According to the Jaguar ads, half the country is queuing up to test drive the new F-Type. It probably won’t disappoint either, given how attractive it is and what a delight it is to drive. But there’s a deal-breaker: practicality. The F-Type only has two seats and it has a tiny boot, making it great fun to test drive but not really suited for everyday use.
If only Jaguar made an F-Type with four doors, five seats, lots of space inside and a big boot. Well, would you believe it, it does. Enter, drifting in sideways with the subtlety of a smack in the face, the Jaguar XFR-S Sportbrake; a sensible estate masquerading as a smoking hot sports car.
Jaguar has shoehorned in the 550hp 5.0-litre supercharged V8 from the top-line F-Type Coupé R, along with some of its gearbox and suspension bits, to create a supercar in disguise as an estate. It makes the same snorting, bellowing sound effects as the F-Type and, despite the extra mass of its pretty extravagent bodykit, it’s almost as fast. The F-Type can do 186mph and so can the XFR-S Sportbrake. The F-Type does 0-62mph in 4.2 seconds, while the XF is only half a second behind. Both also have launch control, sport driving modes and paddleshifters. Most of the tech that makes the F-Type innovative is here, too, even down to a computer-controlled rear differential that does its best to find enough tyre grip to make use of all the power you’re deploying, or lets you control them in a smoky drift with inch-perfect precision.
OK, the XF isn’t a low-slung sports car; it isn’t made from aluminium, and it doesn’t have a bespoke chassis so, try as it might, it doesn’t feel as racy through corners as its two-seat sibling. But it’s still pretty able, and much more focused than the regular Jag estate. The steering is sharp, its poise is fantastic, the roll well-controlled and feedback impressive. This could just have been a prosaic estate car with a ballistic-grade engine but, to Jaguar’s credit, it’s so much more.
The impressive part is how Jaguar has managed to keep all that estate car stuff intact. You’d think they’d have had to lose a bit of boot at least, but it still has 550 litres of space with the seats up and 1,675 litres with them down, making it larger than a Volvo V70. An estate version of a selfish sports car that’s bigger than the archetypal socially-conscious Volvo estate? Believe it.
The bit that lets the Jag down is the interior, which is showing the XF’s age. The contrast with all the F-Type’s trinket-like niceties is stark. You also sit low in the F-Type and feel like you’re in a proper sports car; here, you’re perched up high and feel more middle-management than raffish cad. For all its five-seat boasts, it’s not actually that big in the back, either. But at least you can actually fit passengers inside this one.
What Jaguar should do is point out to those people in the queue for an F-Type that the XFR-S Sportbrake is also on sale. Five seats instead of two would cut down the wait and keep all those clamouring for a real world, kids and supermarket-friendly 550hp sports car happy. They could even clinch it with the price: £82,495 means the F-Type Estate is £2,500 cheaper than the Coupé. People love a bargain, you know.
Richard Aucock works for motoringresearch.com