What’s old is new again. High-waisted jeans are making the rounds. My daughter is bemoaning the fact that all of her friends have choker necklaces. Hey, look, “Rosanne” is back. All that’s missing is a Clinton in the White House.
While station wagons haven’t been au courant since the 1980s, they seem to be gaining favor. Yes, the homely, progenitor-to-minivans, and signifier of all things parental and domesticated, now seems fresh and new compared to the ubiquitous crossover SUV (which are, after all, just tall wagons).
Today, in combination with a deft touch from a talented artist, a wagon’s lower stance provides a longer and sleeker profile.
Modern wagons mustn’t meet a mandate to look somewhat rough and tumble to mimic the look of a traditional SUV, either, although that certainly hasn’t hurt Subaru Outback sales. Instead, wagons can be just as sleek and aerodynamic as those fastback coupe thingies that are really just 5-door hatchbacks.
A wagon’s stock rises even higher when affixed with a name other than “wagon,” such as “estate” or some other unusual moniker that makes it seem sophisticated and worldly.
As with other things, luxury carmakers seem to be leading the trend back to wagons. Mercedes-Benz has always sold an E-Class wagon. The BMW 3 Series wagon is always a chic choice. Audi has the classy A4-based Allroad, complete with an SUV costume. And Volvo has returned to wagons, most recently with the surprisingly sexy V90 and V90 Cross Country.
Now, Jaguar is joining the tailgate party with the debut of the 2018 XF Sportbrake. It even has one of those fancy “Shhh…don’t tell people that I’m a wagon” names.
Jaguar has dipped its toes into the wagon pool before, with the tragically shortsighted X-Type Estate. Jaguar has also sold an XF wagon in other nations, most of which sensibly value pragmatism over mere image. Now, the company is hoping that introducing the Sportbrake stateside will herald the dawn of a new age of luxury vehicles that are as practical as they are beautiful and athletic.
The whole purpose of a wagon is functionality. The Jaguar XF Sportbrake delivers, with 31.7 cubic-feet of cargo space behind the rear seats and 69.7 cubic-feet with the rear seats folded. The rear seat is split 40:20:40 for myriad configurations of passengers and cargo-toting flexibility. Items measuring 6.6 feet in length can fit in the rear, too.
Slip into the driver’s seat and you’re greeted by a digital dashboard that contains a standard 8-inch or an optional 10-inch touchscreen infotainment system. You’ve got a choice of 10 ambient cabin lighting colors for whatever suits your mood for the evening. Rear seat passengers will enjoy the fixed panoramic sunroof, which you can equip with a gesture control feature that lets you easily open or close the sunblind by swiping your hand by the roof. Four-zone climate control is also along for the ride.
Here’s something unusual: Active lifestyle types feeling encumbered by carrying their keys can opt for the Jaguar Activity Key. Just leave the regular key fob in the car and wear the shockproof and waterproof wristband equipped with a transponder that allows you lock and unlock the doors.
A supercharged 3.0-liter V6 engine is nestled beneath the XF Sportbrake’s hood, waiting to pounce with the might of 380 horsepower. Jaguar says that this powertrain can move the car from zero to 60 mph in about 5.3 seconds. Curiously though, the electronic speed limiter tops the XF Sportbrake out at a conservative 121 mph.
An 8-speed automatic transmission sends the power to the standard all-wheel-drive system. Under normal driving conditions, the power is sent mostly to the rear wheels so that the car can maintain its sporty handling characteristics, but up to 50 percent of the torque is diverted to the front wheels if the system deems it necessary to maximize traction.
Jaguar has crafted the XF Sportbrake with strong but lightweight aluminum, and installs a self-leveling rear air suspension that adjusts to your driving needs. A whole lot of software analyzes the road ahead and makes minute adjustments to minimize harshness, maintain traction, and enhance athleticism. Weight distribution is ideal at 50:50 so there is little drama aside from a whole lot of fun should you find yourself wagoning down a lovely stretch of tangled blacktop.
While the 2018 Jaguar XF Sportbrake’s starting price of $70,450 might cause some raised eyebrows, it does come with the XF’s most powerful drivetrain and a lengthy list of standard features, such as the aforementioned Activity Key.
A collection of active driving assistance and collision avoidance features is also standard, including adaptive cruise control that lets you maintain a set distance from the car ahead while driving in low-speed traffic conditions and will even follow the car in front of it, without your input. The price does not, however, include upgrades such as the Meridian premium audio system or a cabin air purifier.
While the XF Sportbrake is intriguing, it’s not the only people and cargo hauler that Jaguar sells. If you’re seeking the status associated with driving a Jag-u-ar (said in the proper British way, with three syllables) and you want the same powertrain as the XF Sportbrake combined with even greater cargo capacity, you should check out Jaguar’s F-Pace S crossover, which costs quite a bit less.
But then you might not get invited to the tailgate party.