The last time Jaguar revealed an estate version of the XF, four years had elapsed since the launch of the saloon. Flu pandemics come and go at a quicker rate.
This time round, with Gaydon`s impressive, investment-heavy playbook now on a metronomic footing, it`s two years on the nose. That`s progress. The model is a recognisable descendant of the first generation: still frumpily dubbed Sportbrake because, Jaguar being Jaguar, the car is ostensibly meant to prioritise appearance over practicality.
Is the Sportbrake just a fashion item?
Really, of course, the maker wants it both ways and, thanks to the efforts of the styling department, that`s precisely what it gets. In the flesh, the wagon is a corker.
There`s no special recipe here not already deployed on any number of rivals (the low, raked roofline; the high, chaste shoulder; the wrap-around lines; the tapered bottom), but it all colludes magnificently. And because it better conceals the saloon`s curiously long rear deck, it immediately stakes a credible claim as Jaguar`s best-looking non-sports car.
Gaydon doubtlessly sniffed the lifestyle potential of all this when the Sportbrake was still made of clay; hence those F-Type-cloned rear lights and the chrome exhausts. To their credit, the engineers accommodated all this curviness while still hollowing out a proper rectangular crypt of a boot.
True, there`s barely any more room in there than aboard the saloon - but its sides are so clean that you`ll convince yourself otherwise. And with the seatbacks folded impressively flat (another admirable internal target), the XF apparently boasts one of the longest loadspaces in its class.
As for what`s in the nose of the XF, you have the choice of five engines with most powered by a diesel unit, while the only petrol on offer is a 247bhp, 2.0-litre, four-cylinder affair.
Propping up the range is a 161bhp and 178bhp versions of Jaguar`s 2.0-litre Ingenium unit, with a twin-turbocharged version also available producing 238bhp. Topping the oilburner range is the silky, smooth twin-turbocharged 3.0-litre V6.
As for trims, there five to choose from at launch - Prestige, Portfolio, R-Sport, S and First Edition.
Entry-level models come with 17in alloy wheels, bi-xenon headlights, roof rails, rear self levelling air suspension and powered tailgate as standard on the outside. Inside there is a leather upholstery, heated front seats, carpet mats, rear parking sensors and Jaguar`s InControl infotainment system complete with an 8.0in touchscreen display, sat nav, DAB radio, USB and Bluetooth connectivity, and the ability to create a Wi-Fi hotspot.
Upgrade to Portfolio and the XF is adorned with 18in alloys, a Windsor leather upholstery, veneer dash trim, split rear seats, heated front windscreen, front parking sensors, a rear view camera, keyless entry and a 380W Meridian sound system.
The sportier looking R-Sport models get an aggressively styled bodykit, sports suspension, a dark headlining and gloss black exterior as standard. The range-topping S models get 19in alloys, a beefier body kit, aluminium interior trim and adaptive suspension.
Those looking for a little more exclusivity can opt for the tech-heavy First Edition model.
Getting acquainted to the XF Sportbrake
Inevitably, this all comes at a cost. To you, the buying public, it`ll be a premium of around £2500 over and above the equivalent saloon.
To the car itself, it`s weight. As well as requiring some more bodywork and the extra bracing that goes with it, Jaguar has fitted self-levelling air suspension to the Sportbrake`s shapely rear - meaning that, all told, your extra money pays for around 115kg of surplus bulk.
This slightly unwieldy fact does the latest 237bhp 2.0-litre diesel Ingenium unit no favours at all. Jaguar claims 6.4sec for the AWD version`s 0-60mph time; it feels at least a second slower than that in the real world and hasn`t shaken the slight sense of ponderousness identified during the Range Rover Velar`s road test either.
Combine the Sportbrake`s less-than-spirited overtaking performance with middling refinement under load and the niggle starts to swell ominously. Good job, then, that virtually everything else the car does works like a cold compress on the engine bay`s shortcomings.
The chassis`s benchmark was the saloon`s class-leading dynamic flair and, given the unsettling aspect of air springs and additional ballast, its mimicking of the XF`s trademark handling compromise is highly commendable. Measured against its passively sprung, rear-drive sibling, a modicum of direction-change athleticism has unarguably evaporated, but the wagon feels so assertively poised that it`s barely missed.
Much like the saloon, it`s the extraordinary parity given to sure-footed, super-snug, express-grade progress on the one hand, and free-flowing, B-road-scything responsiveness on the other, that generates a small mountain of driver goodwill.