The natural characteristics of a diesel engine are not thought of as luxurious; no one wants a loud, coarse engine under the hood of a luxury cruiser.
Engine: 2.0-liter 4-cylinder turbocharged diesel
Output: 180 hp, 318 lb-ft of torque
Transmission: 8-speed auto
US Fuel Economy (MPG): 30 city, 40 hwy
CAN Fuel Economy (L/100 km): 7.8 city, 5.8 hwy
US Price: Starts at $48,445
CAN Price: Starts at $60,000
But it has been proven in recent years, mainly by the big three German automakers, that diesel can indeed be used in luxury cars when the necessary steps are taken to refine the engine.
Now there is another automaker in North America that thinks that diesel and luxury should mix: Jaguar.
Better Than the Rest
For 2017, Jaguar is introducing its small 2.0-liter turbocharged diesel into both the XF and the smaller XE, and in the XF’s case, the car stands in a class of one, at least for now. That’s because the Audi A6 no longer offers a diesel, the Mercedes E-Class won’t offer a new diesel until next year, and the BMW 5 Series diesel hasn’t shown up on the market yet either, though it has been promised.
And unlike the competition’s previous and upcoming diesel models, Jaguar won’t make customers pay more for the diesel, bringing it in as the base option.
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In fact, base pricing for the XF dropped by $4,450 in 2017 thanks to the new diesel, with the car starting at $48,445 ($60,000 CAN). That undercuts all of this car’s German competition, with just the Cadillac CTS selling for a shade less.
Weight is another area where the XF outclasses its competitors, thanks mainly to new aluminum-intensive construction that was introduced in 2016. Tipping the scales at 3,750 pounds with all-wheel drive, the XF undercuts all of its competition in the weight department, coming in less than the Mercedes E-Class, Audi A6, and Cadillac CTS.
And just wait, it gets better. Not only is the XF cheaper and lighter than its major competitors, but the diesel means it’s also more thrifty at the pumps as well.
This all-wheel drive diesel Jag is rated at 30 mpg in the city (7.8 L/100 km), 40 on the highway (5.8 L/100 km), and 34 mpg (6.9 L/100 km) combined, making it a full 8 to 10 mpg combined better than some of its competitors’ most economical options. For example, the thriftiest version of the Mercedes E-Class gets 25 mpg combined (9.5 L/100 km), while the BMW 5 Series is a little better at 27 mpg (9.1 L/100 km) combined but still not coming close to the diesel XF.
Best of all, we had no problem replicating those numbers in the real world, averaging 36 mpg (6.5 L/100 km) without even trying.
It might sound like Jaguar has done everything right here, introducing a diesel-powered luxury car that is affordable, efficient, stylish and lightweight. But sound is exactly what makes the XF such a disappointment to drive.
The little diesel sounds terrible, reinforcing every stereotype there is about diesel engines. It’s loud and noisy on start-up and at idle, it vibrates the entire car. Whether it’s nice to drive or not, the rest of the car’s characteristics are overshadowed by the noise, harshness, and vibration from the engine. It quiets down at highway speeds, but a request for more power brings the raucous tone flooding back into the cabin.
If you can look past the noise, and for me, at least, I’m not sure I can, the car is actually quite nice to drive, offering agile response and comfortable cruising characteristics. It comes across light on its feet, tucking nicely into corners while feeling controllable and confident.
The 180 horsepower coming from the little diesel does ruin some of the fun, especially knowing that a more powerful supercharged V6 is available, but still, once up to speed, this is a great car to run through twisty back roads. And there is 318 lb-ft of torque, getting the car moving well off the line and keeping it in the powerband around town. Passing power on the highway comes on slowly, but it’s not to the point of feeling scary when it comes time to pass. Power is sent through and eight-speed automatic transmission, which is the real star of the show, offering smooth and responsive shifts that help to get the most from the engine.
The all-wheel drive system also plays a role in the handling, as it is able to send torque to different wheels while cornering to help the car rotate.
When the engine is not idling like a bucket of bolts on a paint shaker, the interior of the XF is gorgeous and a nice place to be. JLR interiors are a great implementation of a “less is more” strategy that leaves large smooth surfaces devoid of buttons, offering an understated, elegant feeling of luxury. Little touches like the start/stop button’s backlight that pulses like a heartbeat and the shift knob that rises from the tasteful black trim when the car is turned on signal to the driver that this car is something special, and that’s what luxury cars are really about. The red leather in our R-Sport model was also particularly gorgeous while offering comfort at the same time.
While on the topic of R-Sport, let me take a quick second to rant: offering a “sport” trim on a car with a little diesel engine seems useless. I understand it’s mostly marketing and that some folks want a sporty-looking car without the specs to back it up, but why not just offer the top trim as a nice luxury package, rather than masquerading a four-cylinder diesel as a sporty car with a body kit and bigger wheels? Rant over.
Getting back to the interior of this car, Jaguar must also be commended for finally redesigning its infotainment system, now offering a setup that is responsive and nice to look at. Same goes for the redesigned info screen in the gauge cluster, which is now colorful and quick to respond, though the controls aren’t all that intuitive. The buttons on the steering wheel that control the info cluster screen also run certain radio controls, a seemingly unnecessary overlap of functions for a single set of buttons.
As for rear seat space, the XF offers adequate room for an adult with 36.6 inches of legroom, more than the BMW 5 Series and Mercedes E-Class, though less than the 37.4 inches offered by the Audi A6.
The Verdict: 2017 Jaguar XF Diesel Review
If it wasn’t for just one thing, this Jaguar would be nearly perfect. It’s a great driver, it has a comfortable interior, and it sips fuel while still offering decent power. But despite all of that, the experience of driving the Jaguar XF is ruined by small diesel that sounds like it belongs in a $5,000 car, not a $50,000 car. And considering how quiet the competition’s diesels have become, there really are no excuses for this engine’s unrefined character.