If there's one vehicle that could boost Jaguar's presence in the premium world, it's the 2017 Jaguar F-Pace. This is a crossover SUV based on the XF midsize sedan, but Jaguar puts it in the same category as the smaller X3 and the Audi Q5.
The world has gone crazy, but it's gone particularly crazy for crossovers. In an effort to cash in, everyone is making one, even marques like Bentley and Maserati. No one, therefore, should think badly of Jaguar for following the trend. Especially not when it comes out with a ride as good as this.
Let's start with the greasy bits. There's one supercharged 3.0L V-6 engine that's tuned for two outputs: 340 hp in the 35t or 380 hp in the S. The lower figure is fine and probably more than adequate for most people. It's just that the higher-powered version is more fun, although it sits at the top of the range.
There's also a turbocharged four-cylinder diesel engine, the 20d model, which starts off the range. It makes 180 hp and 318 lb-ft of torque. We haven't driven a 20d F-Pace yet, but this engine works quite well in the XE compact sedan (even if it doesn't quite chime with one's preconceptions of what a Jaguar might be).
The transmission is an eight-speed automatic—with paddle shifters, should anyone be moved to click through the gears themselves. Power is sent to all four wheels as standard.
Aluminum is used a lot in the construction, including suspension parts. So the F-Pace doesn't feel like some lumbering hulk. It's surprisingly agile, well-balanced, and more than willing to change direction.
Here's a good story about the chassis and how seriously Jaguar wanted its first crossover to be a driver's choice. The whole vehicle was ready to be signed off and go into production when one of the development team members had a drive in the then-new Porsche Macan. The brilliance of the German vehicle persuaded Jaguar to keep the F-Pace in development and do some more work on the suspension. It's an effort that has paid off.
Yes, there's an elevated driving position and plenty of ground clearance (the X3 has 8.3 inches of ground clearance; the F-Pace has 8.4 inches), but the center of gravity doesn't feel awkwardly high. Instead, the F-Pace feels cohesive, collected, and calm. Yet it will respond to inputs in a manner that's more akin to a sports sedan than a crossover.
When we go beyond the driver seat, there's more to discover. Rear passenger space, for instance, is quite generous. An adult male of average size should be comfortable enough to doze off.
Cargo space is 33.5 cubic feet with the rear seats in place and 63.5 cubic feet when they're folded down (for comparison, the BMW X3 runs to 27.6 and 63.3 cubic feet). The cargo mat is double sided: carpet and rubberized. So there's the classy look and some sound-deadening qualities combined with an easily washable surface. The load-space floor is also flat, as well as being conveniently low.
Nor does it look like a brick, despite such functionality. It has to be said, crossovers are not usually handsome in the conventional sense. But it's easy to imagine many buyers finding appeal in the F-Pace's styling.
One major gripe is concerning some hard plastics on the door tops (a recurring theme if the F-Pace and the new XE premium compact sedan are any indication). Assuming Jaguar would like to have some individuality inside as well as out, then a little more sense of occasion to the cabin would be more of a match for the exterior.
Trim levels are basic F-Pace, then Premium, Prestige, R-Sport, and S. Standard equipment includes 18-inch alloy wheels, panoramic sunroof, eight-way powered front seats, power lift gate, rain-sensing wipers, puddle lamps, and a 380-watt sound system.
Plus something called all-surface progress control. This is like a low-speed cruise control. It benefits from expertise gained by sister company Land Rover, with the ability to automatically adjust throttle and braking to suit whatever tricky surface the F-Pace happens to be on, while the driver can concentrate on steering.
The all-wheel-drive system isn't from Land Rover, though. Jaguar has developed its own setup that's more suited to cars than off-roaders. In normal conditions, 90 percent of the torque goes to the rear wheels. But if necessary, that same amount can be directed to the fronts.
Extra kit includes 22-inch wheels, heated windshield, and a laser-based head-up display. But to have advanced safety features like forward collision mitigation, blind spot monitoring, and a 360-degree camera system means choosing one of the higher trims to even be eligible for the appropriate options package.
There's also something called an activity key, which is a first in the automotive world. It looks like a Fitbit, one of those wearable fitness computers with a rubberized strap. Imagine unloading the surfboards or the kayaks or the mountain bikes, then deliberately leaving the usual key in the vehicle. Touch the J of the rear Jaguar badge with the activity key on your wrist and F-Pace is locked. The key inside is deactivated. Now you're at liberty to do whatever muddy, watery pursuits you like without having to worry about getting electronic things wet. When it's time to go home, just reverse the process.
Yes, the F-Pace is a new departure for Jaguar, creators of fine sedans and sports cars. But the X5 was once a new venture for BMW and the Cayenne for Porsche. And look how well those turned out. The great thing about the F-Pace is that it comes on the scene as an already well-realized product.