2018 Jaguar XF Sportbrake S AWD Review - Sultry Styling, British Quirks
2018 Jaguar XF Sportbrake
Automotive journalists are often accused of falling in love with wagons just because of their bodystyle. Sometimes, however, a wagon is likable for reasons that have nothing to do with shape.
Take the 2018 Jaguar XF Sportbrake. Sure, it’s a sexy looking wagon, but Jaguar hasn’t forgotten that there’s more to life that just being really, really good looking.
Putting 380 horsepower and 332 lb-ft of torque from a 3.0-liter supercharged V6 at one’s disposal doesn’t hurt. Nor does matching that engine to an eight-speed automatic transmission and standard all-wheel drive with a rear-wheel bias and torque vectoring. An air suspension underpins it all – mustn’t have one’s suit rumpled on the ride, after all. Speaking of ride, the car does so on 20-inch wheels.
It all works together on road. The XF is a blast to drive, with straight-line acceleration that backs up the listed numbers, and nimble handling that seems sedan-like. The ride can be on the stiff side, but it’s still pleasant enough on the expressway that the well-heeled commuter won’t mind.
Flick the drive-mode switch into dynamic mode, and the Sportbrake becomes even more engaging, with even sharper responses – this thing is just a joy to drive. Not something you’d normally say about a high-priced luxury station wagon, but Jaguar didn’t just slap a sport badge on it and call it a day.
Styling a wagon is always tricky – don’t want to get too boring and boxy, or too busy and fussy. Jaguar strikes a balance here, with a slickly sloping rear roofline contrasting with a long, purposeful hood up front. Slit headlights and a good-sized cross-hatch grille complete the look.
The interior story is more complicated. The simple yet sleek styling of the exterior carries over to the cockpit in some ways. The dash is laid out simply, and the infotainment system is cleanly integrated. Even the pop-up circular shifter (more on that in a minute) doesn’t stand out too much. HVAC controls are a bit fussier thanks to a litany of buttons and just one knob.
The instrument cluster also looks simple at first glance, but that’s deceiving, since the gauges are customizable. There is a bit of a learning curve to this function but, once mastered, it’s fairly effortless and you’re able to do some cool stuff, such as overlay the navigation map.
You can also customize the touchscreen for the infotainment system – just like you can with your smartphone. It’s one of the better-looking systems out there, and it mostly works fine, but it did display some buggy behavior when playing songs from my Bluetooth-paired phone.
Ah, bugs. Yes. Well, it is a British car, after all. Insert Lucas joke here.
I actually had to chat with Jaguar about four issues that cropped up during my time with the car, including the Bluetooth problem. Turns out two of the four “issues” were not issues at all, but features. Quirky features. The last issue may have been a combination of my driving style clashing with the safety nannies.
The first issue that came up involved beeps. Specifically, I kept hearing a gentle double beep that occurred at seemingly random moments. The radio volume would also lower. No warning lights would crop up, however. It took a phone call to the PR department to find out that this beep was the speed-camera alert.
So yeah, it’s a feature, and one that is likely explained to buyers when they purchase the car. Okay, no big deal. But at least once, the lane-keep assist system pushed back against me via the steering wheel, even though I had made sure to use my turn signal. I was told that perhaps I moved the wheel too quickly and the system hadn’t caught up.
That was a little more Lucas-like. Which brings me to the last issue. Jaguars shut off automatically if you open the door while the car isn’t in Park. This I knew. But at least twice, the car shut down with the shifter in Park and the doors closed. What the hell?
Turns out I had stumbled upon another safety feature that most owners would likely learn about at delivery. See, I’d taken my seatbelt off, since I was safely parked. Doing that in certain situations can lead to an engine shutoff, for safety’s sake.
There you have it. A Jaguar does some weird things in terms of electronics, and at least two of those things are actually programmed in. Even the potential bugs were mildly annoying at worst – nothing was going to strand me.
Buyers dropping $70K plus on a station wagon expect a load of content, and they’ll get it with this car. Standard features on my S AWD trim unit included a spoiler, rain-sensing wipers, LED headlamps, heated front seats, heated steering wheel, electronically adjustable steering wheel, dual-zone climate control, keyless entry and starting, power tailgate, premium audio, Bluetooth, USB, navigation, front and rear park assist, lane-keep assist, driver-condition monitor, and blind-spot monitoring.
Options included the red paint ($565), 20-inch premium wheels ($1,020), an exterior black package ($360 for blacked-out grille and grille surround, side vents, and tailgate finisher), technology package ($3,265; 10-inch infotainment screen, navigation, customizable gauges, wi-fi hotspot, surround sound), driver-assistance package ($3,495; adaptive cruise control, traffic-sign recognition, adaptive speed limiter, 360-degree parking assist, 360-degree surround camera, blind-spot assist and park assist), comfort/convenience package ($1,805; heated and cooled front seats, heated rear seats, soft door close), premium interior package ($2,860; four-zone climate control, premium headliner, premium floor mats, rear sunblind, and ambient interior lighting).
Whew. Told you it was a boatload of content. Arguably unnecessary content, but luxury buyers like to be coddled. Whatever the case, it all adds up to an $85,000 station wagon. A similarly equipped Volvo V90 does undercut the XF in price, as does a similarly equipped Mercedes-Benz E-Class wagon, albeit not by as much.
If I were a well-heeled commuter with a case of crossover blues, the XF Sportbrake would be one potential cure. It’s stylish, quick, and luxurious, plus it’s loaded (perhaps overloaded) with all the standard content that one expects at this price point. Even the quirky electronic behavior wasn’t a problem – some of what I experienced is programmed in, and the one bug I experienced was an inconvenience but not a deal breaker.
Just because a car is a wagon, doesn’t make it a good car. However, this particular wagon is a very good car. The price is hefty, but the country club set has its crossover cure.
[Images © 2019 Tim Healey/TTAC]
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