Read Jaguar's taglines for the new XF Sportbrake, and you might well find yourself wanting to take a few deep breaths: "The spirit of a sports car, the features of a luxury saloon and the versatility of an estate car..." The next line mentioned "suiting the most active lifestyle", at which point I bounced my head off the table and went to have a quiet cry. Why? Because the Sportbrake doesn't need this kind of mindless cliche to make people realise what it is. A brilliant estate car.
Everything stacks up quickly for this new Jag, from the moment you walk up to it. For a start, if a car looks rubbish, then very few people will care that it has class-leading boot capacity. Well, the Sportbrake doesn't have the biggest boot in the world, but it sure as hell looks great, a swoopy shape and short windowline making it slightly menacing to look at. Good. (In fact, I'd go so far as to say that the estate XF looks better than the saloon.) That's not to say it isn't practical; this is an XF with added boot, extrapolated from a car that sits somewhere between the standard German sizes. So, slightly bigger than, say, a BMW 3-Series Touring or Mercedes C-Class Estate and a smidgen smaller than a 5-Series or E-Class wagon. Take it as read, unless you're a dealer of antique bookcases, that the Sportbrake will handle pretty much anything you're likely to throw at it.
There'll be four diesels available from launch, with a 335bhp supercharged V6 petrol arriving later. The diesels come in batches of two, with 163bhp and 200bhp versions of Jag's 2.2-litre four-cylinder, and 240bhp and 271bhp options for the 3.0-litre V6; prices range from £31,940 for a 2.2 (163) SE Business to a hefty £51,505 for the current top-spec 3.0 S (271) Portfolio. All versions get an excellent 8spd auto, stop/start and self-levelling rear air suspension as standard, as well as an options list long enough to cause a migraine.
We've got the higher-power V6 with 271bhp and 443lb ft, dripping with decent options, and it's cracking. Refined, quiet, reliably rapid, even if the engine does its best work before 4,000rpm. Surf the torque and make use of the brilliant gearbox from the column-mounted paddles, and you can make this car hustle at hot-hatch-embarrassing pace, even on the lumpiest of B-roads.
But tyre-shredding isn't really what the Sportbrake does best. The engine is all about real-world delivery, which means that while 70mph in eighth gear is a loping 1,500rpm, flatten the throttle, and you will be able to overtake with minimum fuss. The same goes for the suspension: 20-inch rims don't even disturb a pillowy ride that still translates into a car that can happily fling itself around a corner. It's brilliantly judged. Very much a Jag.
So, the shape means that the C-pillar blind spots are wide enough to lose a truck in, and the slinky windowline means that rear-seat passengers feel a bit claustrophobic. It's a bit of a nightmare to parallel park. But the trade-offs are worth it; the Sportbrake makes a convincing case for a rapid, practical, comfortable Jaguar. And makes it well worth a look.
2993cc, V6, RWD, 271bhp, 443lb ft, 46.0mpg, 163g/km CO2, 0-62mph in 6.6secs, 155mph, 1880kg
Lovely looks, relaxing drive and a handy, practical size. A seriously attractive car from Jaguar.