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2017 Jaguar F-PACE
New Car Test Drive

Introduction

What’s this? A Jaguar truck? The ghost of Jaguar founder Sir William Lyons might moan in dismay, but a carmaker lacking a truck (words like sport-utility and crossover weren’t part of the automotive lexicon in Sir William’s day) is giving away sales in today’s market. And Jaguar is about a decade late to the game.

Arriving so late means that to have any chance of success the newcomer has to be exceptional. Does this new Jaguar measure up to that metric? Let’s come back to that.

First, the fundamentals. The Jaguar F-Pace is based on the same solid rear-wheel-drive structure that’s the foundation for the new Jaguar XE sedan, though the architecture has been expanded for the SUV; the new crossover sport-utility slots between the BMW X3 and X5 in terms of size. And it should weigh in at the low end of the compact crossover SUV scale, thanks to a body shell that’s 80 percent aluminum.

While its dimensions and tightly wrapped skin suggest athleticism, a suggestion vindicated by its dynamics, the Jaguar F-Pace also has a high usefulness index, thanks to a roominess advantage versus its prime competition, most of which hails from Germany.

Other strong points: infotainment and telematics that are several cuts above previous Jaguar systems; an excellent premium audio option; quiet operation; all-wheel drive is standard on all models; and respectable off-road performance augmented by a new system that allows the operator to select a specific speed for crawling up or down steep slopes.

At launch, F-Pace buyers have the choice of a supercharged 3.0-liter V6 in two levels of output: 340 horsepower or 380 hp, both rated for 332 pound-feet of torque. A turbodiesel is expected to join the powertrain inventory fall 2016. All engines transmit thrust through an 8-speed automatic transmission, primarily to the rear wheels, sending power to the front wheels when needed.

And, finally, there’s the value factor: price-wise, the F-Pace is at the low end of its competitive set.

Model Lineup

The 2017 Jagaur F-Pace comes in nearly a dozen trim levels, starting with the diesel-powered F-Pace 20d ($40,990). The F-Pace 35t ($42,840) is powered by a 340-hp V6. Other models include the F-Pace Premium ($45,700); F-Pace Prestige ($50,100); F-Pace Sport and F-Pace R Sport ($57,290); and the limited-production F-Pace First Edition. (Prices are MSRP and do not include destination charge of $995.)

Walkaround

At some level, it’s reasonable to say all sport-utility vehicles look pretty much alike, basically a two-box shape with varying degrees of detailing in the sheetmetal. Reduced to basics, the F-Pace is typical of contemporary styling trends, particularly compared to a segment pacesetter like the Porsche Macan. Still, this newcomer does manifest current Jaguar styling cues, particularly up front, and with the exception of a strong character line stretching between the wheel wells its skin fits like Spandex.

Viewed in profile the rear-sloping roofline and beltline rising from front to rear are reminiscent of the Range Rover Evoque, not too surprising considering the Jaguar Land Rover family ties. But in any case the taut surfaces, rearward converging lines, and muscular haunches conspire to give the F-Pace an action-ready look that does stand out from the crowd.

The F-Pace is a little bigger than key competitors such as the Audi Q5, Mercedes GLC, and Porsche Macan. But it’s only slightly bigger, and its proportions disguise its size.

Interior

Michael Dale was fond of saying, ΓÇ£Jaguars are about elegance; a Jaguar should make you feel elegant.ΓÇ¥ As a former RAF fighter pilot and Sports Car Club of America national champion, a man with a need for speed, this seemed a slightly odd trait for Mr. Dale to espouse. But as the then president of Jaguar North America, Mr. Dale’s observations commanded respect.

His elegance assertion was made in another century, but it’s a solid bet that he’d find plenty of elegance in the cabin of a new F-Pace, even in the basic trim level. It may not be the kind of walnut-lined elegance that distinguished Jaguars of yesteryear. But the contemporary blend of first rate materials, handsome design, painstaking craftsmanship, and up-to-date infotainment.

This last, telematics, infotainment, connectivity, call it what you will, hasn’t been a strong point in Jaguars, but it is now. The screens are big (standard) and bigger (bigger in higher trims), with bright icons and a nav system that’s cooperative and accurate.

Almost as important, the F-Pace is roomy compared to its German rivals, ample leg and head room behind the front seats, lots of stowage behind the rear seats. One caveat: like all two-row SUVs, great and small, the F-Pace is rated for five passengers, but occupying that middle spot in the rear means straddling the driveshaft tunnel. So, the center seat is best suited to kids in car seats.

Driving Impressions

As noted, the F-Pace looks like an athlete (by SUV standards), and its responses vindicate its appearance, i.e., they’re athletic. Body motions are well controlled; steering is surgically precise, and particularly tactile on center; and tire grip, augmented by all-wheel drive and torque vectoring, sending power to the wheel with traction, inspires a high level of confidence.

Speaking of high: our half-day with the F-Pace took place in high country around Aspen, Colorado, at altitudes ranging from 8000 to over 12,000 feet. Altitude saps horsepower, but even so Jaguar’s supercharged V6 engines delivered impressive punch in tight passing situations.

Punch up the optional Dynamic Mode, and the Jaguar’s computer enhances throttle response, raises transmission shift points, reduces shift time, adds weight to the steering effort, and adds red to the instrument lighting, so you know you’re ready to rock.

Jaguar predicts 0-to-60 mph in 5.1 seconds with the 380-horsepower V6, 5.5 seconds with the 340 hp version, at sea level. Altitude erodes horsepower, but based on our Rocky Mountain high experiences, we have no reason to doubt the claims.

In addition to brisk acceleration and agile dynamics, the F-Pace is also quiet at most speeds on most pavement, and delivers surprisingly supple ride quality.

Another surprise: the F-Pace has moderate off-road capability, with a nifty new feature that allows the driver to negotiate steep uphills and precipitous downhills by setting a specific (low) speed, 3 mph, 5 mph, whatever seems appropriate. Jaguar calls it All Surface Progress Control. Think of it as a low speed cruise control.

One performance element that wasn’t on display in Colorado was the 2.0-liter turbodiesel, 180 horsepower, 318 pound-feet of torque, that will become available this fall. However, the same engine is available in the new XE sedan, which was also part of the Colorado program, and while the F-Pace is substantially heavier, we anticipate respectable performance based on our experience in the diesel-powered XE.

Summary

In performance, style, assembly, appointments, and, though it’s a minor point for this kind of luxury crossover, off-road capability, Jaguar’s first SUV is at least the equal of anything in its class and arguably better than most. Though he was basically a sports car purist, it seems safe to say Sir William would approve.

New Car Test Drive founding editor Tony Swan filed his report after test drives of Jaguar F-Pace models in Colorado.


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