“Welcome to the club” is how the telegrams from BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Audi, and Porsche should read on the eve of the 2017 Jaguar F-PACE being birthed into the world. Finally, England's most popular exporter of luxury sedans has its very own sport utility vehicle to soak up the serious Jones from moneyed buyers across the country seeking to transport the family in style.
If this seems like a minor celebration at best, I assure you it's not. Simply put, SUVs are posting double-digit gains in sales over sedans, especially in the premium segment, which is great news if you're an automaker with one in the stable ― and a terrifying reality if you're on the outside looking in as Jaguar has been until now.
Of course, there's another dimension that adds further gravitas to Jaguar's decision to step out of sister Land Rover's shadow and hit the SUV deck running. The company has long been searching for a vehicle that would give it the kind of volume that would match its long-time off-road-friendly companion in the quarterly report, and the brand new F-PACE couldn't be closer to a sure thing in filling that role if it came with a hatch full of Fabergé eggs.
Two flavours of F-PACE
Two versions of the 2017 Jaguar F-PACE will initially be making their way to Canadian showrooms, each featuring the same supercharged 3.0L V6 (with a 4-cylinder turbo-diesel to follow later on). Base 35t models produce 340 horsepower and 332 lb-ft of torque, while the F-PACE S editions of the SUV graduate to 380 horses. All-wheel drive is obviously standard across the board, as is an 8-speed automatic transmission. Jaguar claims a 0-100 km/h sprint of just 5.1 seconds for the F-PACE S.
After driving the Jaguar F-PACE through the mountain passes that separate Aspen, Colorado from the bulk of western civilization, I'm inclined to agree with the engineering team's assessment of the vehicle's forward momentum. Truth be told, either version of the F-PACE accelerates with authority, thin air be damned, with a slight edge going to the deeper breathing of the S.
All the right moves
More impressive to me was the tenacity with which the Jaguar F-PACE clung to the tarmac beneath its wheels. Sharing the same basic platform as the XE sedan (also new for 2017), the F-PACE leverages the high-performance acumen that gave us phenomenal drives like the F-Type coupe and roadster to deliver handling that is above and beyond what one would expect from an entry-level SUV. To be honest, it's rare to encounter a vehicle in the F-PACE’s class that's genuinely enjoyable to pilot outside the urban commute, which makes the Jaguar's engaging personality stand out that much more.
Quick and spry are admirable qualities in any automobile, but an SUV also needs to be practical ― or at least feign practicality to the point where you can justify the purchase. There's fortunately no pretend needed when evaluating the 2017 Jaguar F-PACE based on its people-moving merits. The 5-passenger Brit is generous to rear-seat occupants, and folding down the seatbacks reveals 1,740 litres of total storage capacity ― on par with models like the BMW X3 and Audi Q5. The interior is also very quiet at speed, lending a suitable poise to its travel.
In terms of the materials used to furbish the Jaguar F-PACE’s comfortable cabin, it would be unreasonable to expect the vehicle to come across as plush as its Land Rover cousins, but the net effect is overall positive. Stick with the $53,900 F-PACE 35t and you'll see a mix of plastic and leather on the vehicle's main touchpoints, dashboard, and door panels. However, step up to the $66,500 F-PACE S and there's a noticeable improvement in softness and presentation throughout the interior. The 35t can additionally have its interior environment bolstered by way of selecting the R-Sport or Prestige trim levels.
It's also worth noting that the F-PACE introduces the option of the InControl Touch Pro infotainment interface. This 10.2” widescreen display is a serious upgrade over the standard InControl Touch system, so much so that Jaguar would do well to consider eliminating the smaller, slower version and making Pro standard across the board. Moreover, the F-PACE can receive a configurable HD gauge cluster that looks much smarter than the standard instrumentation.
To boldy go
One thing I've yet to touch on is just how handsome the 2017 Jaguar F-PACE is in the flesh. Forget the amorphous, everything-to-everyone blobs of metal and steel that have stealthily penetrated the SUV market from all sides: The new F-PACE wears its purposeful, muscular aluminium shape with pride. Particularly from the front, the F-PACE fits in perfectly with the rest of the Jaguar family, making it impossible to label the sport utility vehicle's styling as anything other than an organic outgrowth of the company's current design language.
The boldness inherent in the 2017 Jaguar F-PACE’s visuals is also present when examining its pricing. The entry-level window sticker mentioned above positions this SUV higher than the base trim of every single one of its European competitors (although the diesel variant will be slightly cheaper). Still, it's important to remember that the F-PACE is the only vehicle in its class to offer a supercharged 6-cylinder as its starting gas engine, blowing past the respective outputs of the turbocharged 4-cylinders offered by Audi et al.
The million-dollar question, so to speak
The question becomes whether potential buyers looking at the bottom line will be willing to ante up for a mightier mill rather than simply find the most affordable way to park a premium badge in front of the house. The answer is likely yes ― and it also seems probable that, given the seemingly unquenchable thirst for all things luxury SUV that currently dominate the Canadian consciousness, the F-PACE will quickly become the most popular model in the automaker's fleet.
Brandishing looks, road feel, and a ride like a Jaguar, the new 2017 F-PACE is well on its way to accomplishing that rarest of SUV feats: selling out the inventory without selling out the brand.
For a second opinion on the 2017 Jaguar F-PACE, check out Trevor Hofmann’s impressions following his first drive.