We won’t go out a limb to say the SUV is dead. But we will take a gamble and say that the station wagon, er, shooting-brake, like our 2018 Jaguar XF Sportbrake S AWD, is making a comeback. And for us fans of sports wagons, this rebirth hasn’t come a moment too soon. Walks through dealership service departments show the majority of vehicles on the road and in for service are SUV or crossover-based in nature, with one car for every 10 SUVs on the lift.
But just what is a shooting brake, you ask? It’s a term that was popular in 19th-century Britain. Used by the “sporting set,” it was the name given to carriages and later motorcars that were outfitted to carry shooting parties, along with their long guns, hunting dogs and hopefully, game upon their return. In the case of our Jaguar, the company has modified the name from shooting-to Sportbrake, in a nod to those enthusiast drivers who choose to haul cargo, while at the same time, hauling ass.
Along the way, the Tata-owned brand has joined Mercedes-Benz with their E-Wagon and Volvo with their V90 in bringing an SUV/CUV alternative to this side of the big pond. In they process, the Jaguar also happens to best both of its rivals in terms of performance and looks.
Power for this Jaguar XF Sportbrake comes from the same 3.0-liter 380-horsepower supercharged V6 that finds its way into the Jaguar F type and other brands throughout the Jaguar-Land Rover (JLR) lineup. With ZF 8-speed automatic transmission. It is equipped with Jaguar’s all-wheel-drive system for added grip, and with Intelligent Driveline Dynamics (IDD) to assist with cutting corners in a torque vectoring sort of fashion, while at the same time, helping to make the AWD system offer a more rear-drive style of response.
A lead sled, this wagon is. Self-leveling Integral-Link air suspension levels out the heaviest of loads while the adaptive dynamics with configurable dynamics help to retune the grip and vehicle on the fly. Still at the end of the day, it’s every bit as stout as the XF sedan. Our Jaguar Sportbrake was equipped with intelligent driveline dynamics, which is a form of torque vectoring. The system also allows power to shift back and forth from front to rear to provide the best of both worlds : All-wheel drive from start to rear wheel drive while cruising. Surprisingly at 116.5 inches, it handles very similarly to its sedan sibling,
The 2018 Jaguar XF Sportbrake S AWD as we tested it featured a gorgeously finished interior with two ebony-colored thrones in the front with adjustable lumbar, heating and ventilation. The dashboard featured a totally configurable screen in the instrument pod then measured out to 12.3-inches diagonally. To its right, was a 10-inch center stack display with the controls for navigation, climate, audio and Bluetooth, in addition to the car’s systems settings. This jag even included an activity key for active lifestylers who bike and swim but don’t want to worry about getting a key fob wet during those activities
The roof featured a full-length panoramic sunroof which really opened up the inside appearance which was a good thing with all this black leather that we found ourselves surrounded by. A one-piece polymer rear hatch help the Sportbrake shed some rear weight and maintain a 50:50 weight balance.
The entire rear area is what we would call cavernous, going from 31.7-cubic feet behind the rear seat to 69.7 once the 40:20:40 split rear seats are folded forward.
If this Jaguar XF had a shortcoming, it’s in the controls. We have become tired already, of the submersible drive selector knob that raises to greet you once the ignition switch has been fired. But that’s just a minor quibble that hopefully will be excised with the next generation.
0-60 in 5.3 secs
Our time behind the wheel in the 2018 Jaguar XF Sportbrake S AWD had us feeling like the leaper in the cage, because in addition to having a gorgeous red metallic finish with black enameled alloy wheels that would naturally attract attention, we were getting stared at because we were driving what people essentially knew to be a station wagon.
But, oh what a station wagon.
Power from the 3.0 Liter supercharged V6 came on at a relatively rapid pace as the supercharger wound up. It did manage to kick us back into our black leather-covered seats which we actually wished were tan hides rather than the ebony that our car was equipped with. But it was obvious Jaguar designers were capitalizing on a blackout theme, so there you go.
As equipped, this Jag with its integral-Link suspension featured automatic load leveling that manage to keep its composure regardless of what we were carrying. The adaptive dynamics dampers manage to “Read the road,” while we attempted to cut corners around our favorite driving loop. The results were a station wagon, er, shooting brake that behaves like its sedan sibling.
We still never tire do of being able to throw the transmission into manual (M) mode for some paddle-shifting hijinks that had us pretending we were a former Jaguar F1 driver, even though they haven’t existed for sometime now. But we can still dream.
Of course, we think the brand knows this will be a niche vehicle because everyone is still Jonesed about their Crossovers- and Sport Utility Vehicles, but at the same time, when you buy in to the Sportbrake as an owner, you are joining an impossibly exclusive club, that can compete with the Germans, and without apologies, at that.
To which we say, “I think I can hang with you brothers for a while.”
Story and photos by Mark Elias
2018 Jaguar XF Sportbrake S AWD
Base MSRP: $70,450 As tested: $84,815.
Includes: Firenze Red paint, $565; Black Exterior Package, $360; Technology Package, $3,265; Driver Assistance Package, $3,495; Comfort and Convenience Package, $1,805; Premium Interior Upgrade Package, $2,860; 20-inch Wheels, $1,020; Destination fee, $995.
Power: 380 hp @ 6,500 rpm
Torque: 332 lb-ft
Fuel System: direct injection/supercharged
Acceleration: 0-60mph in 5.3 seconds
Drive Type AWD
Gearbox: ZF 8-speed automatic
Unladen Weight: 4,045-pounds
Cargo Volume: 69.7-cubic feet rear seat folded
31.7-cubic feet rear seat up