Holding Station – Jaguar XF Sportbrake

The new XF Sportbrake has landed, and it’s a Triumph. Or maybe a Rover. It’s difficult to tell nowadays, but it probably doesn’t matter.

Who in the name of Lyons signed these off? Image: Super Street

People often accuse me of being horrid about the current range of Jaguars and it’s true that I have on occasion been vocally critical of them. ‘Why?’ they plead, as they pin me by the shirtfront against the most convenient stout object, before regaling me with tales of aluminium intensive body structures, handling-biased chassis dynamics and, well that’s about as much as they can muster generally. I’ve said rather a lot on this subject in the past – (‘yes we know’, they chorus) – but just for the purposes of clarity, and to reiterate, my issues with the current crop of JLR’s Jaguar-branded saloons and crossovers are as follows:

Iterative, conservative, unengaging exterior styling. (F-Type excepted)

Gloomy, charmless (and poorly finished) interior ambience. (XJ excepted)

A repudiation of over 50 years of chassis engineering heritage – (a much-praised handling bias combined with peerless refinement, ride comfort and NVH suppression) – for a harsh-riding, non-compliant, Germanic dynamic package.

The near impossibility of specifying a pleasant petrol-engine apart from some low-volume, fire-breathing multi-cylinder thing that pops and farts on the over-run.

A focus upon the fleet market, with all facets optimised to the all important CO2 and BIK figures.

An over-emphasis on model/spec parity with the German big three.

Once again, (and at the risk of repetition), I make this point. These factors, while lamentable, could perhaps be justified if brand-Jaguar was genuinely making inroads against its German prestige rivals. But the sales figures tell a different story. Now if one never left Warwickshire, it would be quite easy to imagine that the new XE/XF twins were amongst the top sellers in their respective classes, such is the number of them on the roads. Elsewhere however, this is palpably not the case.

Image: MotorAuthority

All of which leads us to last week’s announcement of the long awaited XF ‘Sportbrake’. Long-awaited in the sense that it arrives almost two years after the launch of the saloon; a car which has so far struggled in the marketplace. According to styling chief and spokesman on all things Jaguar-branded, Ian Callum, the estate body was part of the XF’s product plan from the beginning, so why the delay?

It’s possible it was one of resource. With such a huge model programme in hand, the logistics for JLR surrounding manufacturing and supply chain must be fearsome and in addition there are only so many engineers to go around. The cynical of mind might equally suggest the timelag was deliberate on their part. With the F-Pace crossover quickly following the XE/XF twins to market, the SUV took priority and was allowed time to ‘bed in’ before launching a model line which could have potentially stolen some of its lunch money.

Image: Autoweek

As expected, Jaguar stylists have done a thorough, if once again conservative job. It looks fine I suppose, if you want something quite like a 5-Series, only less baroque. The tail lamps are awful, by the way. Frankly, this tirelessly repeated F-Type motif is wearing thin now. But like its saloon counterpart there’s nothing to see here really, just another ‘nearly-but-not-quite’ Jag.

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Speaking of lunch money by the way, across the fence at Land Rover, Gerry (I’m Gerry McGovern, that’s my name and I don’t care who knows it) McGovern and his Range Rover minions have aced it with the (exterior and interior) styling of the forthcoming Velar, adding further fuel to the suggestion that there is a glass ceiling operating within JLR and I’m not referring to the one available as a cost-option on the XF ‘Sportbrake’.

It’s increasingly difficult to shake the notion that JLR is perhaps in something of a holding pattern with brand Jaguar now, going through the motions before making one final stab by reinventing it as a pure-electric product. It’s likely this is where the Coventry cat’s centre of gravity now lies. Some might even be tempted to call it the next leap. Or to put it another way, it’s not how far you fall, it’s where you land.

 

Author: Eóin Doyle

Founding Editor. Content Provider.

15 thoughts on “Holding Station – Jaguar XF Sportbrake”

  1. The lights at the rear don’t strike me as being all that bad – indeed I might even have said I liked them a little. They could be accused of profiting from a rather low-rent bumper-to-body joint, the lazy diagonal.

  2. The black-out trim on the estate’s c-pillar is very lower-market. Look, Jaguar, pay for a post-doc at Coventry School of Art and Design to examine quality, perceptions thereof, as related to joints and finish. The cars are not visibly different in perceived quality than perfectly good Renaults, Opels and Fords.

  3. Aside from the still surprisingly lovely 3.0 diesel (available in only the most expensive trim level) the engines Jaguar are using are absolute dross. I almost feel shocked to find myself saying this but I wouldn’t chose an XF over a Volvo S90/V90, unless I could get a 6 pot, the design is so lazy and the interior so drab. I’ve owned loads of Jaguars and have a real soft spot for them but the current XF and XE are just pointless entrants into the market.

    By my reasoning if you can’t have an interesting powertrain in any case you may as well buy a car based on the interior ambience.

    1. Are those the Ingenium engines?
      I feel a little sorry for Jaguar. They are damned both ways. Under Lawson they tried to please their usual customers and they got shot in the face for their efforts, by people who were never going to buy one anyway. Now the cars have been reworked according to a modern ethos and clinicked, they are still alienating people. The cars are pretty much as bland as their peers. As I said elsewhere, Jaguar need to do a study on what geometry and materials can capture “quality”. They need to hire someone with an understanding of sculpture and of industrial design to write up a report on things they could to to make their cars feel really different short of wild gross forms.

  4. The new Sportbrake has the upcoming Hessian Commodore wagon beaten on space – but only just:

    Jaguar: 565 / 1700 litres.
    Holden / Opel / Vauxhall / Buick: 560 / 1665 litres

    For comparison:

    Volvo V90: 560 / 1526 litres
    Škoda Superb: 660 / 1950 litres

    Credit due to JLR for making the effort to offer some practical benefit. It’s surprising that Volvo don’t seem to have bothered their arse. Perhaps they’re in the pay of their compatriots Thule…

  5. Those rear lamps are so clumsy, how was it allowed out in such a state. I hate the Velar for being such a wonderfully well executed piece of design on an SUV. I’ve see 5 or 6 prototypes recently on the road and it’s compulsive viewing.

  6. While I personally agree with the comments regarding Jaguar styling and fit and finish, I am continually amazed by the provincial outlook shown regarding sales. Jaguar sales are up by 80% worldwide with the intro of the F-Pace and XE. Whatever happens with regard to “fleet” sales in the backwater of the UK, rest assured there are about zero such sales in China and the USA.

    Just as I criticize Americans whining that Mazda should just shut down due to low sales, because they seem to forget that the USA is but one dot on the world’s surface, and others seem to buy Mazdas no trouble at all, including their northern neighbours in Canada, I observe the same bunker mentality from this EU crowd concerning Jaguar. Time to open your minds, take to Google, and discover, wow!, the rest of the world isn’t the same as Little Fartlesham Hants.

    1. Hear hear! As someone who usually travels with passport when making the trek from Hamburg-Harvestehude to Hamburg-Winterhude, I’m amazed to get such an outlook at the Great Beyond. Cheers/thanks for that, Bill!

    2. Okay Bill, I’ll bite. Where does Jaguar do the bulk of its business? Europe, the USA and China in the main. They probably sell a few thousand cars in Australia and the Far East, and a few thousand more in the affluent Gulf States, but frankly, apart from a few hundred here and there elsewhere, that’s really about it.

      What we’re discussing here is Jaguar’s mainstream saloon offerings – specifically the XF in this instance – as against the F-Pace. As I’ve pointed out at length in previous articles is that taken across Europe, neither XE nor XF are selling anywhere near as well as they should be. In fact, in Europe, XF sales are down on the previous model. In the US – once Jaguar’s biggest market by far, XE posted 2016 sales of 6656, with 358 sold over the same period in Canada. So far in 2017, it’s 4528 (US) and 348 (CA). The XF? 2016 sales of 6645 (US), 542 (CA). YTD – 2017, 1984 (US) and 242 (CA). Now I’m sure you can vouch for Canada a lot more readily than I, but America is a vast market to which Jaguar are not appealing in any tangible way with their saloon offerings. They’re going to have to sell a whole lot to the Chinese to make these model programmes meet expectations.

      Another point that may have escaped your notice. The engine choice available in the UK and Europe is very different to that offered in the US/Canada. Here it’s DERV all the way unless you are prepared to go for the low-volume sporty S models, which are the only ones to offer the 3.0 litre petrol V6. Why? CO2 and taxation.

      Yes, the F-Pace is selling strongly, but that misses the point. To labour that point, the saloons are not meeting expectations (except perhaps in China – which I doubt). But even if that is the case, that doesn’t amount to much of a business case to me.

      Anyway, best from Fartlesham…

    3. I agree, provinciality isn’t very praiseworthy. That said, isn’t peculiar Jaguar don’t at least sell healthily in their home market? And for all its faults, the UK is a pretty large market and one of the world’s wealthier countries. If Jaguar can’t sell easily in GB something is amiss.

  7. Chinese sales numbers for Jaguar alone are scarce. Forbes had Q1 2016 pegged at 28,000 for JLR combined. Assuming a 50-50 LR-Jaguar split, that’s a rough 56,000 cars a year for Jaguar in China. And we all know Jaguar is not enjoying 50% of all JLR sales. The numbers don’t look good.

  8. By contrast, Jaguar have been selling 10-15,000 cars a year in the USA since the mid-to-late 2000s. That contrasts with roughly 20,000 per year in the 1980s and a peak of around 60,000 in 2002. 2016 saw a bounce back to 30,000 sales, mostly thanks to the F-Pace.

    1. Those 2002 figures would have broken down into S-Type – still selling at that point, (‘much-loved’) X-Type – just introduced so in honeymoon phase, a smaller number of (x100) XK’s – by then fading a little, and any residual X308 XJ’s that were in stock – production of which had ceased in the chaotic run up to the X350’s introduction.

      The luxury SUV contagion hadn’t quite swept through at that point and the US market still liked the idea of Jagwars. Then along came the L322 Range Rover, followed by the Cayenne. By mid-decade, the X-Type had tanked and the market for the S-Type dried up – or died off. Game over.

      Now Jaguar are in the worst possible position. Criticised for not being Jaguar-enough by enthusiasts, yet failing to gain conquests from those who aren’t bothered by heritage. The cars aren’t distinctive enough, they don’t reflect a ‘British’ interior ambience – something the US customer still finds appealing and the old reliability issues die hard as well. A wise man would take his ball and play in a different sandpit. Yet Speth and his minions are no fools. Curious…

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