Judged by looks alone, the 2017 Jaguar F-Pace S would win the diamond tiara in the premium crossover class with ease. This is a beauteous piece: angular and aggressive, the front end flashing the hungry maw of a white shark, the rear finished with elegant taillights, a chiseled and upturned skidplate, and beefy twin exhausts. My test vehicle added further bravura with Italian Racing Red metallic paint ($550) and gorgeous 22-inch polished turbine wheels (a steep $4000 but so fetching they’re probably worth it). An SUV isn’t normally the sort of rig that draws stares and thumbs-up from onlookers, but the F-Pace does.
The fashion show is only getting started. Climb aboard and you’ll find two-tone red and black leather seats, gleaming aluminum trim, and a power panoramic glass roof. The cockpit is particularly dramatic at night, where optional configurable mood lighting (part of the $2200 Luxury Interior Package) infuses the interior with glowing accents around the door releases, console, vents, glovebox, and more — in any of ten different colors. It’s like climbing aboard one of Richard Branson’s color-splashed Virgin Atlantic airliners; you’re forgiven if for a moment you think you’ve accidentally wandered into a Mayfair nightclub.
The better news is this: the F-Pace is not all style and no substance. Under the hood lies the same supercharged 3.0-liter six that I recently sampled in a Jaguar F-Type Convertible. In base form, it delivers 340 hp; in S trim, output bumps to a sturdy 380 hp. As in the F-Type, the F-Pace gets a standard 8-speed automatic with shift paddles. Just as I noted when driving the F-Type, when driving the F-Pace around town, the V-6 isn’t particularly exciting. It whirs and moans in a distinctly non-sporty manner, and doesn’t feel as potent as its horsepower rating would suggest. But the impression is deceptive; once you plant your boot deeply into the throttle, the supercharged six awakens with a stirring howl. Suddenly it’s happy, eager. And it’s plenty strong. Launch it hard and it can push the F-Pace from 0 to 60 mph in just 5.1 seconds. I did use the shift paddles a few times, but in truth, the eight-speed automatic is smart enough that Drive is usually all you need.
The chassis is similarly predisposed to brisk driving. The standard Adaptive Dynamics package offers a choice of Dynamic or Normal modes (it adjust chassis stiffness, steering and shift response, and throttle mapping). The ride is never unduly harsh, even in Dynamic mode, but the F-Pace seems to prefer being driven aggressively — so I switched into Dynamic often. That’s when the powertrain and the adroitly tuned chassis come together, showing off what they can do, the F-Pace S fully in its element. (At lower speeds it feels bored, like a thoroughbred being walked around on a lead.) On a weekend drive to and from Pismo Beach, California (about 200 miles each way), several times I found myself gliding along at 85-90 mph when I thought I was doing 70. The tachometer was indicating revs in the low 2000s, wind noise was minimal, the chassis locked-down tight. It seems the F-Pace is aptly named. There’s a downside for such fleetness of foot, though: EPA combined fuel efficiency is just 20 mpg.
The cockpit is a posh and agreeable environment, with one glaring exception. It’s plenty roomy, with a generous rear cargo area. It’s handsomely styled and appointed (the seats could use more side support but are comfortable for long drives). The shifter, I was happy to see, is the simple twist-knob that rises out of the center console — not the fiddly lever I encountered in the F-Type. And, on my tester at least, the cabin is lavishly equipped. My F-Type S featured almost every option, including a full complement of driver-assistance systems (from a surround-view camera to adaptive cruise control), a head-up display, an 825-watt Meridian audio system, and a 10.2-inch touchscreen nav/audio display.
It’s that latter system that’s the exception; frankly, the touchscreen needs to go. It’s maddeningly anti-human. For instance, there’s no rotary knob of any kind for rolling up and down through SiriusXM satellite radio stations. Instead, you need to keep pecking away at an arrow on the touchscreen — good luck if you’re aiming to scroll from Hits 1 on channel 2 to Road Trip Radio on channel 301 (yes, you can punch-in station numbers directly, but that’s no help unless you know the channel numbers by heart). Worse, the touchscreen is slow to respond, and on one occasion locked up altogether — no sound, no movement, nothing. I had to pull over, shut off the vehicle, and restart the engine to reboot the system.
The F-Pace S is not undone by its recalcitrant touchscreen. Far from it. This is a spacious and engaging crossover that lives up to the sporty promise of its Jaguar badge. It’s more potent than, say, the BMW X4 M40i — and starts for less. Fully equipped, at almost $75K, it’s also significantly less costly than the Porsche Macan GTS, if not quite up to the German’s performance capabilities. And let’s not overlook that head-turning bod. For many buyers, a dashing, upper-crust style is the main reason for visiting a Jaguar dealership in the first place. Which is to say, if that’s what you’re looking for in a luxury crossover, the F-Pace delivers exactly what you’re after.
2017 Jaguar F-Pace S Specifications
|Engine:||3.0L supercharged DOHC 24-valve V-6/380 hp @ 6,500 rpm, 332 lb-ft @ 4,500|
|Layout:||4-door, 5-passenger, front-engine, AWD SUV|
|EPA Mileage:||18/23 mpg (city/hwy)|
|L x W x H:||186.3 x 76.2 x 65.6 in|
|0-60 MPH:||5.1 sec|
|Top Speed:||155 mph|