FEW DESIRABLE cars have kept their looks as wagons. The Audi A4 Avant ($349,000) and Alfa 156 Sportwagon ($358,00) are the exceptions, but their styling is independent of their saloon counterparts, and not bulky at the back. The Jaguar X-Type Estate ($368,800), now available at Jaguar Hong Kong (tel: 2502 0989), retains its distinguished front, but has lost its signature slanted rear lights, smallish back window and that swoopy C-pillar. Indeed, the back end of the X-Type Estate looks like any other wagon, and you might mistake it for a Volvo. Its new rear lights allow for a wider-opening tailgate, but the style is not as memorable as the saloon's. The curvy bonnet that complements the X-Type's four distinctive headlights demands a delicate rear section. The X-Type's big boot is too chunky. So, the X-Type Estate isn't as pleasing to the eye as the Avant and Sportwagon. I can imagine young buyers drooling over the stylish Audi and Alfa, but Jaguar's Estate seems reserved for more practical drivers. But this is where the X-Type Estate shines. With the tailgate wide and low, the load level is lowered to bumper height, so you can put your knee on its edge to reach for things inside. The Estate is 4.716 metres long, 44mm bigger than the X-Type saloon, and all the space goes to the boot. The 70/30-split rear seats can be folded down separately to make more room. The boot area is finely carpeted and well-finished, like the rest of the cabin, and there's a detachable tonneau cover to keep loads out of sight. The boot panel can be lifted to reveal extra storage space, and the tailgate window can also be opened independently. An optional luggage partition is ideal for pets. The test car could use a net on the boot panel to keep groceries from rolling around, but the Estate is practical and friendly. You can tell it's designed for those who like to load up for road trips. Jaguar says the X-Type Estate could meet the demands of enthusiasts. Well, yes and no. The X-Type Estate may not be as rewarding on the road as its Alfa and Audi rivals. I took the Estate to Stanley, Tai Tam and Shek O in the rain. My test car has a 157 brake-horsepower, 2.1-litre V6 engine, and five-speed automatic gearbox. The marque says it can reach 100km/h in 11.1 seconds, but for a meaningful acceleration up Stubbs Road, you need a full run up the tachometer in second gear and an understanding of the Jaguar's J-pattern gear lever. As with the saloons, the Estate range also includes a 194bhp, 2.5-litre V6 and a 231bhp three-litre V6, that can sprint to 100km/h in 9.2 and 7.8 seconds, respectively. The junior V6 is beautifully smooth, even when pushed to the redline, and the gearbox is smooth, even at full throttle. The X-Type Estate is mechanically identical to the sedan and feels no different, but its chassis is shared with the Ford Mondeo, and Jaguar has tuned the Ford's suspension to give a softer ride. The steering and brakes require less effort but they also feel less solid. Gliding over Hong Kong's smooth highway is a wonderful feeling, as you'd expect from a Jaguar. But road joints and potholes could send a loud 'thump' to the cabin because the Estate lacks the suspension subtlety of the S-Type. It feels more luxurious than its competitors and is fine if you just want to shop or go to a country park. The Estate never set a foot wrong in Tai Tam - the standard dynamic stability control would keep things from getting ugly, anyway - but if the Estate hugs the road, it rolls more in corners than its rivals, and its chassis doesn't communicate as well. I'd feel more confident in the Avant and the Sportwagon. The Estate's equipment is identical to the saloons', with leather seats, wood trim and a leather steering wheel with multiple remote controls, Alpine six-speaker hi-fi system, traction control, 16-inch alloy wheels, and more. The marque offers options with Alcantara seats, carbon-fibre trims, 17- or 18-inch wheels.