My life is probably better than your life. People give me cars. For free. I just ask for them. Some companies ask me if I'd take their super sports car off their hands. The Jaguar XF Sportbrake is the rare car I'm not supposed to drive, so I begged for it, and it was absolutely worth it.
I know what you're thinking. The wagon is the chemex of automobiles, a seemingly outmoded machine for people who walk that narrow line between purists and assheads. It's a joke amongst auto writers that all we want is a "brown diesel wagon."
The XF Sportbake in my possession — the only one in the entire country — is not brown, but it is diesel and it is a wagon and it is basically the most perfect thing I can imagine. I don't even care it doesn't have a manual. You know why auto writers love these things? Because they're fucking awesome and we drive everything. We know better. I know better.
And I know how good this thing is.
But before I get into that, allow me to explain what you really want to know: How the hell did I end up with a car they don't sell here?
No, I am not a wizard. Like most things in life, it was just luck. I was wandering around the floor of the New York Auto Show and bumped into the nice folks from Jaguar PR, who happened to mention that their own Wayne Kung had somehow convinced corporate to ship one XF Sportbrake over here for "emissions testing" or some such bullshit.
The reality is probably that he just wanted it, because he's smart, and the reality is I definitely wanted it, because I'm also smart. The vehicle has been modified (it's LHD) for the U.S. market, including a proper NAV system, although the AM radio doesn't work and there's no satellite radio. The mirrors are also backwards (objects on your left side are closer than they appear instead of vice versa). It also requires an additive you carry around since we have low sulfur diesel fuel here.
Otherwise, it's entirely capable of being a vehicle sold in the United States (HINT HINT HINT HINT HINT HINT HINT HINT) and it absolutely should be.
Let's start with the obvious and perhaps best feature of the car: It looks gorgeous.
The Jaguar XF sedan is already one of the most fetching examples of a body style that should have long gone stale. It helped revise and revitalize the brand's entire aesthetic, taking some of the lithe hints from its spirit animal while boldly shaking off any of the nostalgic nonsense that had seemingly doomed the brand (well, that and Ford ownership).
When we call a sedan coupe-like, we mean it has a higher belt-line, a lower greenhouse, and a few design tricks to make it appear lower, longer, and wider. You're also kind of an asshat if you refer to anything with four doors and a trunk as s "coupe" and Jaguar doesn't have to say it. Just look at it, you get it.
Now look at it next to the wagon. The wagon is so much better it makes the regular XF look as appealing as burnt vegemite. It is lower and longer and wider. The car never seems to end as the line that starts at the bottom of the A-pillar just keeps going, like a bottle rocket fired off of the side mirror. In S trim with a little curve on the rockers and black wheels and tinted windows…
Jonny Lieberman, cranky alum of this website, said that they're "the best thing to happen" to the Jaguar he had. I'm going to go further and say it's the best thing to happen to everyone's Jaguars.
What makes this package painfully irresistible is the performance matches the aesthetic. This particular model has the (relatively) big 3.0-liter diesel. Americans who don't get how diesel works will focus on the relatively paltry 275 horsepower even in the "S" sport trim.
Those people are dumb.
Americans buy horsepower but use torque, as the adage goes, and this revvy puppy puts out about 600 NM — or 442 lb-ft of cobblestone-removing twist. Enough to carry all that shapely ass to 60 mph in under 6.0 seconds while returning what I'd guess is 35 or 36 MPG in combined driving (or 46.3 MPG in the hilariously inaccurate British measurements).
Unlike most turbodiesels, there isn't much lag thanks to the sequential turbo that allows for a small buildup of boost before give you the full impact. It's not perfectly lag-free, but if you've got a quick reaction time it won't hurt you much. Even better, it has the same ZF 8-Speed that's in everything you like. What's perfect about this pairing is the redline of this engine is like, four (not 4,000, like four revs per minute) so the quick shifts keep you riiiiight in that sexy part of the curve.
Like the XF it's based on, it's a cruiser capable of dicing it up around corners. Actually, looking at that sentence I have no idea what that means. It's an old platform that's been updated numerous times and while it isn't as light on its feet as the new CTS it stays firm and relatively flat and is a got-damn RWD car like nature intended. It's an easy car to drive relatively fast and it's relatively comfortable when you do so.
The only place the XF really shows its age is on the inside. A few years ago this was one of the more serene and zen-like places to be in the luxury sphere, but with the carbon fiber trim and after seeing the interior of the XJ and F-Type, it's just better-than-average. Who cares? You're inside a beautiful wagon and everyone — EVERYONE — wants to peek inside and see who is driving.
Every time I parked the car someone walked up to take a picture. I saw people taking photos of it when I wasn't even inside of it, they just went right up to it and started snapping pics. I assumed no one would care since the car isn't available here but people immediately recognized it as a Jaguar and instantly registered it as something special.
I even got a parking ticket with it and a FedEx driver walking by tried to plead with the typically stoic NYPD traffic officer.
"You can't ticket it, it's too beautiful. You can't. Look at it. Don't give it a ticket!"
And that's why they should sell it here. It's so beautiful that a FedEx driver in NYC who, one can assume, sees more random shit on a slow tuesday than the average person sees in a year was wowed by it.
I honestly don't know if there's a business case for bringing it here or not. The answer is probably: No. But Jaguar is all about swagger lately as each new car they produce is better than the one it replaces. How do you top everything you've already built?
I think this is the answer.
Photos: Raphael Orlove/Jalopnik