HERE’S the hypothetical scenario: choose one vehicle from the current Jaguar/Land Rover line-up. Feel free to add options, but don’t exceed around $120,000 before on-roads. What do you choose? We can pause if you need to dive into the Showroom section, but in simple terms, it means you only have to exclude the XJ limo-sedan (which no-one buys anyway) and the Range Rover. Everything else, from mid-size XE, to the E-Pace, F-Pace, F-Type, Velar, Evoque, Disco and Rangie Sport, is up for grabs.
Which do you pick? Sales evidence suggests it’s unlikely you’d have jumped the direction in which I did: into an Jaguar XF Sportbrake. I’m also tipping many of you SUV-lovers are throwing down this magazine in disgust and declaring me a royal arse-clown. But hear me out, even if it is a familiar refrain: I have no need for a vehicle capable of going off-road. If that scenario does arise, I’ll beg, borrow, barter or hire a vehicle that can. I’m not anti-SUV, but for my needs, off-road ability feels a bit like doing a tarmac fun-run in hiking boots. What I do need is a generous load space, a reasonably well-endowed engine and keen, rewarding dynamics.
Now go back to the JLR line-up and you’ll see that an XF Sportbrake is not just a logical choice, it’s the only choice (the smaller XE would serve me fine, but is not produced as a wagon).
My petrol XF sits smack between the other two engine choices in the three-strong Sportbrake range: the entry-level 2.0-litre diesel (132kW/430Nm) and the 30d S, running a 3.0-litre V6 oiler good for 221kW/700Nm. The latter was tempting, but over budget at $123,450 before options.
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So again, I go from seemingly in the land of over-choice to the choice really being made for me. At this first-impression stage I’m quite happy – the Ingenium 2.0-litre may only be in mid-strength spec here with 184kW/365Nm (it’s offered in the XF sedan as a Lite, with 147kW/320Nm, or a Stout, with 221kW/400Nm) but so far it seems ample, tied to the excellent ZF eight-speed auto, even if the Sportbrake weighs in at a pudgy 1705kg. Okay, this engine tune does seem a bit thin on character – there’s not much by way of rorty exhaust note to involve you – but it is smooth and lag-free.
I’ll go into more powertrain detail in the coming months, but before that we need to cover how this car lists at $91,400, but leaps $28,600 to $120,000 via some exuberant box-ticking. Not all of it is my fault, I swear.
Most expensive is the $4360 Active Safety Pack, which includes blind-spot monitor, rear cross-traffic alert, lane-keep assist, adaptive cruise control, and driver condition monitor. Yep, you could argue that this stuff should be standard; we’ll look at how the Jag’s spec compares with German rivals at a later date. The glass roof and gesture control (see sidebar above) is the next costliest addition at $5000 combined.
Then there are the matte-finished carbonfibre interior trim inlays, which are rich indeed at $3470. Better value is the pro navigation pack and sound system from Brit specialist Meridian, which adds $2690. The red metallic paint, as well as the black-pack finish on the grille and side vents, plus the 19-inch wheels, combine to soak up $4860. Another dozen or so items relating to comfort (heated seats, privacy glass, etc), convenience (360-degree parking aid) and storage (rails in the cargo compartment) quickly account for another $7000.
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You’d think that with that lot, there’d be precisely nothing missing, right? But dude, where’s my head-up display? Er, still on the options list, apparently, along with the climate control for rear-seat occupants.
Yes, shopping in this large-executive segment is not for the faint-hearted or thin-walleted. But look at it: isn’t it a proud, purposeful bit of gear? It looks confident and able, ready to be loaded to the gunwales with all my crap and go on adventures. Okay, not muddy, rocky, off-road adventures, but that’s what I have a mountain bike for. We’ll stay on piste and have a blast, I’m sure.