Jaguar XF Sportbrake: Indian summer
For once it was the Indians and not the 7th Cavalry who rushed to the rescue.
Since passing into Asian ownership, the fortunes of the iconic but seriously ailing Jaguar brand have been dramatically revived. The turn-round that previous owners Ford could not manage has been spectacularly achieved by The India-based Tata company in a few short years, saving hundreds if not thousands of British jobs in the process.
The flagship XJ is truly magnificent but it is the financially more accessible XF that has been rolling off dealer forecourts in truly impressive numbers, providing strong competition for the until now firmly entrenched German triumverate of Mercedes, BMW and Audi. The Jag is available in saloon and sportbrake versions– that’s estate car in you and I speak – and both renditions are sleek and truly handsome.
It was the five-door that I borrowed for a truly delightful week of mixed motoring, from motorway to back lanes to city streets.
“Smooth” is the best word to describe the Jaguar experience. Given the fashionably low, sweeping roofline, it’s not the easiest of vehicles to get in and out of but once behind the wheel there’s an air of luxury and comfort. Under all but the very worse conditions, driving it is a highly pleasurable, stress-free experience.
You’ll hunt in vain for a conventional gear lever. In it’s place is a big, shiny polished metal knob while finger-tip flappy paddles provide a manual over-ride to the car’s automatic gear changes.
Sporting saloon or luxury limo? Well, the XF manages to be both things at the same time, with an entry level £33,445 model in a range that tops out with a £65,440 5.0 litre V8. The eight Sportbrake versions cost from £32,945 to £79,329.
Comprehensively re-modelled for 2015, the Sportbrake handles like a dream and imparts a feel-good factor to driver and passenger alike but has less carrying capacity than its key competitors and cannot match their fuel efficiency either while the entry level 2.2 diesels are a little under-powered, leaving the more sporty 3.0 V6 diesels as the wise choice.
The Sportbrake is well equipped, as you would expect, down to such touches as a push-button electronic boot closer.
Like the X-Type that preceded it, the XF has all the makings of a long term motoring classic.