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Culture / Cars

Surprise Sports Car Crossover Turns Heads — and Shakes Up the Bottom Line

This Big Cat Really Moves

BY // 06.04.17

You might think Jaguar would be the last automaker that needed to add a utility vehicle to its lineup. After all, the company is Jaguar/Land Rover, and nothing says luxury utility vehicle like a Land Rover. Nonetheless, adding a sport utility vehicle is exactly what Jaguar has done. And done with great aplomb.

The F-Pace, Jaguar’s sports car performance crossover, a handsome brute of a ute, thanks to the efforts of lead designer Ian Callum and his team. It’s also been a big success.

In January and February, it accounted for nearly half of all Jaguar sales in the country, nearly equaling the combined volume of the XJ, XF and XE sedans and F-Type sports car. As a result, Jaguar sales have more than doubled. For the month of April, Jaguar sales were 3,230 units, a 197 percent increase from 1,087 units in April 2016. That is the best April Jaguar sales month since 2004.

The Jaguar F-Pace hit 1,377 units sold, making it the brand’s volume leader for the month.

The Jaguar F-Pace buyer is less interested in rugged off-road treks, for which Land Rovers are famous, and more into having a vehicle with around-town utility and a sports sedan’s driving experience. With swooping lines and an elongated hood, this Jaguar’s seductive curves seduce the eye and make a compelling statement regarding style and performance. The stance is taut and athletic, sleek without being too rakish.

Buyers of the F-Pace can choose 180-horsepower four-cylinder diesel models, or an F-Pace with one of two supercharged 3.0-liter gasoline-powered V6s. The less powerful of these produces 340 horsepower. The F-Pace S uses much the same V6 engine, tuned to produce 380 horsepower. It hurtles the F-Pace forward with the speed and assurance of a bullet train, and it sprints from 0-60 mph in a mere 5.1 seconds. All models use an eight-speed automatic transmission that shifts very well. All-wheel drive is also standard.

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In addition to engines, Jaguar also gives buyers the choice of a base model, or versions in Premium, Prestige or R Sport trim. In each, the diesel engine is standard equipment. The base V6 adds $1,400 to the price. The F-Pace is not a sports car, but its tight exterior, clever suspension and eager V6 engines make it great fun to drive. In most driving, the rear wheels get all the engine’s power. Only when slippage is detected is some of the power redirected to the front wheels.

The F-Pace feels amazingly like a car when driving it. It’s powerful and delivers more than enough acceleration to make merging onto the highway easy. Adding to the positive driving experience is torque vectoring, which makes the F-Pace even more responsive and stable through turns. Nimble and agile are not adjectives usually applied to utility vehicles, but they fit perfectly here. As for riding comfort, the suspension that delivers the entertaining handling also produces a firm ride.

The F-Pace’s supercharged firepower is expertly routed through what has become an industry standard, Jaguar optimized ZF sourced eight-speed automatic that the brand employs throughout its lineup. Power is distributed to all four wheels through Jaguar’s AWD system, incorporating its advanced Adaptive Dynamic Surface Response system that adjusts steering, engine, transmission, and stability control based on rolling resistance and tire slip. This provides the SUV with a sure-footedness that makes it feel smaller and lower to the ground than it is.

Combined with double-wishbone suspension setup in the front and a subframe-mounted multilink system in the rear, a curb weight of 4,015 pounds, and a monocoque comprised mostly of aluminum, the F-Pace is an agile offering.

The body structure feels rock solid and interior noise levels are low, although the engines definitely make their presence known during brisk acceleration. Five people can travel in comfort in the F-Pace. The cabin is nicely assembled, but the design is more simplistic than some might prefer. Cargo capacity is rated at 33.5 cubic feet with the rear seats raised and 63.5 cubic feet with them folded. Making cargo loading easier is the gesture tailgate, which opens just as the name implies.

From an aesthetic point of view, you’ll find sumptuous design, buttery leather on the dashboard and door panels and ambient lighting that sets an upscale mood. In a world where luxury is often watered down and imitated, the F-Pace is the real deal.

Options we’d recommend include the Technology Package with its suite of features such as an upgraded 825-watt, 17-speaker Meridian sound system, navigation, and in-car Wi-Fi; the Driver Assistance Package and its dash of safety and sensibility with a 360-degree camera setup, adaptive cruise control, and traffic sign recognition among the features.

Opting for the Comfort and Convenience pack gets you climate-controlled front seats and heated, power-reclining rear seats while the $2,200 Luxury Interior option includes such accoutrements as four-way climate control, a lockable and “cooled” glovebox, and configurable interior mood lighting.

Jaguar is certainly not the first to venture into the luxury field with a sporty utility vehicle. Buyers have several worthy options from both European, American and Japanese marques. Yet the Jaguar, in its first try, has pulled together a compelling package. No buyer of a sport utility vehicle should make a decision before taking a careful look at the F-Pace.

Price: starts at $41,990. The F-Pace S starts at $57,700.

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