As much economic sense as a Jaguar SUV makes in 2016, it’s still a bit hard to wrap one head’s around the notion of a sport utility in the lineup given the company’s history as a maker of exciting saloons and roadsters, yet here we are.
Based on the C-X17 concept first revealed at the Frankfurt Motor Show in 2013, the F-Pace is built on Jaguar’s new modular Lightweight Aluminum Architecture shared with the compact XE sedan with which it also shares a basic platform, engines and transmissions.
Like the XE, the F-Pace is mostly made of aluminum (80 percent of body structure). As of now, Jaguar claims it’s the only SUV in its segment to utilize an aluminum moncoque passenger compartment. Magnesium is also being used for some parts such as the cross-car beam.
For the Canadian market, the F-Pace is offered with two engines, a 2.0-litre turbo diesel (180 hp /318 lb-ft.) and a 3.0-litre supercharged V6 (340 hp / 332 lb-ft.), both of which are mated to an 8-speed ZF-sourced eight-speed automatic transmission.
Available in four trims – Premium, Prestige, R-Sport and S – each equipped with a rear-biased all-wheel drive system with torque vectoring, the F-Pace ranges in price from $50,900 to $67,900, which puts it squarely in the middle of the luxury SUV market.
The mid-range black R-Sport tester I got my mitts on recently starts at $59,900 but is loaded out with almost $8,000 worth of options, including a driver assist pack ($3,100), which adds a surround camera system, park assist, 360-degree parking aid, traffic sign recognition, adaptive speed limiter and adaptive cruise control.
Other options include 20-inch blade 5-spoke grey wheels ($500), heated windshield ($400), and a comfort & convenience package ($1,900) that adds heated and cooled front seats, reclining rear seats, remote rear seat release and a gesture tailgate.
As one might imagine, all this extra stuff makes for a very comfortable ride that can be tailored to suit just about any driving style with Eco, Normal and Dynamic modes available.
Dynamic bumps the revs and sharpens throttle response – especially when the rotary gear selector is switched to S – the others less so, especially Eco, which trades dull performance for improved fuel economy. A snow mode is also available for deep snow and gravel.
The drivetrain works marvelously, with the 3.0-litre supercharged six emitting a recognizable Jaguar snarl at start-up and under acceleration while the ZF eight-speed shifts gears seamlessly. Bumps were soaked up nicely by the double-wishbone / integral link suspension and the steering feels direct and responsive.
The AWD system is a torque-on-demand set-up first introduced for the F-Type. Designed in-house, the system features Intelligent Driveline Dynamics (IDD), which is rear-biased yet can transfer torque to the front wheels seamlessly depending on road and weather conditions.
The system is designed to maintain a rear-wheel drive performance character, yet can also adapt on the fly as driving conditions change. Based on my experience – mostly dry conditions – the F-Pace felt like a high-performance sedan, albeit one with higher ground clearance and extra cargo capacity.
Inside, the F-Pace feels like a Jaguar – modern and well-stocked, with pleasing detail touches that don’t feel trendy or over-designed. Clean and classy, in other words.
Hard keys are in abundance if, like myself, you’d rather not cover the infotainment touchscreen in greasy fingerprints. Seat and steering wheel adjustment controls are where you expect them to be and aren’t fussy to use. Navigation telematics aren’t the most dazzling, but they work fine and the abundance of steering-wheel mounted functions are fairly easy to navigate.
The F-Pace is quite roomy front and back, and my tester came with a foot-swiping gesture tailgate (handy if your arms are full) and remote rear seatback releases (also quite handy) to improve accessibility.
Overall, the F-Pace feels like a well-designed, well-engineered and well-built SUV that establishes a new beachhead in a category Jaguar needs to be in if it wants to really expand its footprint in the luxury segment.
And, in North America at least, the market is warming to it. Despite only being on sale since May, the F-Pace is already the bestselling Jaguar in both Canada and the U.S.
With so much success under its belt already, it’s not hard to imagine more SUVs being added to the Jaguar portfolio. Soon.
SPECIFICATIONS – 2017 Jaguar F-Pace
BASE PRICE / AS TESTED: $59,900 / $69,325 (incl. $1,375 destination)
ENGINE: 3.0L supercharged V6
HORSEPOWER: 340 hp @ 6,500 rpm
TORQUE: 332 lb-ft. @ 3,500 – 5,000 rpm
CURB WEIGHT: 1,821 kg
CONFIGURATION: front engine, all-wheel drive
TRANSMISSION: 8-speed ZF automatic
FUEL ECONOMY RATINGS (L/100 KM - CITY / HWY. / COMB.): 13.3 / 10.0 / 11.8
WARRANTY (MOS. / KM): 48 / 80,000
ALTERNATIVES: Audi SQ5, BMW X4 M40i, Lexus RX 350 F Sport, Mercedes-Benz GLE 400 4MATIC
Photography by Lee Bailie