Surprising? Not in a Jaguar.
Like its sedan sibling, the XF Sportbrake’s steering is quick, responsive and precise, although some might want more road feel. The V6 provides plenty of power, although the transmission shifts more for comfort than speed in its standard mode. Shifts seem designed to enhance fuel economy and not jar occupants. Switching to dynamic mode awakens the fierce beast within, and makes for a far more vigorous drive. This is when you’ll want to push this kitty hard in corners and experience the joys of oversteer. It’s a hoot. Additionally, the XF’s the torque vectoring system, which individually slows the inner wheels while cornering to improve stability. It’s all enhanced by a boatload of safety systems, including Heads-Up Display, Autonomous Emergency Braking, Adaptive Cruise Control, Lane Keeping Assist and Semi-Automated Parking.
It’s all wrapped in a wardrobe that’s arguably more fetching than its sedan sibling or the F-Pace. The Sportbrake’s sophisticated face, menacing eyes and long hood work well with this car’s long, lithe proportions and low stance, lending it a sportier persona than the F-Pace.
At the same time, it hauls as much as its crossover cousin despite being 8.8 inches longer and 6.1 inches lower. While the F-Pace wins with all the seats in place, if only by 1.8 cubic feet, the Sportbrake wins with the seats folded, beating the F-Pace by 5.7 cubic feet.
But beyond its ability to carry stuff, this Jag is surprisingly good at carrying humans. The Sportbrake provides ample space for four adults, with a surprising amount of rear leg space — something usually lacking in too many European cars. Nevertheless, its mammoth panoramic sunroof enhances this car’s feeling of space.
Cabin ambience lacks the hackneyed wood-trimmed warmth of older Jaguars. Instead, the instrument panel mimics that of the revised XF sedan. The carbon and metal trim and dark smoked wood perfectly frame the 10.2-inch touchscreen that uses on-screen commands rather than physical buttons. This cleans up the instrument panel, lending the interior a uniquely modern minimalist European feel. And kudos to the 17-speaker, 825-watt Meridian digital surround sound system that transforms the Sportbrake into your favorite concert venue.
Alas, the Sportbrake isn’t cheap, but its demeanor — vehement, polished, minimalist, upscale, athletic, utilitarian, yet fast — ensures you’ll have fun every time you climb behind the wheel. And no one will mistake you for driving anything vanilla.
Standing apart from the crowd always has its price, and this case it’s well worth it.
2018 JAGUAR XF SPORTBRAKE
- Base prices: $70,450-$72,100
- Engine: Supercharged 3.0-liter V6
- Horsepower: 380
- Torque: 332 lbs.-ft.
- EPA fuel economy (city/highway): 18/25 mpg
- Wheelbase: 116.5 inches
- Length: 195 inches
- Cargo capacity: 31.7-69.7 cubic feet
- Curb weight: 4,045 pounds