A brief disclaimer before we start harping on about Jaguar's new molten hot estate car: the test drive we embarked on was rather on the short side as the British marque is keen to keep customers (and journalists, it seems) on tenterhooks before the official reveal in Geneva this week. Nonetheless, we were gifted a sneak preview on a rather tight and twisty Swiss road route and here's how we got on...
>What is it?
It's the performance estate that customers tired of the German offerings have been waiting for. A thoroughbred 5.0-litre V8 Jag with enough room in the back for the kitchen and possibly even the bathroom sink. It's based on the feisty XFR-S saloon but a longer wheelbase, wider stance and extended roof line offer more leg and headroom for occupants and 1675 litres of loadspace when the rear seats are folded flat.
What's under the bonnet?
Jaguar's barking supercharged 5.0-litre V8 resides underneath the scooped and elongated bonnet - a unit that produces 542bhp and an almighty 680Nm of torque; easily enough to pull the wheels off a caravan let alone tow it. That power is driven to the rear wheels via an eight-speed 'Quickshift' automatic gearbox that can be manually overridden thanks to a pair of flappy paddle shifters mounted on the steering wheel. We'd like to shout about the potent yet fuel-efficient engine but we can't. This thirsty beast returns just 22.2mpg and produces a polar bear-choking 297g/km CO2. However, the XFR-S Sportbrake does feature near straight through quad exhaust pipes that emit a truly ear-popping note from the rear. Every cloud and all that...
Jaguar is yet to reveal a full specifications list but this is a range-topping vehicle, so expect it to be lavished with every JLR gadget and nicety currently available. We do know that it features a 380W, 12-speaker Meridian sound system as standard, a reversing camera, Bluetooth, full leather interior and a series of special edition paint finishes. Oh, we nearly forgot the 20-inch 'Varuna' forged alloy wheels. They look superb.
Believe it or not, the potent estate market is a contested one. The Jag's closest rivals hail from Germany in the form of the Mercedes-Benz CLS63 AMG Shooting Brake and Audi's RS6 Avant bruiser, both of which offer comparable performance at a similar price.
What's it like to drive?
As previously mentioned, the Swiss road route wasn't the perfect arena to really stretch the big Jag's legs but even the most tentative prod from the right foot revealed that an almighty amount of power is available. The engine crackles and spits even in the default driving mode but really bellows into life when you prod the chequered flag button located on the centre console, which improves throttle response, piles on the revs and firms up the suspension. On that note, the XFR-S isn't fitted with Jaguar's excellent air suspension system as the power driven through the rear wheels would render it pointless. Instead, the ride has been stiffened by 30 per cent over the standard XFR model and it has further components borrowed from the race-ready XKR-S and the brand new F-Type sports car. The result is a firm ride but not one that crashes and bangs over rutted surfaces. Turn in is sharp, steering feel is impressive and the power driven to the rear wheels is enough to break traction even at low speeds. Given the right route and this thing could be one hell of a laugh.
The AOL Cars verdict
The jury is still very much out but even a short blast uncovered a car that manages to disguise its bulk thanks to some precise steering and a well judged chassis. There's no doubt the XFR-S is quick, either, and there's an impressive amount of room for rear occupants. Those in the market for a supercar-slaying estate should be pleased as the big Jag offers the perfect excuse for a weekend trip to the local dealer and a rather raucous test drive.
Model: Jaguar XFR-S Sportbrake
Price: £82,000 (est)
Engine: 5.0-litre supercharged V8
Power: 542bhp, 680Nm
Max speed: 186mph (limited)
0-60mph: 4.6 seconds
MPG: 22.2 combined
Emissions: 297g/km CO2