The new F-Pace, Jaguar’s first SUV, is a handsome five-seater with enough performance and utility to overcome a few annoyances.
Versus the competiton:
The F-Pace isn’t the most utilitarian or luxurious choice among smallish luxury SUVs, but it’s a solid pick for sheer driving fun.
If Jaguar wanted to build an SUV, it’s bizarre — from a financial standpoint, anyway — that it wouldn’t just sculpt and rebadge an SUV from Land Rover, its sister brand that builds many acclaimed SUVs. (India’s Tata Motors owns both British marques.) Yet Jaguar insists it never even considered making a version of the Range Rover Sport or Evoque because the whole gamut of Land Rovers is simply incapable of driving like a Jag.
As billed, the F-Pace does, in fact, drive like a Jaguar. Developed on the same platform as the all-new XE and redesigned XF, it’s as fun to drive as you’d expect from a brand known for roadsters and sport sedans, but electronic glitches with our test car raise concerns.
On sale now, the F-Pace slots between compact and midsize rivals (think BMW X3 and X5 or Mercedes-Benz GLC- and GLE-Class) in overall length, with a price that puts it closer to the smaller set. All-wheel drive is standard and the F-Pace comes in six trim levels, with a supercharged, 3.0-liter V-6 that makes either 340 horsepower or, in the top two trims, 380 hp. Go here to stack them all up.
With Jaguar’s squinting headlights, tall grille and signature taillights, the F-Pace fits right in with the rest of the lineup. Lineage aside, it has all the cues of a performance SUV: high belt line, long hood, short overhangs and wide stance.
Naturally, that profile robs visibility. Forward sight lines are acceptable, but the belt line and roofline converge on a small rear window that limits the rearward view even if you flip the rear head restraints down.
A panoramic moonroof is standard, as are 18-inch alloy wheels. Top trim levels have some light ground effects and you can option the wheels all the way up to 22-inchers.
The F-Pace’s supercharged V-6 pulls the SUV swiftly up to speed, with just a hint of coarseness if you push it all the way toward redline. I drove both versions of the V-6 and the extra 40 hp — a tuning modification, Jaguar says, with no difference in torque — is hard to detect. Both versions deliver punchy acceleration, making Jaguar’s zero-to-60-mph claims of 5.1 to 5.4 seconds, depending on engine, entirely believable. Those numbers are sport-sedan quick and impressive for a base gasoline engine.
The accelerator responds immediately, enabling lag-free movement from a standstill — an unsung benefit in many Jaguars, especially considering the lag that’s rampant in too many luxury cars. Still, the F-Pace’s eight-speed automatic occasionally hunts on downshifts. Driver-selectable sport modes quell some of this, but transmissions should be responsive without the driver having to futz with settings.
Ride quality is firm but livable, with limited body motion over rapid elevation changes. The suspension neutralizes individual bumps well enough, but broken pavement brings a busy sensation that can wear on you. I drove cars with both the fixed suspension and an adaptive option and didn’t detect a huge difference between the two.
For the average luxury SUV shopper, the F-Pace’s handling should satisfy. The SUV delivers secure grip, flat cornering and direct enough steering. Its significant width, however — at 81.5 inches, it’s about 5 inches wider than an X5 — will keep you from wanting to sling it around tight corners. The brakes require an inch or two of pedal travel before much response, but they’re strong thereafter.
Later this year, Jaguar will debut a base, turbocharged diesel four-cylinder good for 180 hp and 318 pounds-feet of torque. EPA-estimated mileage for the gasoline F-Pace is 18/23/20 mpg city/highway/combined. Estimates are still pending for the diesel version.
The cabin sweeps around in a traditional cockpit orientation, but it’s wide enough to avoid feeling pinched. Jaguar also left some well-placed storage areas to hold a smartphone or two. Cabin materials show some cost-cutting below arm and elbow level — areas where the GLC-Class excels — but they’re nicer elsewhere, with an optional vinyl-wrapped dashboard that could pass for real cowhide.
I can’t say the same for the F-Pace’s Luxtec vinyl upholstery, which is standard in lower trims (the norm in this class). It’s a rubbery, cheap-feeling substitute for the real leather that comes in higher trims. (Not all vinyl upholstery feels this way; it’s a convincing alternative in some luxury cars.) Power-adjustable front seats are standard; sport seats with deeper bolsters are optional, as are heated and ventilated seats.
The three-position backseat has good headroom and legroom but a rather low seat height; some adults may find their knees uncomfortably elevated. Heated outboard seats with power recliners are optional, but all rear passengers will be annoyed in the F-Pace’s lower trims, which lack a center armrest or any rear cupholders. C’mon, Jaguar. Let the masses have their Big Gulps.
The F-Pace has a standard Meridian stereo with HD radio, USB and iPod compatibility, and Bluetooth hands-free phone and audio streaming. It’s easy to use thanks to physical shortcut keys that flank the standard 8-inch touch-screen. There’s also a 5-inch display between the analog gauges.
An optional multimedia system adds upgraded Meridian audio and swaps the gauges for a 12.3-inch virtual instrument cluster. The screen can simulate various gauge themes or show a navigation map, similar to Audi’s virtual cockpit (though the Jaguar display lacks Audi’s Google Earth overlays, if you’re into that). It also trades the 8-inch dashboard touch-screen for a 10.2-inch unit that eliminates the shortcut keys. I prefer the mechanical keys to the larger display’s onscreen ones, but the system is otherwise an upgrade — especially its navigation system, with pinch and swipe capabilities that work at smartphone speed. You can still get navigation with the 8-inch display, but it’s a slow, yesteryear system by comparison.
Jaguar says its dedicated InControl Apps interface — also optional — integrates third-party apps from a connected iPhone or Android smartphone. Still, the F-Pace doesn’t offer Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, two interfaces fast becoming the price of entry for any multimedia system.
An optional waterproof wristband transponder, which Jaguar calls Activity Key, gets you into or out of your car without the normal remote. The embedded RFID tag means it’s battery-free and, as part of the locking process, deactivates any remotes you leave inside the car while you surf, swim or whatever. Way cool, brah.
Concerning, however, are the F-Pace’s electronics, which had all kinds of glitches during our two weeks in a local test car after returning from Jaguar’s media drive.
Multiple editors noted the bugaboos. In two instances, the volume and channel-surfing controls froze on satellite radio. The audio also cut out entirely, once with FM radio and another time with satellite. Both outages occurred in areas without apparent signal obstructions. In several cases the backup camera failed to engage with the F-Pace in Reverse, and in one instance we observed a warning light appear for the automatic emergency braking system while we were stopped at an intersection.
Cargo and Storage
The F-Pace’s cargo area has 33.5 cubic feet of space below window level, which is impressive for the class. The backseat folds in a 40/20/40 split to provide 63.5 cubic feet of maximum cargo room. A power liftgate is standard; hands-free operation is optional.
The F-Pace has not been crash-tested. Jaguar offers the usual panoply of safety tech, but much of it is optional instead of standard. Base models lack a backup camera, which is inexcusable for a 2017 luxury SUV. Optional forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking doesn’t come in the bottom three trim levels, which make up more than half of all F-Pace inventory on Cars.com. In the GLC-Class, collision warning with automatic braking is standard.
Value in Its Class
It’s certainly not the first time we’ve experienced glitches in a Jaguar (our recent experience in an XJ sedan was similar) and it raises questions of long-term reliability. But Jaguar mitigates that to a great extent with its impressive warranty and maintenance coverage.
Jaguar struck while the iron was hot, launching its first SUV as consumer demand for the body style soared. The smithy served up some fine metal indeed with the F-Pace, which starts at a little over $43,000 with destination. The diesel version will reduce that by about $1,400 when it goes on sale.
Somewhere between the F-Pace’s starting price and its high $70,000s ceiling, the SUV should appeal to any performance-SUV shopper. There’s no doubt the brand will cannibalize a few of them from its Land Rover sibling, but the F-Pace should get a piece of the luxury SUV pie nonetheless — much of it from other competitors.
Editor’s note: This review was updated Oct. 1, 2016, to detail glitches observed in an F-Pace driven after the media preview.
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