By Robert Nichols
Last year I had the chance to drive both the 2016 Jaguar XJL and the XF-S. Both confirmed my long held belief that Jags are amazing in every conceivable way. So, you can imagine that when I was handed the keys to a gorgeous 2017 XF I could barely restrain my glee.
From the outside nothing much has changed, it is still sleek, stylish and sexy. Finished in Ammonite Grey the model I tested was the new XF 20D R-Sport. R and Sport are both very good and imply excitement and speed. The problem lies with the 20D portion; if you have not guessed already it refers to the 2.0L diesel engine. I do like a diesel vehicle, but why in the world would Jaguar offer the R-Sport package with what is basically a tractor engine?
On the surface it looks like Jag is trying to convince us that a diesel powered luxury car can also be a blast to drive. The evidence is the use of R and Sport emblems found all over this kitty. I am sure every last one of us immediately associates these badges with purpose built sports cars like the Jaguar XKR-S; a stunningly fast two door with a dramatic nearly frightening soundtrack. Even if a car like the BMW M5 had an R-Sport badge it would make sense; it also is a very fast a fulfilling drivers car. Obviously I needed to dig in a bit and figure out what Jag was up to.
I discovered that the R-Sport trim level actually has little if anything at all to do with improving the driving characteristics or performance of the vehicle. The package adds the following: 19” Vortex-style wheels, the “R-Sport” body Kit which consists of a sports front bumper, side sills and trunk mounted spoiler, lane keeping assist and driver alertness monitor, blind spot monitoring, reverse traffic detection and adaptive LED headlights with automatic high-beam. The only quasi sporty offering there is a body kit and while it is sexy, it is a case of “all show no go”. In a Hyundai Elantra Sport this kind of deliberate misuse can be forgiven because no one expects anything of such a vehicle. But the XF is known to have some very exciting supercharged engines available and therefore they should have known better. I know I am harping on this a bit but it really irked me all week; I was confused by the designation and my expectations were let down a bit. The solution would be to drop the R-Sport trim or at least rename it.
The XF cabin is a very nice place to spend any amount of time. The red leather seats were the perfect balance of comfort and confinement offering just the right level of bolstering to accommodate most body shapes. Sitting in the driver’s seat feels special. The dash and door trim close in on you above the shoulder hinting at the feel you might get from the cockpit of an F1 car. Everything is leather and soft to the touch. The plastic that is present is lower down, out of sight and forgivable. The back seats are a tighter fit than some of the competition, but the deep trunk offers 540L of volume so your rear passengers will not need to share what precious little room they have with stuff. I would suggest the perspective owners purchase a cargo net as the task of retrieving escaped groceries may require caving equipment.
The driver really is the focal point; everything seems to centre on impressing them. At night as soon as you sit down you will be enticed by the Start/Stop button that pulsates almost like a heartbeat. Press it and the gear selection rotary control rises up out of the centre console adding to the pomp and circumstance. Immediately ahead of you in your line of vision the heads-up display comes to life projecting an illuminated Jaguar emblem, just in case you forgot you are lucky enough to drive one. Every control is instantly recognizable and beautifully weighted. The ergonomics were spot on in my opinion. The steering wheel mounted gear paddles felt crisp and solidly made and the use of real knobs and buttons for radio and HVAC controls is welcome.
Under The Hood
I should make it clear that the diesel engine, the first in a Canadian Jag, is not disappointing in any way; my issue was more with packaging. A diesel offers a very different experience and a few benefits for those who have never driven one, or who were put off by the recent German scandal. A diesel operational range(RPM) is much lower than a gasoline engine. They typically develop far more torque than they do horsepower and offer quick, albeit limited acceleration bursts. For the more frugal buyers out there Jaguar claims the diesel burns as much as 44% less fuel than the 3.0L V6, which is quite an accomplishment.
The first of the all new Ingenium engine class, the 2.0 L cylinder only weighs 138kgs. The lightness comes from using an all-aluminum thin walled block that is fortified by cast iron cylinder liners. The engine does exhibit some vibrations, especially on cold morning starts, but the engineers have done their best to minimize roughness. The Ingenium engine features twin counter rotating balancing shafts to deliver a smoother operation; this becomes most appreciable at highway speeds.
Power output is typical of a diesel with just 180 hp but a robust 318 lb-ft of torque. Peak power is developed low in the rev band between 1,700 – 2,500 rpm. AWD is standard on all XF models. The system delivers all of the torque to the rear wheels unless the system determines the rear wheels are nearing the limits of their grip and then a portion of the torque is transferred to the front. The system will also share the grip when it senses fast cornering to prevent oversteer and provide real confidence. The system is controlled by the Intelligent Driveline Dynamics(IDD) system that first impressed in the AWD F-Type. That alone should assure us the system is there to deliver a fun to drive demeanor.
On the Road
With both the IDD in Dynamic and the gear selector in “S”, cornering is every bit as capable as in the XFS. The steering is direct and solid. There is minimal roll and grip feels endless at public road speeds. The chassis set up is sublime. The Jag is agile, light on its feet but able to take a pothole without jarring the occupants. Exploring winding back roads is the perfect way to spend an afternoon when you have a Jag.
Where the performance starts to falter is acceleration. It takes a leisurely 8.4 seconds to reach 100 km/h, which seems like an eternity to anyone who has driven the 3.0L V6. With a low redline and limited horsepower on tap this cat runs out of breathe fast. Not all is lot though, where this engine shines is the daily drive. By offering all of its torque low in the rev range the XF gets around town easily enough without ever needing to break a sweat. On the highway once you are up to speed the diesel will lull you into believing you are a law abiding citizen. If it was not for the heads up display I would have easily been able to hit 150 km/h without realizing it. At 100 km/h the engine is barely off idle and acceleration is sneaky because it takes very little pressure on the throttle to achieve substantial increases in velocity. 100-120 km/h is over in the blink of an eye. This is the beauty of diesel; it takes so little effort and fuel to adjust to the constantly changing speed of traffic.
There are some unpleasant vibrations and a few questionable tractor-like noises, but once you get used to them you hardly notice it. By the end of my week I had convinced myself that my test car was as happy with me as I was with it, because it was purring loudly enough to feel.
For those bold enough to try a diesel you will not be disappointed. The official government of Canada ratings are 7.8/5.8/6.9 L/100km. A similarly equipped 3.0L V6 by comparison scores 12/8.4/10.4 L/100km. My week saw an average consumption of 7.1 L/100km. Helping you to outperform yourself in an environmentally conscious way the Jag keeps track of your driving style, throttle, braking and speed. It accumulates all of this data and you can then see the averaged results in the infotainment screen. My best efforts netted a Best Trip with an average of 5.4L/100km not bad at all.
While a diesel may not be for everyone, for those in the market this car should be in your sights. It has an abundance of style, character and it will be a breath of fresh air to see something other than a German luxury car in the lot at work. A Jag will make you stand out, but in a very good way. People will let you in while you try to merge as they admire your ride, and be prepared to be approached by admiring strangers. With a base price of $60,000, the XF 20D impresses as you defiantly drive pass yet another gas station with a smug look on your face.
Base Price $60,000
Price as tested $78,622
-Easily getting more than 800 kms of highway driving on one tank
-Diesel exhibits some “tractorish” noise and vibrations
-Identity crisis brought about by marketing a diesel with R-Sport package
-Having to tell people it’s the diesel
-Then defending a diesel
-BMW 5/6 Series