BOTB Road Test: Jaguar XFR-S Sportbrake {{favouriteCount}} Quantity of Likes

25 Dec 2014

There’s a big blue hole in my life today and it makes me very sad. You see for the last week I’ve been driving a very big, very fast and very blue Jaguar estate and it slipped so seamlessly into my life, doing everything asked of it perfectly, that when a nasty man from a logistics company came to take it away this morning I wanted to bludgeon him with the tyre iron, bury him under the patio and pretend he never arrived.

The Jaguar in question was the XFR-S Sportbrake, the very top of the XF tree and outwardly one of the most un-traditionally-Jaguar cars in the range. This particular car happened to come in a gorgeous vibrant metallic blue, with some rather chintzy black and silver 20” alloys which is all a little bit shouty. If you were to order it in black or grey, with grey or silver wheels 99% of the population would have absolutely no clue that there is a 542 bhp supercharged 5.0 litre V8 engine under the bonnet. Until you started it up, of course, but let’s deal with the visuals first.

The XF Sportbrake has to be (to these eyes at least) the best looking estate car in the segment. The 5-Series, E-Class and A6 are all very Teutonic, somewhat boring and certainly not very stylish, whereas the XF Sportbrake has that slick XF front end married to a sloping, slick rear end that is arguably better looking than the saloon. Of course, the sloping roofline and curved rear don’t make for a particularly large boot space, which is where it loses out to the rivals, but it’s still a large, usable space. To turn your common 2.2d XF Sportbrake into the fire breathing R-S version there are plenty of enhancements – starting off with the front end featuring two massive air intakes flanking a central intake with a carbon fibre splitter, sitting below a black mesh central grille. To call it aggressive would be an understatement, it looks like it would devour small city hatchbacks whole and spit out their bones. At the back there are the expected quad exhaust pipes and a nice carbon fibre diffuser which I’m assured is actually functional, while it rolls on the aforementioned alloys which may not be my cup of tea, they’re certainly distinctive.

But looks aside, the real star of the show here is that engine. 542 bhp – a number that just happens to be the same as the XJ220 had – no accident I’m sure. But this time it’s in a perfectly ‘normal’ estate car and makes for some hilarious moments. Slightly damp, cold road, floor the accelerator and the rear end is squirming around, struggling for grip – this is no sanitised, fake-exhaust-noise M5 here, this XFR-S Sportbrake is a bit of an animal and I like it that way.

When you open the door to this £85,000 super-estate, you’re greeted by a very stylish interior, plush leather adorns every surface and cool blue lighting gives a moody ambience. As you sit down the keyless system means the car knows you’re there and the Start/Stop button pulses a red glow like a heartbeat. Very cool. Prod the button and you wake the beast ahead of you to a blare of V8 exhaust noise and the knurled aluminium gear selector rises from the centre console and the air vents rotate round into position – pure theatre but it really makes you feel like you’re driving something special. That feeling continues when you pull away to the low burble of that V8 and you realise that despite the massive wheels and low profile tyres it rides exceptionally well. There’s a fair bit of tyre noise of course, but you can always hear the bark of the exhaust more than the tyres so all is well.

Point the big estate at your favourite B-Road though and you’ll be amazed at how it shrinks around you. No, it’s not going to feel like an Elise, but you could easily be in a Golf sized car when you throw it around a set of corners. Of course a Golf sized car is never going to have the raw grunt of the XFR-S though, and that has to be one of the defining features of this car – the ability to catapult you towards the horizon with serious speed, even with your family, dog and kitchen sink in the back. It is a heavy car, you notice it understeering if you arrive at a corner a little too quickly on the brakes, but a little tickle of the loud pedal and you’ll find the rear coming into line and letting you use it to get around the corner. In Dynamic mode you get a nice angle of slip before the electronics kick in too, so fun can be had with safety, though you’ll need a big road given its size. Would I use it on track? If I had one I’d certainly take it to a couple of track days, sure it’s not its natural environment but I think it’d handle itself quite well.

The biggest compliment I can give the XFR-S Sportbrake is how easily it slipped into my life. I have a family but love fast cars so having one vehicle that can cover all the bases really is a very nice thing to have. Negatives? Oh okay, I suppose there must be some. The boot isn’t particularly large for such a big car, the satnav/infotainment system is quite slow and clunky, and even with the performance on offer, the average of 15.2 mpg would be wallet-crippling if it was your only car.

Would something without the manic powerplant still slip into life so easily? I think it would, yes, hence why the second it went away I was looking at second hand XF Sportbrakes with the 3.0 litre diesel lump. 271 bhp and 40 mpg in the same body is mightily appealing…

Don’t forget, you can win the XFR-S Sportbrake in our Dream Car Competition. Enter here!

With thanks to Jaguar UK for the press car and Steve Hall Photography for the fantastic images.