Tom Crosby: Jaguar drives its first ever SUV into hot market

Tom Crosby

Jaguar has entered the lucrative sport utility market with its 2017 F-PACE crossover that incorporates the luxury and performance of a Jaguar sedan with the rugged off-road chops of a Land Rover SUV.

Tata Motors, the India-based owner of Jaguar Land Rover, knows trucks and sport utility vehicles are the most profitable vehicles made and believe Jaguar’s iconic image will inspire buyers.

The luxury compact F-PACE enters a hotly contested market – numbering 103 SUVs – which has been gaining sales, spurred by continuing low gas prices. The F-PACE comes in five trims: base, Premium, Prestige, R-Sport and S. We tested the 35t R-Sport (there are also diesel powered R F-PACE trims).

Our test-drive had $7,090 in much-needed and appreciative options that included design cues, technology upgrades, and a unique activity key – a water and shock proof wristband for locking your key in the car (disabling the engine) and unlocking upon return.

Eye-catching good looks – bound to win awards – is achieved with a classic simple, streamlined, aerodynamic look mingled with muscular wheel arches, extended spoiler, short front overhangs, sculpted hood and level beltline.

Sturdily built with 80% aluminum – including the 3.0-liter premium gas-fed engine – the F-PACE handles like a sports car with familiar adrenaline rushes under acceleration inspired by precisely responsive handling using torque vectoring, plus adaptive and configurable dynamic systems.

On 20-inch wheels cruising the highway, the ride is compliant with double wishbone and integral link suspension. Off-road, 8.4-inch ground clearance and all-wheel drive Land Rover-inspired features allows the F-PACE to hold its own off-road. Adaptive surface response adjusts throttle speed and wheel spin for sand, wet grass, gravel or snow surfaces.

Inside, our two-tone black and white theme included premium materials, intricate fit and finish, ample knick-knack spaces, a two-row panoramic moonroof, contrast stitching, tastefully placed Jaguar icons and cutting-edge safety features. Windsor soft-grain leather cosseted seats are comfortable and rear seats electrically recline plus fold to create ample cargo space with a reversible floor covering above a spare tire. InControl Touch Pro offers information and controls a 10.2-inch dashboard screen, swipeable like a tablet.

A Meridian sound system is excellent, sometimes having to overcome engine drone. Voice control works well but there is no navigation voice control, visors don’t extend and the start/stop feature is rough. It can be disabled, eliminating minor gas savings. Choosing Eco drive mode, instead of Normal or Sport, also helps conserve fuel.

LIKE: Power, profile, handling, posh interior, versatility, audio
DISLIKE: Visors, engine noise, options needed
BOTTOM LINE: F-PACE will elevate status of Jaguar brand
Base price plus destination charge $56,295 (tested at $64,385)
Vehicle weight 4,015 lbs.
Wheelbase 113.2 inches
Length 186.3 inches
Width 81.5 inches
Engine 3.0 liter, DOHC, V-6, supercharged
Horsepower 340 hp at 6,500 rpm
Torque 450 lbs.-ft. at 4,500 rpm
Transmission 8-speed automatic, manual paddles
EPA Rating 18 mpg city and 23 mpg highway
Range 16.6-gallon tank, premium unleaded
Performance 0-60 in 5.4 seconds

Tom Crosby is a former journalist and communications director for AAA Carolinas. He has been reviewing cars since 1996, and has been active in traffic safety issues for more than 30 years.