My colleagues are unequivocally aware that I am an avid fan of diesels and that I have an inherent appreciation for them, but in wake of Volkswagen scandals, FCA accusations, and strict government regulations, these sulfur-marinated ovens without spark plugs have been getting quite a bad rep. I’m here to tell you that, at least without cheat devices, diesels are phenomenal.
They make a lot of sense in bigger SUVs that normally have gas guzzling V8s, a boxy greenhouse, and an enormous footprint, but diesels also have a place in sedans. Cutting to the chase, this is the first time the Jaguar XF has ever been offered with a diesel powertrain on this side of the pond, and it has me excited. We rung up the guys at Jaguar and they put us in the new 2017 Jaguar XF 20d R-Sport loaded up with the new 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder diesel, codenamed the Ingenium.
Our thoughts? Well first thing’s first, if you like linear pulls, long bouts of acceleration, exciting exhaust noises and blistering straight line speeds, then diesels probably aren’t for you – skip to read our review of the XF S with its howling supercharged V6 engine.
Diesels don’t deliver the same kind of power output or power delivery as its gasoline counterparts. They’re high on torque – in this case, 318 lb-ft – and they deliver it down low in the rev band for quick acceleration, but they also run out of breath real quickly. For example, the redline on this diesel XF is around 5,000 rpm (CHECK). 0-100 km/h comes in a limp 8.4 seconds, compared to the XF S’s 5.3 seconds.
Diesels are also notoriously deficient on horsepower. This XF only gets 180 horses compared to the XF 35t’s 340-hp and XF S’s 380-hp outputs. Oh, and not to mention, they don’t sound that good either. On wide-open throttle, this clattery XF 20d sounds like a raspy tractor choking on metal scraps.
But once you accept the diesel’s limitations, things get better, much better. Diesels appeal to buyers looking for a vehicle capable of quick bursts of acceleration, outstanding fuel economy, and a huge range. Long-distance commuters look no further – Jaguar says its 20d diesel is a 44% improvement over the gasoline V6, which is quite a delta.
The XF 20d we drove in managed a fuel consumption average of 7.3 L/100km, which is phenomenal compared to the 12.8 L/100km we averaged in the XF S. A full tank also lasted us nearly 800 km, enough for a direct trip from Toronto to New York City without ever stopping for fuel. Diesel is also a cheaper alternative in Ontario, ringing in at least 10 cents less than 87-octane gasoline. Regardless, that’s quite a feat considering the XF’s size and rear-biased all-wheel drive system taken straight from the F-Type R.
The XF 20d is underwhelming to most drivers initially, but after a few trips you begin to realize that its power figures are more than enough for navigating through city roads. Its power delivery is considerably smoother than I would have thought, and even comes with auto start stop to cut off engine power during idling. The downsides only begin to show when merging onto highways or overtaking slower vehicles.
The diesel XF isn’t exactly a highway cruise missile, but it will slowly and confidently munch up the miles at a comfortable pace. Aggressive and heavy-footed drivers: best to fork over some extra money for the sharper and more responsive 35t or S models.
Another reason why initial impressions may be poor is because of the engine noise. Diesels just don’t make the same noises as its gasoline counterparts. Vibrations are more apparent and you even feel it from the gas pedal, reverberating like a restless dog.
BMW’s 328d is only fractionally smoother and the same goes for the Mercedes-Benz E 250 BlueTec. In fact, four-cylinders never made for great diesel material. Six cylinders, like the one in the familial Range Rover’s Td6, is the epitome of smooth, quiet, and effortless diesels. If only they could transplant that into the XF like they do overseas, and give us the XF Sportbrake while they’re at it.
I won’t dive into our thoughts on the XF’s sheetmetal or its interior – we’ve covered that extensively in other reviews. Most of the XF carries over unchanged for 2017, though I will mention that the cabin has lost a bit of theatrics from the outgoing model. However, it still does fancy a rising gear shifter, a heart-beating start button, and a harmonious wrap-around dashboard design.
Diesels may not make the same noises or have the same kind of horsepower as its gasoline counterparts but for the sake of fuel economy and mile munching, they are a strong alternative to 91-octane normality. It is also refreshing to know that you aren’t sacrificing much by letting your kitty drink a different juice, and it only makes felines like this XF bolder in a daring sedan segment treading dangerous SUV waters.
Even without a spark plug, the XF is wonderful to drive and the diesel provides noticeable savings at the pump and at the dealer, seeing as the 20d ($60,000) is the cheapest XF you can buy. This diesel-drinking kitty may not be the fastest in its litter, it may have a smaller lung capacity, and it may make ugly noises, but it’s a penny pincher’s paradise and in this competitive world, it pays to be different.