hustle at speed. Yes, it'll start to buckle under its bulk when you really push it, but it's wonderfully balanced when you don't treat it as a track car. Not bad, for a car with a direct lineage to the first-generation Lincoln LS! It also helps that, even by today's standards, the Jaguar XFR-S Sportbrake holds up remarkably well as a long distance cruiser.

The eight-speed ZF automatic gearbox is smooth-shifting and suits that mighty supercharged V8 perfectly, there's good noise insulation (though not enough to fully mask the engine's throaty warble) and the suspension setup that does such a good job at controlling body movement doesn't really compromise the ride quality. Yes, going on about usability and refinement isn't exactly what gets a majority of gear heads excited, but it's worth pointing out that this monster of a station wagon can do the everyday stuff too. Remember, this is Jaguar's first ever attempt at a sporty production wagon, using technology that, in some instances, has pre-Millennium origins.

Factor in that Jaguar's a drop in the ocean in comparison to BMW, Audi and Mercedes, and it makes the XFR-S Sportbrake an even more impressive achievement. And we can't wait to see what Jaguar can rustle up with the second-generation XFR-S Sportbrake. Just promise us, Jaguar, that you'll bring that one to the States, please?

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