REVIEW: 2017 Jaguar XF 20d AWD R-Sport – A Focus On Handling

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Jaguar has created an interesting combination for those fans of diesel engines and precise handling.

What is it? 

Midsize sports sedans have been pretty much perfected by every premium automaker. The Jaguar XF 20d AWD R-Sport is in a tough crowd, but its handling, attention to detail, and now, modern technology, make it a real contender.

Pricing and trims

The Jaguar XF line is based on a rear-wheel drive platform, but AWD can be added to every combination. The base car uses the 2.0d turbo-diesel engine and with RWD starts at $49K. A fully-loaded AWD S model with the 380 hp supercharged gasoline engine can approach $80K.

Our 2017 XF 20d AWD R-Sport trim had much of the optional content available and all-wheel drive but came with the 2.0d diesel engine, which costs about $3,000 less than the 340 hp gas version. Its MSRP was $62,895.  The added AWD was welcome since it rained every day we had the Jaguar.

Safety

The Jaguar XF has not been tested by IIHS, nor has NHTA tested it. However, ours did have active safety features, the first Jaguar we have tested that did. Included automatic emergency braking and lane keep assist are welcome.

In addition to the forward collision system, our XF 20d AWD R-Sport had adaptive cruise control and automatic high beams and traffic sign recognition. It is great to see Jaguar stepping up its game with these technologies.

Performance

Diesel fans know it is all about the torque. Like all diesel-powered cars, the 20d version of Jaguar’s XF pulls sweetly around city streets and in suburbia when driven calmly. But is that the raison d’etre of a Jaguar with the word “Sport” in its model name? The Jaguar XF 20d AWD R-Sport’s diesel engine generates just 180 hp. This limits the performance of the XF significantly compared to its gasoline-powered trims. With a 0-60 MPH time of 7.9 seconds, it is almost three seconds slower in that sprint than the XF 35t AWD. There are two popular midsize cars with almost identical 0-60 MPH times we feel are worthy of comparing to the XF 20d AWD R-Sport strictly to illustrate where its straight-line performance falls. First, the FWD Lexus ES 300h hybrid. This 200 hp gasoline-powered car hits sixty in 8.1 seconds. Second, the FWD Honda Accord base 4-cylinder gas-powered car, which hits sixty in just 7.5 seconds. These are the Jaguar’s performance peers, at least in the most commonly-applied performance metric used. We will explain why we chose those two cars in a moment.

The diesel engine and 8-speed automatic transmission provide adequate acceleration for normal driving. In fact, like many modern turbocharged cars, whether gasoline or diesel, the XF pulls itself about without at about 1200 RPM most of the time. The engine and transmission have agreed to quick, and frequent shifts. This keeps the high-torque diesel in its happy place, below about 3,000 RPMs unless one absolutely flogs the XF. The engine is louder than the gasoline Jaguars we have tested, but not so much as to be any kind of a problem. The shudder when the auto stop-start operates may be a tad rougher as well. In normal driving, the Jaguar XF 20d AWD R-Sport is easy to live with, but it doesn’t have a drivetrain that can provide the performance one might expect from a $63,000 sports sedan.

If the Jaguar XF 20d AWD R-Sport saves any petroleum or saves any money on fuel compared to other gasoline vehicles its size and with its acceleration results we could not figure out how. Both the Lexus ES 300h and Honda Accord use less petroleum per year according to the EPA (see chart below the story). The Accord has the same annual fuel cost and the Lexus has a dramatically lower annual fuel cost. The Jaguar also generates the most CO2 of this trio with similar performance. Granted, the Jaguar is equipped with AWD, which does have some parasitic effects on fuel usage, but we tried to use familiar examples that have the same acceleration and same approximate size as the Jaguar to illustrate our point. One really needs to be a diesel fan to want this engine.

The automatic transmission has optional paddle shifters for more involvement, but with the diesel’s low-end torque map it doesn’t make as much sense as in a car one would frequently redline, or hold above a variable valve-equipped engine’s performance point for more power. Normal, sedate driving is this drivetrain’s forte, not aggressive driving. There are easy to select drive modes just under the rotary shift knob including Dynamic, Snow/Ice and Eco.

Fuel Economy Results

In our testing, we covered mostly highway miles and suburban back-roads cruising. We never entered the city. We consumed 5.149 gallons of diesel fuel over 190.6miles. Thus, our fuel efficiency was 37.0 MPG. The Jaguar’s display told us that our average over that span was 39.4 MPG, so it was a bit optimistic. The only diesel we could find in our area was priced at $2.60 compared to regular unleaded at $2.20 at most stations. Three stations we tried had no diesel for sale.

Ownership Experience

Jaguar offers five years of included maintenance with all of its vehicles. A recent study by J.D. Power found that Jaguar offers an above average customer service experience at its dealer’s service area. In fact, Jaguar was tied with Mercedes-Benz.

Ride and handling

The handling of the Jaguar XF 20d AWD R-Sport is exactly what sports sedan buyers in this price range want. Sharp steering, predictable turn-in, flat in corners, and brakes that make you think “Yeah, I can go deep into the corner before braking.” The Jaguar legacy is on full display here. Even better, the low-profile tires don’t spoil the ride. Our test was conducted at the worst possible time for late winter, early spring potholes and frost heaves. This Jaguar is not overly stiff, but it always feels “tight.” Because we were planning to report our fuel usage, we checked the Jag’s tire pressures and found them at just 32 psi. The door jam sticker said 43 and 48 PSI front and rear, so we pumped them up to the Jaguar specs. This actually helped the ride comfort, which made almost no sense. We expected the car to be rock-hard over bumps, but it was pleasant. Perfect is a word one might apply.

Seating

The front seats in the Jaguar XF 20d AWD R-Sport are as great to look at as they are to sit in. The heated and perforated leather is soft and looks of high quality. The dash appears covered in an expensive material with highlight stitching and the trim is tasteful and modern. The steering wheel was our favorite interior part. The full-leather covering (as opposed to say partial wood as one might find in a Lexus), was a joy to hold and the controls were just right. So right, we are doing a spotlight story highlighting them.

The back seats will work for adults out on the town and legroom was adequate even with the front seats all the way back.

Cargo

The cargo area of the Jaguar XF 20d AWD R-Sport has two important features. First, there is a spare tire under the floor and space to stash items like a snow brush. Second, the filler cap for the diesel exhaust treatment fluid is there. The trunk features a power open and close function and was very large.

Infotainment and controls

The Jaguar XF 20d AWD R-Sport we tested included the no-charge Technology Package and its excellent 10.2″ touch screen. We loved its ease of use and logical layout. This system is worlds better than the Mercedes system we recently tested. Finding what one wants is a snap and there is no ridiculous mouse-like interface to fuss with. Even better, the steering wheel controls are ideally suited to work with the infotainment system as an ally, rather than a substitute.  Jaguar/Land Rover may well have the best infotainment in the luxury segment.  The Meridian 825 W Surround Sound audio was outstanding and the controls to adjust the sound adjustment menu easy to find. It took us two days to find those in the Mercedes. In the Jaguar, it took literally two seconds.  Further kudos to Jaguar for putting the heated steering wheel controls on the actual steering wheel control cluster. You’d be shocked where we find them in other cars. If we ever find it.

 

In addition to the main screen, Jaguar uses a TFT information panel in the gauge cluster. This can be easily operated with the left steering wheel controls. We loved the simple to understand layout of the system.

Overall

Around town and on the highway, this is an excellent sedan for those that enjoy driving. In our suburban setting the Jaguar XF 20d AWD R-Sport was a joy to drive. We do have to temper that by saying that the engine’s abilities are not suited to jackrabbit starts, or on-ramp blasts. This Jaguar has the engine of a cruiser, so choose carefully among the XF trims.

Jaguar should be applauded for responding to market demand for a diesel version of this sedan, but our choice would be one of the gasoline versions since, to us, Jaguars are meant to be cars that are quick if not fast.

2017 Jaguar XF 20d AWD R-Sport

Base price: 

Price as tested, $62,895 including $995 destination charge:  

Options:

Comfort and Convenience Package: Included At No Added Cost
Technology Package: Included At No Added Cost
Driver Assistance Package: Included At No Added Cost

Likes:

  • Perfect Handling
  • Surprisingly Comfortable Ride
  • Outstanding Infotainment Layout and Controls

Dislikes:

  • Low-Power Engine Seems Out of Place In a Trim Called R-Sport

 

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John Goreham

John Goreham