Mountain Wheels: Jaguar’s stunning XF Sportbrake is one sexy beast |

Mountain Wheels: Jaguar’s stunning XF Sportbrake is one sexy beast

After a summer and early fall that saw opportunities to drive all the big hitters in the luxury SUV world, I gotta say that I’m still a sucker for a fast, sleek wagon — and Jaguar’s absolutely one-of-a-kind XF Sportbrake definitely wins as one of the coolest cars of the year.

For many years I’ve tried to make a credible case that Jaguars might have a plausible place in a winter-heavy environment such as the Colorado High Country. The company’s new SUVs, the F-Pace and the smaller E-Pace (plus a new electric model, the I-Pace), are easy all-weather solutions; I hereby encourage vehicular nonconformists to consider the all-wheel-drive XF Sportbrake as a much more interesting option.

“Sport brake” is one of those charming pieces of British vernacular, much fancier than our own station wagon, and the Jag is indeed a wagonized version of the XF sedan. Remodifying an existing model often results in an abomination, but in the XF’s case — the middle-of-the-family XF sedan platform having also recently been tweaked with some 500-horsepower race editions — the vehicle looks absolutely fantastic with its extended rear greenhouse and retooled lines.

That extra space offers some SUV-styled flex without the SUV heft, as the Sportbrake morphs into a high-performance, high-profile machine that still drives like a car.

My test vehicle, a 2018 S model — with a $70,450 base price, stickering at $84,245 with a load of options — was equipped with a supercharged 380-horsepower 3.0-liter V-6, the biggest of Jaguar’s remaining non-V-8 powerplants.

It was indeed luxurious, with a full sweep-and-surround leather cockpit, real aluminum weave details and classic XF bits like air vents and a pop-up rotating shift knob that come to life when you start the vehicle up.

That power is ample for involved but not necessarily head-snapping speeds, as one might find in a smaller machine like the F-Type. Thinking about it, however, could any of the family truckster-styled wagons of our collective past crack off a 0-60 run in 5.3 seconds?

Here, the boost provides smooth and graceful acceleration — click the shifter into sport mode and activate the red-lit dynamic driving mode for higher-revving response — and factors into a machine that’s comfortable for cruising and slightly playful, at the same time. The AWD system found in Jaguar’s other sedans also emphasizes rear-wheel-drive power as much as often, adding to the sporty feel.

I very patiently drove to Vail during the summer in the car and enjoyed its considerable width and overall 195-inch-long presence; a small canyon run afterwards suggested some keen and capable handling, though the additional wagon real estate can be felt when you get too crazy.

Unlike a strange British beast such as the old MG wagons or, heaven forbid, the E-Type hearse from “Harold and Maude,” the XF Sportbrake really looks like it was conceived from the car’s earliest days. The extra room out back is sleek and smooth with dark window trim and roof rails, and huge blade-spoke wheels and red brake calipers giving it an additionally sexy look.

XF’s domed hood, low-profile headlamps and mesh grilles also contribute to a clean, just moderately imposing kind of presence. The roof rails will accommodate more than 220 pounds of sport boxes and gear, all of which will be much easier to access than up on top of a honking-big SUV.

Rear visibility isn’t so bad, either, with flop-down rear headrests and adequate glass and overall cabin headroom to keep it from feeling claustrophobic.

In the rear, the expanded space means 31.7 cubic feet of luggage room, which can be extended to nearly 70 cubic feet with the 40/20/40 split second row seats dropped, with a maximum width of 41.8 inches. XF Sportbrake features an air suspension system which will automatically adjust after your Costco or Home Depot run.

Digging into the option list, you can outfit the Sportbrake with a fully digitized, 12.3-inch instrument cluster, a full-length panoramic sunroof, a 10-inch infotainment touchscreen or even a cabin air ionization system. You can also add a factory customized dog guard for securing the family pet, as well as a fold-out trunk liner system that will protect the bumper surface while you’re loading turf, plywood or gravel. Which you could, if you wanted to.

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