The 2018 Jaguar F-Pace 20d R-Sport swaps gas for diesel and isn't as fun as the 35t

Key Points
  • Sophisticated styling and a nimble chassis make this Jaguar easy to love
  • The interior falls short of the competition and the price tag
  • The 20d is Jaguar's diesel model, which packs a powerful and efficient turbodiesel engine that impressed CNBC's reviewer.
  • Still, if you want the most fun you're best opting for one of the F-Pace's stellar gasoline-fueled powertrains.
The Jaguar F-Pace 20d R-Sport
Mack Hogan | CNBC

Back in July, I reviewed the Jaguar F-Pace 35t R-Sport. I fell in love with the car, so when Jaguar offered me the opportunity to drive another version of the F-Pace, I couldn't resist. This one is a 20d R-Sport, which means it's powered by a 2.0-liter diesel engine.

My favorite thing about the F-Pace was the howling supercharged V6 and the lovely chassis. It was the first SUV I'd driven that was properly fun to drive. But drop a heavy, less-powerful diesel engine into the nose and it's quite easy to screw up the formula.

Luckily, Jag's pulled it off. Running on the same fuel as a dump truck, the F-Pace still manages to impress with a responsive power-train and an absurdly capable chassis.

Exterior: Still a stunner

The Jaguar F-Pace 20d R-Sport from the front
Mack Hogan | CNBC

I'm a complete sucker for Jag's clean-cut design philosophy. I know I said it in the last F-Pace review, but Ian Callum deserves endless amounts of praise. As Jaguar's design boss, he transitioned the company from stale relics of "ole Britain" to tightly-tucked, chisel-jawed showstoppers.

The sharp-looking Jaguar 20d R-Sport
Mack Hogan | CNBC

For years, dozens of manufacturers seemed incapable of translating their corporate style to SUVs, but Jaguar crushes it on the first try. The F-Pace looks sophisticated while maintaining an aggressive, muscular stance. It's not overwrought or shouty, just shaped with clean and simple lines that show a "less is more" approach to styling.

The proportions are masterful, and even in muted colors the F-Pace stands out in a sea of passionless crossovers.

Interior: Falls short of the price

Interior of the Jaguar F_Pace 20d R-Sport
Mack Hogan | CNBC

My Jaguar 20d R-Sport tester came optioned with a diesel powerplant, all-wheel drive, upgraded navigation and audio, power tailgate, reclining rear seats, lane keeping assist, panoramic sunroof, Wi-Fi and cooled front seats. The total rung out to $64,722, up from the 20d's starting price of $46,275.

For that price, the interior is a bit lacking. It's justifiable, given that the F-Pace's body and chassis are more sophisticated than much of the competition, but still disappointing. It'd be a whole lot better if the car wasn't optioned with "Oyster Grain" seats and lime-green stitching. With the aluminum inserts, fluorescent blue lighting and off-gray seats it all clashes much more than you'd expect in the fashion-forward Jag.

The Jaguar 20d R-Sport infotainment system is sluggish
Mack Hogan | CNBC

Jaguar's infotainment system is also a tad frustrating, but I'm becoming more acquainted with it the more time I spend in Jaguar/Land Rover vehicles. It can be slow to respond and is always slow to boot, but at least it looks classy and elegant.

The menus and pictures are all done up with photos of British phone booths and winding B-roads in England, adding to the uniqueness of the car. It's a constant reminder that you chose something a bit different than the BMWs and Mercedes sitting outside every McMansion in Connecticut. I like that quite a bit.

The Jaguar F-Pace 20d R-Sport trunk
Mack Hogan | CNBC

As a final note on the interior, I'll offer advice I'd never expect to give: Please, don't get the full-size spare tire. Modern wheels are so gargantuan that Jaguar had to redesign the entire cargo area's floor to accommodate it, cutting into your space and making the load floor not flat.

Driving Experience: A moment of silence for our dear friend diesel

The interior of the 2018 Jaguar F-Pace 20d R-Sport
Mack Hogan | CNBC

I'd never spent any real time driving a diesel luxury car, and driving the 20d R-sport makes me wish I had sooner. It's no replacement for a performance-focused powertrain, but it's a good solution if you're a fuel miser.

The real hero of this powertrain is the eight-speed automatic transmission. Diesels have a notoriously small powerband, so frequent and smart shifting is a necessity. The gearbox makes the best of all eight cogs, acting intelligently but responding quickly to any user paddle-ordered shifts from the driver.

A huge panoramic sun-roof in the Jaguar F-Pace 20d R-Sport
Mack Hogan | CNBC

Of course, the F-Pace never quite feels like the capital "S" Sport utility vehicle that the 35t was. You'll pin the throttle and be surprised by the torque, but as the revs build and the sounds ramps up you'll be surprised how quickly redline comes. The engine always feels like you're about to build into the fun rev range, but then runs out of puff and has to swap gears to keep the party rolling.

You'll also have to deal with a bit less refinement than you may expect from the gasoline F-Pace. At idle, the F-pace shudders frequently. If you rev to about 2,000 RPM and then let off, there's a noticeable shake as the car settles back to idle. Small details, but they do make the experience less luxurious than you'd get in the F-Pace 35t.

The benefit is that in an all-wheel drive, heavy SUV that I drove like a ham-fisted maniac, I still couldn't get the fuel-economy average to drop below 30 mpg.

Value: No real competitors

The Jaguar F-Pace 20d R-Sport from the side
Mack Hogan | CNBC

It's tricky to peg the value of this car, because the competitive set has entirely evaporated. Before Volkswagen's infamous emissions cheating, the Germans were happy to market and sell diesels. Now, you can't get a diesel powertrain in any direct competitor to the F-Pace. BMW will sell you an X5 35d, but that's a class up in terms of size and price.

Comparing it to the rest of the F-Pace line is more fair. At $46,275 to start, the 20d Premium costs $1,500 more than an equivalent F-Pace 25t. Both offer adequate power, but the gas F-Pace will win a sprint to 60 and tops out at a higher speed. It also gets 27 miles per gallon on the highway in EPA tests, losing to the 20d's 33 miles per gallon.

The Jaguar R-Sport logo
Mack Hogan | CNBC

While diesel costs significantly more than regular gas, the 25t drinks premium only. Unfortunately, national averages for premium gasoline aren't readily available as grades and quality vary by location, but at a local gas station diesel is $0.12/gallon more expensive than 91 octane. With the diesel model costing $1,500 more with 33 miles per gallon, the break-even point is just a hair under 100,000 miles.

That's without taking into account that diesel maintenance is usually more expensive. The long and short of it is that the diesel only really makes sense if you actually prefer the feeling of a diesel engine, as the breakeven point is so far off.

Final Thoughts

The Jaguar logo
Mack Hogan | CNBC

The diesel isn't as charming or fun as the wonderful F-Pace 35t R-sport, but it's still more fun than just about any other milquetoast luxury crossover. I walked away from this car even more in love with the platform, the design and the engineering of the F-Pace.

It didn't quite convince me that the diesel was worth the price or the sacrifice, but it reminded me just how truly special the F-Pace is.


Exterior: 5

Interior: 2.5

Driving Experience: 4

Value: 3.5

Overall: 4

Price as configured: $64,722