Many years ago teens yearned for the day they’d buy a station wagon just like dad’s. Then along came the new family haulers, minivans and later the more rugged SUVs. So who still wants a wagon these days?
Well Jaguar, among others, has found some folks still do. The British carmaker’s XF Sportbrake is designed for those who want the comfort, style and supercharged performance of a sedan, plus cargo-carrying capability that rivals some of the SUVs. And, hey, the low-slung wagon is easier for the kids and dogs to climb into.
The Sportbrake is the first wagon from Jaguar since the X-Type Sportwagon, which ceased production in 2009 after five years. The odd name, by the way, stems from the old English “shooting brake,” a carriage of sorts that hauled hunters and their gear. Go figure.
Surely this Sportbrake bears no resemblance to yesteryear’s. This Sportbrake is not your father’s wagon, either. It’s way cooler and will turn heads with its smooth edges, sleek profile and long barrel snout. At the rear, distinctive wraparound LED taillights add a nice touch.
This wagon is based on the XF midsize luxury sedan, and has the same wheelbase but is about 10 inches longer and 400 pounds heavier. The U.S. gets only one trim level for now, but it’s the well-equipped, supercharged S version.
It gets the same engine as the XF sedan, a 3.0-liter V-6 engine good for 380 hp and 332 pound-feet of torque. An innovative all-wheel-drive system is standard, along with an 8-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters for those who want to regulate the acceleration.
Sportbrake launches with authority and gets up to 60 mph in 5.3 seconds, competitive but a couple of tenths slower than the lighter sedan. On the highway it’s smooth and quiet, with plenty of midrange torque for passing.
On the curves, it stays flat enough and grips the road confidently, benefiting from its 50-50 weight balance and an adaptive suspension which adjusts to your driving style. For crisper performance, you’ll want to flip to Dynamic mode: Suspension stiffens, steering gets more precise and the throttle and shifter responses quicken. Dials on the dash brighten to reflect the sportier mode.
Fuel economy isn’t bad, considering the herd of horses, at 18 mpg city, 25 highway, for a combined average in the low 20s.
Active types, however, may be more interested in how the wagon performs as a utilitarian vehicle. While it drives like a sedan, it has the cargo space of some premium SUVs: 37 cubic feet in the rear, 70 cubes with the rear seats folded down. And, the roof can accommodate 220 pounds, too. That’s plenty strong enough for surfboards, kayaks and camping rear.
Sportbrake offers an activity key, a rubber-like bracelet that can lock and unlock the car – no need to take the key fob onto the beach. The tailgate also has a gesture-control feature for the guy who gets stuck with the cooler.
Inside is all the comfort and niceties of the XF sedan, with supportive seats wrapped in two-tone leather. Rear seats are heated, too, and offer enough room for adults. And a full-length glass-panel sunroof fills the cabin with natural light.
Jaguar’s new and improved infotainment system is included here, with standard 8-inch or optional 10-inch screen. It’s markedly better than Jag’s older system, displays better graphics, but is still not the easiest on the market to navigate.
As for driver visibility, some neck stretching is required because of thick A and B pillars and a steeply raked rear windshield. On the plus side, there are plenty of active safety features to help out, like blind-spot monitor, lane departure warning with lane-keep assist, parking assist and automatic emergency braking.
While wagons won’t rival SUV and crossover sales anytime soon, it’s easy to see they do fill a niche market. The Sportbrake, along with foes like Mercedes E400 wagon and Volvo XC90, should top your shopping list. It’s not an Oldsmobile Vista Cruiser, but Dad would be proud.
2018 Jaguar XF Sportbrake S
As tested: $84,100 (includes $3,000 technology package; $3,500 driver assist package; $2,800 premium interior upgrade
What’s all the excitement about? Jaguar stretched its XF luxury sedan into a sporty and versatile wagon
Powertrain: 3.0-liter supercharged V-6 engine with an output of 380 hp, paired with 8-speed automatic
How’s the performance? 0-60 mph in 5.3 seconds; all-wheel-drive is standard
What about fuel economy? EPA-rated at 18 mpg city, 25 highway, for 22 combined
Cool fact: The name Sportbrake comes from “shooting brake,” an old British term for a horse-driven carriage or car that carried hunters up front, guns and gear in the rear