I’ve come to the conclusion that adventure is as much about a drastic shift in a way of thinking as it is hang-gliding off some 8,000-foot cliff, staring out over a rocky terrain. There’s a certain level of risk, as both require letting go of something that typical keeps you conveniently locked in a comfort zone.
That’s what makes the new 2018 Jaguar XF Sportbrake such an intriguing proposition over the usual SUV, which becomes clearer the more you drive the wagon on the twisty, breathtaking roads of Portugal, where we recently had a chance to experience the new vehicle.
Built on the same bones as Jag’s XF sedan, the new Sportbrake is a far more enticing take on the vehicle. That’s not to say that the XF sedan doesn’t have any appealing qualities—it’s just that when all the things you like about the car come packaged in a variant with a longer-sweeping silhouette, crafted as a hatchback fitted with black 20-inch wheels, it’s more alluring to those who like their vehicles with a bit of an edge.
Yes, the new XF Sportbrake exudes a totally different personality than its more traditional counterpart. It’s an even further stretch from those popular wagons from the ‘70s, reminiscent of that ride Rusty Griswold wheeled on the family getaway in National Lampoon’s Vacation. Then again, the new XF Sportbrake is quite a leap for Jaguar as well, consdidering that it’s the first time the British carmaker will sell the wagon in the U.S.
Since it first debuted in 2012, the Jaguar Sportbrake has been primarily limited to European markets, in large part because of the low demand for wagons in the States. And despite the fact that we’re huge fans of the vehicles, there’s no disputing that launching a new model in the U.S. is a major undertaking, to say the least.
Of course, as we pointed out when exploring the all-electric Jaguar E-type Zero, the British automaker has proven that it’s more than willing to take a few more risks than it has in the past. And as Dave Larsen, Jaguar Land Rover’s product planning manager, explains, the Sportbrake is just one more piece in the puzzle in the carmaker’s aggressive strategy to offer consumers something different in the luxury segment.
“Historically, wagons do reside as a niche within the U.S. market and they continue to be a lower-volume prospect for most automakers in the States. That said, there is a committed segment of the market that are open to such a car, thus an opportunity for Jaguar,” Larson tells Playboy.
The hope, says the Jaguar exec, is that the XF Sportbrake will appeal to buyers who are looking for the best of both worlds - SUV-like cargo capacity, with sports sedan handling and fuel efficiency.
Full disclosure here: We didn’t focus much on how much stuff you can pack into the XF Sportbrake. Nor did we independently crunch the numbers to figure out exactly how much cash the wagon could actually save you at the pump, in comparison to an SUV. Though, all the figures that Jaguar provides seem to indicate that the new wagon is certainly competitive in the space.
That said, we can fully attest to the XF Sportbrake’s handling that Larson speaks of, but we’d also contend that you don’t necessarily need to be in the market for an SUV or a wagon to appreciate how the vehicle feels behind the wheel.
In casual driving situations, it’s the more practical elements of the new Jaguar’s handling capabilities, like how easy it is to maneuver in and around all the turnabouts in Portugal, that begins to get you to buy into the idea of the XF Sportbrake. But it’s the thrill you get wheeling the wagon on the open road, which grows stronger the more you push the new Jaguar, that really sells you on the vehicle. _ _
Powered by a 380-horsepower supercharged V6, the all-wheel-drive XF Sportbrake is in many ways a luxury sports car masked as a more practical take on a sedan, which just happens to come with loads of great cargo space as well.
In fact, it’s not until you find yourself standing outside the Jaguar Sportbrake again, just after barreling it on some wild mountain road, that you realize that the vehicle is actually a wagon. These new spins on the old-school family hauler are just such a radical departure from anything in the past, and the 2018 XF Sportbrake builds on that idea in a way that only Jaguar can.
Inside, the XF Sportbrake is crafted with the same kind of premium features that have come to define the interiors of other vehicles in Jag’s line-up, a mix of classic luxury details like grained leather trim, seamlessly integrated with tech components like Jag’s super-high-res 10-inch touchscreen. But as noted earlier, it all just takes on an entirely different kind of feel when wrapped in a wagon, especially when it’s the “S” trim model, which is the only variant sold in the States.
In addition, the XF Sportbrake is available with an optional full-length fixed panoramic sunroof, which also gives passengers a more personal perspective on what makes the low-slung cargo carrier more interesting than an SUV.
Of course, opting for a Jaguar XF Sportbrake over the more high-riding vehicle isn’t for everyone, but neither is deep sea scuba diving. The fact that both tend to deviate from the norm makes them intriguing, especially for those who’ve grown tired of their routine.