2018 Jaguar XF Sportbrake S AWD Review - Sultry Styling, British Quirks

Fast Facts

2018 Jaguar XF Sportbrake

3.0-liter supercharged V6 (380 horsepower @ 6,500 rpm; 332 lb-ft @ 4,500 rpm)
Eight-speed automatic, all-wheel drive
18 city / 25 highway / 21 combined (EPA Rating, MPG)
Base Price
$70,450 (U.S)
As Tested
$84,815 (U.S.)
Prices include $995 destination charge in the United States. The Jaguar XF Sportbrake is not sold in Canada.
2018 jaguar xf sportbrake s awd review sultry styling british quirks

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.

Let’s explain.

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]

Comments
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  • Legacygt Legacygt on Jan 23, 2019

    How does a wagon review not contain a picture of the cargo area or a discussion of cargo room. While much of this car is interesting, everything that makes it unique takes place behind the C pillar. Yet the review doesn't really go further back than the dashboard.

    • Jagboi Jagboi on Jan 23, 2019

      I have driven one in the UK. Cargo area is generous, 2 large suitcases can fit with the rear seat up, but the rear seat does fold forward for more cargo room. It is more style heavy than cargo heavy, so the emphasis is on a good looking car with more cargo room than the sedan, rather then the way cargo capacity was emphasized in a Ford Country Squire of many years ago. It's a similar equation to the MB E Class and BMW 5 series wagons. From the drivers seat you'd never know it was a wagon, the road noise and handling is identical to the sedan version. I didn't experience any of the electrical things the reviewer did; but things like lane departure can be turned off if you want. Both the displays and driving experience are very customizable to your individual preferences, and it depends if you're in normal or sport mode what comes on and off. Again, all customizable for personal preference. I never tried opening the door with it running in drive, so I have no idea if it shuts off.

  • Cimarron typeR Cimarron typeR on Feb 01, 2019

    late comment here, but I've had the same infotainment,shifter in our 2017 LR, and its been trouble free. Shame on the reviewer about not knowing about the car turning the car off and automatically putting the car in park when the door is open.It's to prevent the car from running over the car. Silly ,but you can blame idiots in older MB/FCA products for running themselves over whilst their car is in drive ,like the poor actor from Star Trek who ran over himself w/ a JGC A good salesman would've gone over this during delivery. Of course auto journos are above this, because they're experts of course.

  • Arthur Dailey For the Hornet less expensive interior materials/finishings, decontent just a little, build it in North America and sell it for less and everyone should be happy with both the Dodge and the Alfa.
  • Bunkie I so wanted to love this car back in the day. At the time I owned a GT6+ and I was looking for something more modern. But, as they say, this car had *issues*. The first of which was the very high price premium for the V8. It was a several thousand dollar premium over the TR-7. The second was the absolutely awful fuel economy. That put me off the car and I bought a new RX-7 which, despite the thirsty rotary, still got better mileage and didn’t require premium fuel. I guess I wasn’t the only one who had this reaction because, two years later, I test-drove a leftover that had a $2,000 price cut. I don’t remember being impressed, the RX-7 had spoiled me with how easy it was to own. The TR-8 didn’t feel quick to me and it felt heavy. The first-gen RX was more in line with the idea of a light car that punched above its weight. I parted ways with both the GT6+ and the RX7 and, to this day, I miss them both.
  • Fred Where you going to build it? Even in Texas near Cat Springs they wanted to put up a country club for sport cars. People complained, mostly rich people who had weekend hobby farms. They said the noise would scare their cows. So they ended up in Dickinson, where they were more eager for development of any kind.
  • MaintenanceCosts I like the styling of this car inside and out, but not any of the powertrains. Give it the 4xe powertrain - or, better yet, a version of that powertrain with the 6-cylinder Hurricane - and I'd be very interested.
  • Daniel J I believe anyone, at any level, should get paid as much as the market will bear. Why should CEOs have capped salaries or compensation but middle management shouldn't? If companies support poor CEOs and poor CEOs keep getting rewarded, it's up to the consumer and investors to force that company to either get a better CEO or to reduce the salary of that CEO. What I find hilarious is that consumers will continue to support companies where the pay for the CEOs is very high. And the same people complain. I stopped buying from Amazon during the pandemic. Everyone happily buys from them but the CEO makes bank. Same way with Walmart and many other retailers. Tim Cook got 100m in compensation last year yet people line up to buy Iphones. People who complain and still buy the products must not really care that much.
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