Team Sky have unveiled their new team vehicle – the long-awaited 'Sportbrake' estate version of the Jaguar XF. The squad will take delivery of two cars in June and the rest of the fleet will be delivered later in the year when Jaguar – who've announced a three-year renewal of their support of the team – take the car into full production.
Jaguar introduced the Sportbrake at the Geneva motor show last month to positive reception from the motoring press. It's unabashedly a practical luxury car with features such as self-levelling rear air suspension, 1,675 litres of load space (with the remote-lever rear seats folded) and extra headroom in the rear over the XF saloon. Plus of course, more leather seatage, wood finish and deep carpeting than you can shake a ski pole at. Oh, and there's a hatch in the rear seats for your skis too.
What's interesting is that this isn't just a case of a sponsor painting a few cars in team colours and handing them over. Some of Jaguar's design and engineering team were at the launch and were genuinely excited at getting feedback on their new baby from a team whose cars often cover 100,000 miles each in a year. Factor in the range of conditions a team car has to endure, from the mud and cobbles of Paris-Roubaix to chasing the peloton down the Alps on 40°C summer days, and you have some serious real-world testing.
Jaguar's chief programme engineer for the XF, Andy Whyman, told BikeRadar that he'd been working with the team to make sure that the car closely matched their needs. Jaguar engineers will be paying close attention to tuning the suspension for race conditions, Whyman said. While we were talking, an impromptu brainstorming session got underway, with ideas kicked around such as fitting the team cars with a rear seat comfort package usually only supplied to the Chinese market, where cars like the XF are often used as chauffeur-driven vehicles.
Even the riders seem thrilled at having new rides. Mark Cavendish and Juan-Antonio Flecha were present at the launch, and Flecha observed that the car was an important part of the team, as the rolling HQ on the road. The Sportbrake's LED running light, and distinctive team livery would make it easier to spot in the caravan for riders waiting for tech support, he said. Check out our image gallery for lots more pictures of Team Sky's Jaguar XF Sportbrake.