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Take a handsome Jaguar XF and make it bigger inside and the result is the XF Sportbrake.

Sitting on Jaguar's standard XF platform, Sportbrake is Jaguar's estate version, and it is all-new from the 'B' pillars back. The exterior design, styled by the very talented Adam Hatton, is a classy piece of work. The lines are strong and sophisticated while not being fussy. This is staying true to Jaguar's design mantra of penning cars that have just a few, simple and strong lines. The rear end's cohesiveness, especially around the wrap-around C pillar and tailgate, is sublime. Audi, Mercedes and BMW should take note that the Jaguar is a genuine alternative to their respective A6 Avant, E Class estate and 5 Series Touring.

Inside XF Sportbrake there is more headroom for rear passengers over the standard XF. Cargo volume is impressive at 1,675 litres with the seats down. There is a flat load floor under which you'll find a space-saving spare wheel in Irish cars. The rear seats fold with the flip of a small lever in the boot, adding to the car's practicality.

Our test route featured stunning Scottish roads just outside Edinburgh. On day one of testing my Sportbrake was powered by the improved 2.2-litre, 4-cylinder diesel that we know and love from the XF. This most affordable version (circa €47,500) will be the volume seller and is capable of averaging 55mpg. The ride is composed and very well-mannered - even on wet and twisty mountain roads. Progress is quick enough for most but if you can stretch to the 3-litre V6 diesel (circa €61,500) you will not be disappointed. I tested this car on day two and really enjoyed the immense torque on tap (600nm) through the Sportbrake's standard eight-speed automatic gearbox. Better brakes made this version a better performance car. Self-leveling air suspension at the rear is standard.

To test the suspension and handling in more extreme surroundings I took to the racetrack with a Fridge in the back - I kid you not! A few fast laps later I returned to the pits very impressed at how the car coped with the extra mass of a fridge. The car's driver aids worked extremely well to keep me on track when I provoked it, especially when cornering sharply. I got into a fridge-less Sportbrake for a back-to-back comparison and, of course, the handling was sharper - but not by much. The suspension is well thought-out and set up for daily use.

The market for premium estate cars is small in Ireland at around 10/15% of model sales (UK 30%, Europe 50%). XF Sportbrake arrives mid-January and will enhance and grow the luxury estate market. Jaguar Ireland expects to sell roughly 40 units next year. With less than three years in the current XF's life cycle, the car has never looked better. With the Sportbrake and some new engine and drivetrain options globally, the future looks very bright for Jaguar.

Great-looking, reliable and practical, the XF Sportbrake is a car to covet.

Michael Sheridan