When I really drill down into the whole ‘weekend away’ thing, it’s possible that I enjoy the journey more than the destination. Sure, there’s plenty about camping that I do really like – a crackling campfire, being able to delight my camp-mates with a delicious meal made from just three ingredients, then horrifying them when I eat it like that feral kid from Mad Max 2. And how great is it to have a semi-legitimate excuse to abandon all personal hygiene for a few days?
Ah, but then … eventually the reality of ants, flies, the lack of a comfortable lounge and Netflix documentaries can conspire to make me feel like an Akubra-wearing fraud.
However, with the Jag cleaned and fuelled, I was at least confident that the journey part would be great. But before a wheel is turned, there’s pleasure to be had in loading the thing – pop the electric tailgate, use the remote tabs to auto-fold the rear seats, then shovel in every conceivable bit of gear like you’re feeding the boilers on the Titanic. The claimed seats-down cargo capacity is 1700 litres, so I don’t even bother looking to see if we are starting to run out of space – I just make a bunch of clicking and whistling noises, like a fleshy upright dolphin, and when the echo goes a bit flat, that’s it, we’re chockers and ready to roll.
It was especially gratifying to finally use the big wagon in the role for which it was born. Sure, I’ve been enjoying schlepping around the suburbs in it, and it does help soothe the traffic-snarled commute into the office, but fact is, loaded up for a road trip is where the XF Sportbrake feels most deeply entrenched in its sweet spot.
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We took the brilliant Old Pacific Highway out of northern Sydney rather than the motorway, which gave me the opportunity to have a hustle and test the strength of my partner’s stomach versus inner-ear function. There’s a natural fluidity to the Jag’s dynamics that make it such an enjoyable thing to drive quickly. I rate the steering as near-flawless for this class, and the car’s containment of roll, the progressiveness of its responses and clearly telegraphed limits of grip are superb. There were no visible signs of terror from the passenger’s seat, and no projectile vomiting, so that rates as a win.
By the time we did rejoin the motorway before Gosford, the fast-fang itch had been scratched, at least temporarily, and I was okay to drop into a 115km/h cruise and appreciate the measured suspension compliance, excellent muting of road noise, leggy gearing, and the power and clarity of the Meridian audio. The British hi-fi specialist manufactures properly high-end home audio, and that expertise translates seamlessly into the car. Vocals are precisely staged across the dash area, highs are shimmering and detailed, and the bass is superb; the subwoofer delivers serious visceral slam without ever getting boomy or overbearing.
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Parked at our lakeside spot, and used as a 1705kg, 380-watt Bluetooth speaker, the XF sure helped soothe some of the harsh realities of the great outdoors, and made me a (mostly) happy camper. The big cat really is becoming nicely integrated into the family.