It’s a Jaguar. It’s an SUV. It’s a Jaguar SUV.
Yes, that day has finally come. At the Los Angeles auo show in 2015, Jaguar Land Rover officially unveiled its first-ever sport utility for the US market. About a year later, we got our hands on it.
In the flesh, the vehicle, called F-PACE, was as stunning on the street as we initially thought it was on the showroom floor in LA. The name, which is meant to connect the crossover in nomenclature with Jag’s F-Type sports cars, is weird. But the machine is beautiful — the most gorgeous SUV currently available, we think, thanks to the aesthetic ministrations of designer Ian Callum.
Jaguar shares a corporate stable with Land Rover, so it’s not as if these folks don’t know how to bolt together a stupendous offroader. They have been doing it for decades.
But how would a Jaguar SUV stack up? After all, Jag is a sedan-and-sports-car brand, full of British panache. Does a suburban family hauler really fit, even it if that’s what the market wants?
We had a few days in the Northeast with the 2017 F-PACE to find out:
Our $72,000 test vehicle was extremely well kitted out, as they might say across the pond. It was the 'First Edition' trim level, and the colour was an alluring Caesium Blue. Only 275 will be built.
It isn't easy to design a stylish, sporty SUV. In fact, it's nearly impossible. The basic form for the segment is a large rectangular box with a wheel at each of the four corners and a big liftgate dominating the rear. But Callum has performed magic with the F-PACE.
The legendary Jaguar badge is fairly tasteful emblazoned on the finely boned, blacked out front grille. No leaping cat hood ornament, unfortunately.
The wheels are large, the lines are flowing, and the overall shape is bold and purposeful. What we have here is really a sports car that's been elevated and scaled up, rather than a truck that's been giving the sporty treatment.
You can't do much about the rear end. But the subtle curve of the liftgate coupled with the narrow tail lights and the svelte backlight maintaining the F-PACE's satisfying proportions. Note the dual exhaust pipes.
These are some of the most LED beautiful headlights on the road. They don't have that classic Jag F-Type (or E-Type) swept-back quality, but they do suggest a ferocious feline ready to pounce, so mission accomplished.
The exterior is actually deceptively dynamic. The restrained use of satin chrome, offset by the black highlights, creates a very dignified orchestration of design cues. This ever-so-slightly elongated back window is a case in point.
The fender ventiport detail is also presented quietly, in black. Even the wheels, large as they are at 22-inches, deliver the impressive of considerable power without bragging about it.
It really is the most beautiful SUV on the road, a true-head-turner that turns heads without blaring or shouting. This could rightly be called Callum's masterpiece, even if he might not want to have that honorific attached to an SUV.
The interior is marvellous, comfy, and plenty quiet. The seats could be a bit more pliant, but they're nothing short of premium, upholstered in Windsor leather. Driver and passenger seats are heated and cooled.
You're not going to find a more stately-sporty cockpit than this. The gearshift is that knob in the center console, which raises when the vehicle is on and retracts when it's off. There's also an eight-speed automatic with a manual mode that the driver can enjoy using the paddles behind the steering wheel.
Your front-seat passenger is also ensconced in comfort. I know because mine joined me for a lengthy jaunt from suburban New Jersey to rural Connecticut to see Elvis Costello and the Imposters in concert and to a bit of late-season garden-supplies shopping. There were no complaints.
The panoramic moonroof fills the equally comfortable rear seat realm with sunlight during the daytime and starlight in the evening.
As with many luxury SUV these days, rear-seat passengers can manage their own heating-and-cooling needs, and on this vehicle that includes heated seats.
You might call the interior appointments 'tailored,' and you'd be justified, given that the pattern is houndstooth. I believe this is the only vehicle available on the planet that gives you such an option.
From the driver's perspective, the steering wheel is ... well, perhaps a tad busy, with all the buttons flanking the leaping cat badge. The instruments are digital-analogue and refreshingly straightforward, but some additional info-displays are crammed into the main cluster. The steering wheel is heated.
The all-important cupholders. Above, you have the driving-mode selector, which takes some getting used to. Basically, you've got a normal mode, a fuel-saving eco-mode, an off road/bad-weather mode, and a dynamic mode for fun.
Here's a cool feature. The F-PACE can be had with an 'Activity Key,' which is a waterproof wristband that allows you to leave your keys in the vehicle. For example, let's say you're going swimming or surfing at the beach. You can use the device to lock and unlock the SUV by placing it near a proximity sensor at the rear liftgate (it's near the 'J' in Jaguar).
It took us a few minutes to work out the process, but the feature appeared to function as advertised.
The cargo space in the F-PACE is ample. A family of four would have no trouble using the car for a getaway, and it handled all our everyday suburban needs without exertion.
That's a 10.2-inch touchscreen in the center console -- 10.2-inches of roaring feline infotainment fury.
Seriously, it does represent a leap forward for Jag. The organisation is simple and tiled. However, it does have a few kinks. We found the system to be a bit sluggish at times and it even froze during a test drive. The 'trees' you move through don't always take you back to where you want, and we had a few issues with the audio system, including one instance when the satellite radio function failed.
We asked Jaguar about these issues, which are to be expected on a 1.0 version of a new infotainment rig.
In a statement to Business Insider, a Jaguar Land Rover spokesperson wrote:
'We are constantly monitoring the InControl Touch system software for bugs/issues and sending out updates as necessary. Our latest update, currently available at retailers, addresses many of the issues you seem to have experienced in the vehicle. Customers facing any similar concerns with their InControl Touch Pro System should reach out to their local retailer for assistance.'
...Which can serve up different views when you ask for directions. The search function in the navigation system proved to be well sorted and surprisingly helpful.
A suite of cameras and the F-PACE's infotainment software can create a useful bird's-eye exterior view, to assist with parking.
Our tester came with a 3.0-litre supercharged V6, making 380 horsepower. That's plenty of pump, and coupled with the eight-speed gearbox, it yields joyful driving when there's joy to be had. The 0-60 mph sprint happens in just over five seconds and it has a top speed of 155 mph.
It's also loaded with driver-assist wizardry, such as lane-keep warnings and adaptive cruise control. (I liked driving the F-PACE so much that I didn't use these very much, even with a few hundred miles on the program.)
Some folks may wish for a bit more oomph from the motor. Membership in the 400-hp club can matter, but if more ponies is what you seek, you can check out Jag's stablemate, Range Rover. Personally, the highly capable torque-vectoring all-wheel-drive system gave me all the grip I needed when I needed it, while at the same time piping the power to the rear wheels often enough that I didn't want for more grunt.
In November, Jaguar allowed Business Insider's Benjamin Zhang to take a different F-PACE test car out on a mildly-challenging off road course. The Jag proved to be surprisingly competent on rough terrain with its advanced all-wheel-drive system providing solid traction and good feel.
The F-PACE's looks get even more suave and sexy at speed. This cat was made to move. There's a lot of lightweight aluminium in the chassis, and that helps, but it doesn't compromise the SUV's solid feel.
Is it too flashy for the 'burbs? Maybe. We pulled into Litchfield, CT on a Sunday in early November and exuded a whiff more rock star than the town might generally endorse. But that could be a good thing for Jag, a brand that wants to grow to compete better with Lexus, BMW, Mercedes, and Audi. Jaguar vehicles are arguably better-looking than anything those stalwart luxury names sell -- the only true aesthetic foe the F-PACE has is the Maserati Levante and maybe the Porsche Cayenne on a good day -- and such factors could attract a younger, affluent buyership to the cat.
Ultimately, the F-PACE is perhaps the finest debut in the segment since the daddy of them all, the Cayenne. The Cayenne ultimately proved that brands with high-performance in their veins could construct compelling people-haulers.
But truthfully, I'd say the F-PACE is better. The Cayenne has been for some time the finest SUV built by human hands on planet Earth. But F-PACE could give it a run for its money.
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