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Jaguar XF: 2.2 Diesel XF embarks on U.S. road trip

Tue, 08 Nov 2011

Jaguar XF: 2.2 Diesel - off to show the US how frugal it is

We did wonder why Jaguar chose to launch the new XF 2.2 Diesel at the New York Motor Show in the Spring. After all, Americans aren’t exactly the biggest lovers of oil-burning engines. But it looks like Jaguar are planning to change their minds about the virtues of running a diesel-engined luxury car.

Jaguar has shipped a right-hand drive XF 2.2 Diesel from Whitley to New York, and are planning a 2800 mile road trip through 11 states to end up in Los Angeles.

Jaguar has fitted a GPS device to their XF to make the project a bit interactive, and those who are interested can get updates on Jaguar’s Facebook page or on Twitter (hashtag #XFCoast2Coast).

This little jaunt is a US replay of the road trip Jaguar did from Castle Bromwich to Munich in the 2.2 XF back in July, when testers David and Alexander Madgwick managed to do the 816 mile trip at an average of 57mpg. And it’s the same father and son team driving this XF diesel across the US.

Just as we said when we reported on the Munich jaunt, the 57mpg achieved is entirely plausible even if you don’t have the eco-habits of a hypermiler programmed in to your right foot.

We achieved a best of 49mpg out of the 3.0 litre diesel XJ when we had it in for long term test last year on a dual carriageway run to Ipswich and back, and managed over 40mpg on any sort of decent jaunt.

It’s only fairly recently that UK drivers have come to relish the benefits of a good diesel lump for anything other than HGVs and taxis, and the Americans are probably where we Brits were a decade ago in their attitude to oil-burning luxury cars.

But really, even with fuel prices in the US at much lower levels than in Europe, having a luxury saloon car that can do over 40mpg in the real world (33mpg in US gallons) and have decent levels of performance – 0-60 in around 8 seconds – is something even the Americans must take to before long.

But we do have to wonder what exactly Jaguar’s game plan is, apart from demonstrating the benefits of the diesel XF to American car buyers. Because the 2.2 litre XF Diesel Jaguar are using to jaunt across the States isn’t road legal in the US.

The Americans – sensibly, in our view – treat petrol and diesel engines the same when it comes to emissions regulations. Unlike in Europe, where diesel engines are allowed to emit more of the real nasties like NOx and particulates than petrol engines, the US regulations impose the same criteria on both diesel and petrol emissions.

Which means that even though the 2.2 litre diesel engine in the XF (and the 3.0 litre too, for that matter) are EU5 compliant, they’re not legal in the US, and Jaguar has had to acquire a special 30 day exemption from the DOT to make this trip possible.

Jaguar’s official position is that the XF road trip is about showcasing the XF, rather than promoting the diesel engine to American car buyers. We asked them if sending the XF diesel Stateside was a prelude to launching a diesel-engined Jaguar in America. They said:

The project is very much a UK-derived programme and is not a change of policy on diesel coming to America.

So why choose to perform the drive in the US? We conducted a similar economy-focussed drive earlier in the year when an XF travelled from the factory in which it was built in Birmingham to Munich – a distance of 816-miles – on a single tank of diesel.

During the drive we found that the XF 2.2 was at its most efficient at around 60-70mph in eighth gear.

Unfortunately, much of Europe is so congested, finding a route to perform an extended economy run to truly determine the efficiency of the XF is extremely difficult. Likewise, we discovered that when a route was found in Europe, actually identifying with the distance covered (for example, London to Madrid) proved obscure and difficult for most people to understand.

The US interstate network fits our requirements perfectly – it’s one of the few environments that would allow the car to run, largely uninterrupted (we hope), over very long distances at its ideal cruising speed to maximise economy and verify the true efficiency of the car. The premise is also very easy to understand: ‘coast to coast’.

Despite the statement, Jaguar would be mad not to be considering diesel cars for the US in the future. At the moment sales of diesel cars in the US are growing, but they’re growing more at the bottom end rather than the ‘Luxury’ sector. That has to do not just with the American perception of diesels in general, but also the infrastructure for diesel fuel.

Diesel is still not widely available outside truck stops, a place college kids in their new diesel Jetta may be happy to frequent, but Mr Corporate America probably isn’t too keen on getting his hands dirty at a truck stop to refuel his nice new Jaguar diesel.

Until that changes, Jaguar are unlikely to go to the expense of homologating a diesel engine for the US; the numbers just don’t stack up yet. Mercedes, for example, sold only 800 E-Class diesels in the US last year.

But things will change, and Jaguar’s jaunt across the States in the 2.2 diesel XF certainly won’t do any harm in the challenge of getting Americans to embrace diesel-engined luxury cars.

Even if they can’t buy one from Jaguar. For now.

(13 photos – click any thumbnail for full gallery)

By Cars UK