When you wait a long time for something, you should be rewarded. That’s what happened this week at the LA Auto Show, when Jaguar Land Rover finally and officially revealed its much-anticipated F-Pace crossover SUV in North America.
There has never been a Jag truck before (the XF Sportbrake station wagon, not sold in the US, doesn’t count). But given the importance of these vehicles now for luxury automakers, its was overdue. Jag has sedans and sports cars, but it was lagging behind corporate siblings Land Rover and Range Rover, which of course sell SUVs and nothing else.
For anyone who adores the sleek lines of the legendary Jaguar E-Type, probably the most drop-dead gorgeous automobile ever created, the very idea of a Jag truck is horrifying. But if you’re going to have one, it should look great.
And thanks to Jaguar designer Ian Callum, it does. In fact, it looks better than great. It’s easily the most beautiful SUV to (soon) hit the road.
Which is a bit weird. But also understandable. The other car in the Jag stable that should showcase Ian’s considerable talent is the F-Type sports car. But I’ve never liked it very much. Compared with another Callum design, the Aston Martin DB9 (and before it, the DB7), the F-Type to my eye comes off as musclebound and thick, like a thug in an overly tailored suit who needs brag about how much he just won (or lost) and the craps table.
I’m in a distinct minority here — pretty much everyone else thinks the F-Type is a glorious set of wheels, poetry in sheet metal.
However, you can kind of see my point if you study at the F-Pace and see that same loudmouth thug in a suit that properly envelopes his bulk. The F-Type is too big. The F-Pace is just right — in its bigness Callum has found the correct scale to execute on his current vision.
The F-Pace is “the latest expression of Jaguar’s passion” Callum said when the car was unveiled this week at the LA Auto Show.
“It’s not just a Jaguar you want,” he added, “it’s a Jaguar you need.”
“Even your kids will think it’s cool,” Callum quipped, wryly taking aim at a market that Jaguar has regrettably left untouched during the SUV revival of the past few years: parents who need to haul around offspring, gear, pets, and friends of offspring, with their gear and maybe even their pets.
For Jaguar’s chief designer, the F-Pace and its equally new sibling in the Jag family, the XE sedan, a circle has been closed. He said in LA that 15 years ago he had set out to create a portfolio of vehicles for Jaguar that would be “modern, progressive, and elegant.”
His deservedly immodest verdict on his track record over a decade and a half is that he and Jaguar have succeeded.
The F-Pace makes it tough to argue with that judgment, even given my reservations about the F-Type. If you ponder the vehicle, you can see how Callum retained the basic headlight-to-taillight line that defines the F-Type, a clean, smooth, almost dagger- or sword-like sweep. But for the F-Pace, he took that line and elevated it, providing the required sense of ruggedness below, through the crossover’s raised heft. Balancing that is the elegant curve of the roofline.
This is preposterously beautiful truck. Compare it with the BMW X/M6, a car of similar scale but far more baffling aesthetics — an angry beast of a car, bulging and thrusting everywhere:
And unlike the SUVs in Jag’s corporate stable, from Land Rover and Range Rover, the F-Pace eschews a utilitarian, boxy shape for tailoring that’s sleek and sinuous. It looks quick, and it looks quick without too much effort.
It’s competition, looks-wise, is mainly the Porsche Cayenne, but that groundbreaking luxury SUV is hampered by optics that have always made Porsches less lovely, by a long shot, than Jags. The bug-eyed front, though streamlined in recent decades, can never be fully renounced. Jags, by contrast, have in their DNA those signature swept-back headlight pods that much of the auto industry has copied.
So there you have it. If you want an SUV but have always hated how they look, the F-Pace has arrived to scratch your itch. And to scratch it beautifully.
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