WHEN a car welcomes you the very first time you get behind the wheel you know you are on to
WHEN a car welcomes you the very first time you get behind the wheel you know you are on to a good thing.
I have only experienced this a few times during many years of driving all kinds of vehicles, once notably on a trip to Ireland to test a new small estate car.
A photographer and myself had no time at all to acclimatise ourselves to the car in question: it was waiting for us at Dublin airport and we jumped straight in.
But by the time we reached the lovely Wicklow Mountains about an hour’s drive from the Irish capital, we felt more than at home in the estate due mainly to its welcoming ambience inside the cabin and its overall user-friendly manner.
I felt this welcoming glow again this week when I sat down in the driver’s seat of the Jaguar XF Sportbrake R-Sport. Its low-slung elegance and easy manner struck me straight away.
And when I eased out into traffic or approached a motorway, the Jaguar XF Sportbrake exemplified that rather special quality of a car that holds its place on the road with dignity and some pride.
This is to do with the fact that Jaguar, indeed the car company Jaguar Land Rover, is enjoying what looks like a full renaissance around the world.
This new-found confidence is reflected in its products, and certainly in cars such as the Jaguar XF. Which is exactly how things should be.
If a design team gets the mix right with a new model — and the XF is a great example, though the Sportbrake estate version was a while coming — then the buyers will come, too.
The competition is fierce, probably fiercer than it has ever been, and yet JLR is proving — as I alluded to in an earlier column — that the brand is standing tall again around the globe. So what does the Jaguar XF Sportbrake offer the driver — apart from a classy ride?
Well, this version was the XF Sportbrake R-Sport, which translates to a big, long estate car with bags of room, especially in the rear where there is additional headroom that is more limited in the saloon version. And yet, the R-Sport tag gives it that necessary “oomph” that so often makes all the difference while driving on British roads today.
Most of all, I suppose, on our crowded roads, drivers crave space: space to manoeuvre properly, park properly, to cruise comfortably on motorways or maintain a presence on major roads without intimidation from other road-users.
Happily, many motorists still maintain an amount of discipline on our roads but nowadays there are the bullies.
I suppose they are the same people who like to bully whatever they are doing in life.
The advantage of such a prestige car as the Jaguar XF is that you have the range of performance and power to get yourself out of trouble if necessary, for example, when overtaking safely and getting from A to B in some sustained comfort.
We took the Jaguar XF Sportbrake into central London at the weekend, a round trip of some 170 miles and I have to say the car drove like a dream: there is no other way of putting it.
Traffic was mercifully light — compared with driving into the capital during the working week — and the car’s stop-start fuel saver was a boon.
But mostly this was new Jaguar driving with a taste of the old Jaguar magic that established this great marque in the first place: assured, classic, comfortable and safe.
And the remarkable thing about this car is that it costs less than other prestige cars that attach an appreciable premium for the privilege of ownership. For the Sportbrake you get a choice of 161bhp or 197bhp variants of the 2.2-litre diesel engine, or 237bhp or 271bhp for the 3.0-litre V6 diesel.
My preference would be the latter perhaps for the Sportbrake though I actually really like the 2.2-litre diesel version, which has hidden depths of torque (pulling power) for a relatively small engine. I found the eight-speed automatic transmission easy to operate — simply turning a “dial” knob on the console to select drive, reverse, sport modes.
Actually it may be that to improve the XF the scattergun array of controls on the steering wheel could be simplified to give such ease of access as the auto gear change (there were paddles on the XF Sportbrake). But overall the driver cannot have many issues of “driveability”.
This car — with its initial warm welcome and its warm colour (Italian Racing Red which I loved) — has to be on your list if you are considering buying a prestige car (not least for the glorious Jaguar name).
Test car: basic price — £36,495
With options fitted: £42,803
Standard spec includes:
Exterior and interior R-Sport badging
Gloss black window surrounds
Seven-inch colour touch-screen display
Navigation system with HDD mapping and route guidance
Options fitted include:
Italian Racing Red metallic exterior paint (£1,300)