A few weeks ago, with our annual pilgrimage down to Le Mans beckoning, Ben and I appeared to be a little lacking in the transport department. Our mighty Caddy van is all well and good for your average Sunday Service, but what we needed for the journey south was an estate to lug our gear, something that could eat up the motorway miles and wouldn't magnify every decibel of road noise with its cavernous interior. So when Jaguar offered an XF Sportbrake R-Sport the answer was, of course, a resounding yes. Estate? Check. Continent crosser? Yep. Rather lovely? Bingo.
Having collected the Jag on Wednesday night in preparation for an early start on Thursday morning, it was time to get acquainted with it in some super fun rush hour traffic. It turns out the Jag is quite suited to city life - estates always feel fairly large, and this was no different, but because of the copious amount of glass, visibility is never an issue. A very welcome trait when trying to avoid lunatics damaging a car that's not yours. With the gearbox in normal mode pootling around the city, the throttle response wasn't quite up to the task of taking advantage of short-lived opportunities. A switch to 'sport' made a world of difference, though, making things much more urgent - traffic light drags to the giddy heights of 20mph immediately becoming the Jag's forte!
Having made it home in one piece, it was time to tuck in the moody looking Jag under the Clapham street lights. It's a good looking brute isn't it? In my opinion, one of the best looking estates out at the moment, an opinion reinforced by the surprising amount of attention it gets. The 20-inch wheels, angry face and sweeping lines all no doubt helped by the lovely Caesium Blue and Black Exterior Pack, combining to make a really satisfying package.
Once out of the city the next morning (I use the word 'morning' in the loosest possible sense) it was finally time to stretch the Jag's legs. The 2.0-litre twin turbo diesel pulls strongly and the 8-speed auto keeps everything in check, it's not what you'd call fast, but it's certainly got enough poke for overtakes and fun slip road accelerations - and when you consider the fact we had a near fully loaded boot it doesn't do too badly at all. I guess with 370lb ft of torque you'd expect no less...
In no time at all I'd gathered up Ben and we made our way down to the Channel Tunnel. However, when we got to the train we foolishly didn't enter the carriage for wider vehicles (if I'm honest, I didn't know it existed until afterwards). This is where the Jag felt rather too large indeed, and it was painstakingly slow progress to avoid kerbing the lovely wheels along the whole length of the train. Unscathed, we left the train and were on our way to the race. The Jag, though, seemed to have other ideas; the sat nav knew we had left Blighty and frankly didn't much like it, and insisted on directing us back... After a bit of persuading it kindly agreed to guide us through France, though - thank you XF. This left a little residual mistrust - but luckily it behaved for the rest of the weekend.
The roads down to Le Mans (if you go the most direct route, which we did) are pretty much consistently long, boring motorways, which is exactly what the Jag is built for and therefore fantastic at munching up. The big comfy chairs are just that, the adaptive cruise control was faultless, the Meridian Sound System provided the tunes and so we just got to sit back and enjoy the journey. While the four-pot diesel is a little chattery at idle, this diminishes at motorway speeds and it becomes a very refined and comfy cruiser. While we're talking about the engine, we managed a pretty respectable 38mpg average over the weekend; it's not quite the 48.7mpg Jaguar claim, but considering we were two up in a fully loaded car, cruising at about 80mph most of the time with some stop-start city driving thrown in for good measure, it's not a bad effort at all!
After about four hours of empty French motorway (if only the M25 was the same...) we finally made it to Le Mans. Upon first sight of the campsite, it looked as though the Jag's four wheel drive was going to be tested beyond its intended parameters, such was the size of the puddle which greeted us. Luckily a serious test the car's wade depth was avoided, and after parking up on a thankfully dry campsite, it was time to unload the Jag and set up our banners. Our campsite was (obviously) full of exotica, classics and curio cars yet the XF held its own delightfully.
At our Friday Service at the Classic British Welcome there were, again, some stunning cars which could very well make the XF look at bland. But the Jag just looks right in every situation. Whether it be swanning through London, driving through a muddy campsite or at a classic sports car show, it just works.
With the Friday Service done and dusted, this was where the Jag got a bit of a break while were busy with the race. As always, the Le Mans weekend was over way quicker than expected, everyone was knackered, and it was time to make the slog back home. Having been up until 5am that morning to help with pit tours, we were in a fragile state, and the comfy quiet of the Jag was a welcome treat for our weary souls. It may not lead its class in every field, but when it came to the grassy expanses of La Sarthe, there's no car we'd rather have taken.