Jaguar XF Sportbrake review

With our Prime Min­i-ster herding dozens of industry leaders to India recently, it’s clear the balance of power has shifted in this centuries-old relationship. This is particularly relevant in the car industry now that Tata, the Bombay conglomerate, owns two of our most famous companies-Jaguar and Land Rover-and runs them at quite a profit, too.

It seemed fitting that a journey to the archetypal English country-house hotel Lucknam Park-to learn how to cook proper curries-should take place in a Jaguar XF Sportbrake, the excellent new estate car from this blossoming Anglo-Indian concern.

As with the XF saloon, you get a lovely cabin wreathed in chrome and wood and a gear lever shaped like a tiffin box, which rises majestically out of the centre console when you switch it on. Being a Jaguar, it’s stuffed with standard kit that’s often an option on its German competitors, including vindaloo-warm heated leather seats, digital radio and satnav.

However, I have problems with the motor-powered tailgate that relegates to history all that unseemly using of arms for leverage. First, my arms are entirely capable of boot oper-ation. Second, the motors powering the boot sounded as if, in a previous life, they operated the bow doors on the Pride of Bilbao car ferry.

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The third problem is that the boot has sensors to stop the lid from crushing your head should you absentmindedly place it in the way. That’s all well and good, but if your boot is filled with a muddy dog, pushchairs, potties, cricket kit, wellies, pink plastic wands, scooters and other familial necessities, a good slam is often called for. Therefore, our dim labrador dolefully watches the boot come down postprandial, sees it crank open again due to the presence of all that stuff, concludes ‘walk’s back on!’, and whooshes out. Poor training on the dog front, I’ll admit, but annoying.

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Although the car’s ghastly name suggests owners will have a predilection for hearty Gore-Texed activity rather than carrying bags of garden rubbish to the tip, it is actually a good old-fashioned load lugger with a boot about the same size as a BMW 5 Series, but smaller than a Mercedes-Benz E-Class.

The car does its workmanlike business but it looks stylish and elegant, too, with long, arcing pieces of buffed aluminium and blacked-out windows. It reminds me of one of those mothers who always arrive on time at the school gates, looking impossibly well turned out and serene, despite the chaotic brood swirling around them. With the strong diesel engine ploughing along, and an eight-speed gearbox that ensures you’re never far from fearsome acceleration, the Sport­-brake is actually fairly sporty for such a big car. Perhaps the name isn’t so bad after all.

However, with a vat of Kukkur Lahabdar Kabab Ruwagan curry squared away in the boot, comfortable cruising in the softest riding mode (always a brilliant Jaguar trait) was more the order of the day on the return journey, and the Sport­brake is peerless at this. These Anglo-Indian ventures are turning out rather well.

On the road

Jaguar XF Sportbrake 2.2 D 200 Luxury 5dr
Price £36,440
Official combined fuel consumption 55.4mpg
Power 200bhp
0-60mph 8.2 seconds
In the town A yummy mummy, with added practicality
In the country The most stylish way to get rubbish to the tip

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