AUTO REVIEW: 2017 Jaguar F-Pace Crossover Proves the Wait Was Worth It

(Chicago Tribune/TNS) —
(Jose M. Osorio/Chicago Tribune)
(Jose M. Osorio/Chicago Tribune)

We play a guessing game with guest passengers about the price of test cars before we look at the sticker. Usually the price is higher than our guest’s estimate. That’s not the case with the all-new Jaguar F-Pace crossover.

Starting at $55,300 for the higher end R-Sport trim and checking out at just under $70,000 with all the options, the F-Pace price is as impressive as the excellent package.

That reasonable price might be Jaguar taking one on the chin for being the last large luxury make to debut a crossover. The compact crossover competes with the Porsche Macan, Cadillac XT5, Audi Q3, BMW X3 and Mercedes-Benz GLC, to name just a few.

It hews more to the crossover-coupe height of the GLC coupe and the BMW X4 or larger X6, but doesn’t have the same fastback rear. Inspired by the F-Type sports coupe, the F-Pace has a sculpted hood on a long nose that flows from the grille down the doors and into the tail. The low roofline, wide stance and even wider wheelbase give it athletically handsome proportions, especially on 20-inch wheels that come standard with the R-Sport trim. It turns heads without drawing attention to any singular feature.

It is an inch or so taller than those crossover coupe things, but shorter than most normal crossovers, suggesting it might be cramped on the inside. It is anything but. F-Pace is wider than the competition by 3 to 4 inches, and the standard panoramic sunroof only expands that openness. Rear seats come with power recline as well as fold-down latches in the cargo compartment. The headrests do not automatically flip down, so the front seats need to be moved forward, one of the few oversights of the car. The available four-seat climate zone gives everyone except for the mid-seat passenger climate control. There’s room enough in a pinch, and the carpooled kids had plenty of room, but that fifth seat is not meant to be filled on road trips.

(Jose M. Osorio/Chicago Tribune)
(Jose M. Osorio/Chicago Tribune)

The R-Type trim is all about the road. It’s the kind of car that evokes the image of the practical successful adult, but once liberated from school drop-offs, lets the driver shed the suburban side streets for a lovely kind of buttoned-down wild.

It’s powered by a supercharged V-6 that makes 340 horsepower, mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel-drive. The F-Pace hits 60 mph in 5.4 seconds. The Porsche Macan does it a half second quicker, so speed nuts can opt up for the 380-horsepower supercharged V-6. Both of these engines are available in the F-Type sports coupe. There is also a diesel model coming.

Jaguar expects the 340-horsepower variant to be its volume engine in the U.S., a power plant that left us wanting for nothing. The F-Pace sheds its 4,000-pound aluminum-bound body with an effortless shrug and has one of the biggest performance differences we’ve ever felt in shifting between normal and dynamic mode. It gives drivers the versatility to be cool and refined — and quiet — when pulling up to community events, but unleashes a hungry, supercharged growl on the highway.

It uses a torque-on-demand system to deliver 332 pound-feet to the appropriate wheels, so it can shift from rear-wheel drive to AWD in 165 milliseconds, according to Jaguar. It’s hard to notice the switch.

It’s fleet-footed, and the low profile keeps it close to the ground, the low roofline helping it dip in and out of turns more like a sedan than a crossover. It’s a pleasure to drive in a way that few crossovers are.

Of course, should you tire of driving there are plenty of advanced safety features and semiautonomous technology to supplement human input.

The F-Pace technology package ($3,200) includes adaptive cruise control, which slows down or speeds up based on the car in front of you, and lane keep assist, which vibrates the steering wheel in a way that is obvious but not obnoxious. The curiosity piece in this package (and on the steering wheel controls) is the LIM button. The Intelligent Speed “LIM”iter takes adaptive cruise control one step further, we infer, by recognizing posted speed limits — even in construction zones — and cross-referencing it with GPS data so that it will keep within the posted speed limit without input from the driver. It could make sense for tired feet on late-night road trips, or sparsely traveled roads. It’s the next step in going from semi-autonomous to autonomous driving cars.

The 10.2-inch touch screen takes a lot of getting used to — we didn’t master it after a week. There were a few times when the start/stop technology stopped the engine and the radio station cut out. We couldn’t duplicate it when we tried, so there might have been a transmission gremlin in the air — we’d be curious to see if anyone else has had electrical problems.

Most of the touch screen info can be accessed through redundant steering controls that can be viewed in the 12.3-inch HD instrument cluster. It’s crystal clear, as is the head-up display ($990).

The cabin offers those little details that add up to the luxury price tag. That said, I could’ve done without the lime-green accent lighting, because the black interior with beautiful ash stitching doesn’t need distractions. The 10-year-old noticed a lack of wood, so the Riva Hoop band that links the door trim with the dash is muted. The dash is sleek, symmetrical and uncluttered, and the burnished chrome accents on the door and center stack make a lovely contrast to the soft black surfaces of the rest of the interior. There are clever little storage pockets, such as the ones on the side of the center console for phones.

The F-Pace got better each time we got behind the wheel, and should provide owners with the reassurance that its price was money well-spent.

(Jose M. Osorio/Chicago Tribune)
(Jose M. Osorio/Chicago Tribune)


2017 Jaguar F-Pace 35t R-Sport at a glance

Vehicle type: Luxury compact crossover

Base price: $55,300

As tested: $69,740 (excluding $995 delivery)

Mpg: 18 city, 23 highway

Engine: 3-liter supercharged V-6

Transmission: Eight-speed auto with AWD

Parting shot: Powerful, handsome, distinct compact crossover was worth the wait

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