Allow me to share a few things that were not said from the driver’s seat of the Jag wagon during my five-month tenure. The first: “Hey honey, there’s a muddy, rocky, rutted trail that surely leads to somewhere magical – what a shame we can’t explore it because we’re not in a SUV.”
Nor was this ever heard: “If only I was in a more elevated driving position, I’d have a much better view of this wretched Sydney traffic.”
You get the gist. I know I’m way out of step with a big percentage of Aussie cars buyers, and JLR’s own sales of the Velar and F-Pace SUVs in the year to date (see sidebar, above) are indicators of just how strong the tide is.
But my time with the big Sportbrake proved to me why large family wagons were such a staple of Aussie motoring life for so long. For me, it’s about fitness for purpose. Put simply, the Sportbrake delivered everything I want and need in a daily driver: a generous load area, room for long-wheelbase teenagers in the back, healthy torque to overcome the inevitable weight, a resolved, comfortable ride, tactile, accurate steering, and a quiet cabin. The fact that the XF laps up a spirited punt so eagerly is almost a bonus, but the core dynamic goodness is something I enjoyed every time I drove it, and underpinned the affection I developed for the car.
Here’s another telling fact: after a week in Victoria testing the 47-strong COTY field, there was a not a single car from that event that I wished was occupying my parking space instead of the Jag. And that includes the brand’s own I-Pace, the mega-dollar Bentley Conti, and the seductive, beautifully resolved Alpine A110. All have plenty of virtues, of course, but none could slot into my life and deliver the crucial daily usability I need.
Read next: 2018 Jaguar XF 30d S Sportbrake review
And let’s not overlook the fact that in the time I had it, and the near-6000km I travelled, the XF didn’t develop a single rattle or software glitch, let alone anything more serious. Jaguar has consistently ranked highly in JD Power customer satisfaction ratings, and my (albeit brief) time as an ‘owner’ aligned with this.
The judging role during COTY week does make you something of an ‘against-the-criteria’ data-crunching machine, though, and if I put the Sportbrake under the Value spotlight, it does start to expose some shortcomings – especially a close look at the $28K of options fitted to this car. The one I find most objectionable is the $4360 active safety pack, which bundles rear cross-traffic alert with blind-spot monitoring and a few other functions. Cross-traffic alert is, I reckon, an absolute essential on any car, let alone one that measures 4955mm in length. Imagine declining this pack due to the expense, only for you (or your loved one) to be T-boned while reversing out of an unsighted driveway. Doesn’t bear thinking about, so it’s hardly an option.
Then there was a matt carbonfibre interior trim, which didn’t look like $3470 worth no matter how hard I stared at it. The fixed panoramic roof, the other big-ticket item (at $4910 with gesture control) was nice to have, but I really only opened the retractable blind at night or on heavily overcast days, as sunshine brought too many reflections on the screens.
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Against the efficiency criteria? Not brilliant at around 11.0L/100km overall, but that’s Sydney traffic for you. Less bumper-to-bummer driving and more 80-100km/h cruising, and it’s a low-9s car.
The bigger challenge facing not just Jaguar, but all of the premium brands, is the gulf between their prices and those of the Japanese and Koreans, when the real-world gap in performance, presentation, safety, and equipment continues to shrink. The Mazda 6 wagon being run by art director Felipe is a prime example of this.
Yet the Jaguar does have a degree of presence and a feel-good factor that made it a lovely thing to slide into each day, despite me pointing out a few areas that could use some additional attention (partly because that’s my job, and partly because I’m a champion whinger). But those criticisms – the lack of a more overtly sporting engine character, or the fact the interior design feels less than cutting edge – well, they weren’t enough to dull the experience.
I’ve revelled in my time with this car, and I’ll miss it hugely. I’ve always been a dog man, but this was proof I can definitely grow to love a cat.