Review of: 2017 Jaguar F-PACE AWD 4dr 35t R-Sport
2017 Jaguar F-Pace: Exclusive, for the moment
Sep. 26, 2016
Profile photo courtesy FPaceForum.com user LocoBMW
Jaguar admits it’s late into the game with an SUV/crossover for its lineup, but much better late than never. Porsche now sells more four-doors than two-doors, and even Maserati and Bentley have SUVs on the road now – certainly not in the dirt. It’s where the money is.
So the strangely-named F-Pace, apparently reflecting the words of company founder William Lyons who said every car must combine grace, space and pace, is Jaguar’s Great White Hope. It’s to be the performance SUV that picks up the pace of sales, finding buyers who have no interest in staid sedans and who need more practicality than two-door sports cars. It’s up against the Porsche Macan, Mercedes-Benz GLC, BMW X4 and Audi Q5, among others. Does it have what it takes to take them on?
Pros & Cons
- + Great fun to drive
- + Interior design
- + Not as common as the Germans
- - Paddle shifters
- - Fuel economy
- - Not particularly powerful
The big, bruising grille leaves no doubt this is a Jaguar, with its large round Jaguar emblem squarely in the centre. It’s just as well, because there’s nothing else to suggest the brand except for badges, but that’s because we’ve not seen any Jaguars yet that don’t have the sleek curves of sedans and roadsters. It was the same thing for Porsche when it introduced the Cayenne in 2002 and critics all poo-poo’d it while buyers snapped it up: get the hood and grille right and the rest will grow on you, literally.
From the side, the F-Pace looks like most other performance SUVs, which is not a bad thing at all. It has a nice flow to its profile, and although it’s fairly tall, it doesn’t look it. Drivers like that high ride. Officially, it’s to navigate over rocks and ridges out in the jungle, but really it’s to see through the windows of other tall traffic on the highway. Nobody likes to stare into a rear bumper if they don’t have to. The rear hatch is sloped to add performance and remove cargo space, but it looks good for it.
The quality of the finish of the test car was, of course, faultless. Nice tight gaps and smooth paint, with a good-looking go-faster chrome vent behind the front fender. These days, even inexpensive cars have high-quality finishes because auto makers have figured out how to make them properly, so it’s a given on an expensive car like the Jaguar.
Step up into the F-Pace and settle into the thick leather and look around – what makes this a Jaguar?
It feels sporty, and Jaguar is a sporting brand. Maybe it’s the nice chunky steering wheel with the large, metallic cat leaping across its centre. Maybe it’s the transmission dial on the centre console that raises when you press the starter button and lowers when you turn it off. Or maybe it’s more subtle than that, with the button on the steering wheel that, alone among makers, lets you set a speed limit that the car won’t exceed.
Maybe it’s this fitness bracelet on my wrist, which logs my exercise like a FitBit but also opens the doors if the key is locked inside. Every time I look at it, I remember that it cost $400 while a FitBit costs less than $200, so I must be rich and therefore driving something exceptional.
There’s lots of space inside for the front-seat passengers and reasonable space in the rear, but this is not a full-size SUV so the legroom is a little cramped back there. Cargo capacity is good at 1,738 litres with the seats down, which is 150 litres more than the Lexus RX 350. This is the R-Sport edition, so the standard front seats adjust 14 different ways, which means they have adjustable bolsters for tightening the fit and holding you more firmly around corners. They’re very comfortable.
Every inside surface is covered with very tasteful, stitched leather or soft-touch plastic, with some shiny veneer and brushed aluminum accents. It looks busy, but not so cluttered by switchgear as a Porsche. There are ambient lightstrips that set off the door panels at night with a swoop, and small cubbies on each side of the centre console that make it look like it’s a floating console, though it really isn’t. The lack of a shifter lever does add space to the area between the front seats, though, as well as that unique Jaguar touch.
Like most cars these days, the cutting-edge technology is there if you want it, but you have to pay for it. The most basic, diesel-powered F-Pace comes with a start-stop system and all-wheel drive, but you have to upgrade to the R-Sport or even the more powerful S trim if you want the fancy driver’s aids that use cameras and radar.
There are three different drive modes, selectable with a toggle button on the centre console that switches between regular, sport and eco. This changes the throttle and transmission mapping, as well as the steering response; eco also turns off the heated or cooled seats and steering wheel, though how this lesser usage of the battery really helps is beyond me.
There are clever cameras, too, that can fill the central display screen with images from all sides of the F-Pace, even while driving. This is handy for parking but not really needed at speed, except to entertain the passenger and distract the driver.
That nifty little fitness bracelet seems like a good thing, but I didn’t bother wearing it. I already have a FitBit that displays the time, and all it really did was save me from having to carry the key fob in my pocket. It unlocks the doors when you wave it over the “J” of the Jaguar name on the rear hatch door, but you still need the fob to be in the car to start the engine. It’s an option, though, so more power to you if you want it.
Driving the F-Pace is very satisfying. The 340 hp, 3.0-litre V6 is powerful and responsive once you build it up to power, though it doesn’t have the low-end torque of the BMW X4 that hurls the Bimmer off the line from standstill. If you want 40 more horsepower and don’t mind spending an extra $7,000 to shave 0.3 seconds off your zero-to-100 km/h time, then the top-end S trim level is for you.
The F-Pace sounds sporty, too, but I was disappointed it doesn’t come with the baffle button of the F-Type, which opens the exhaust for a rortier tone out on the highway. There’ll probably be a more-powerful R variant of the model that offers this down the line.
The R-Sport is not the same as an R, being all cosmetic touches and with no difference in performance. It offers 20-inch wheels over the standard 19-inchers, and a body kit that tells everyone it’s an R but which doesn’t really mean anything. Never mind – it looks good.
The transmission dial can be turned an extra notch to S, which drops down a couple of the eight gears and activates the paddle shifters on the steering wheel. The Jag is unusual in that the paddles don’t work at all in regular drive, unlike every other vehicle on the road with paddles. Normally, if you’re in drive in another car, you can flick the paddles down a couple of gears to overtake and then the transmission will revert back to automatic drive after five or 10 seconds of inactivity; if the vehicle is in sport, it will hold the gear until you shift again. Not the Jag, though – it’s all or nothing. You have to use the paddles in Sport but you can’t use them at all in Drive. I can see the logic, but I can’t say that I like it.
You can pootle around in the city in drive, or step on it a bit in the country in sport, and the F-Pace reacts as you’d expect from a Jaguar. It corners flat despite the extra height, its AWD feels like a rear-wheel-drive but without the understeer, it accelerates quickly once it’s revved, and it steers firmly and precisely. Zero-to-100 km/h is an official 5.8 seconds from the petrol-powered engine (and a surprisingly sluggish 8.7 seconds from the diesel), which is not exceptional but quite acceptable for an SUV of this size in this price range.
Of course, you won’t come anywhere close to the official fuel consumption ratings if you drive it like you stole it. There are still no official published government ratings, but the petrol-powered 340-hp F-Pace tester returned an average of 11.5 L/100 km during my week with it, which is a fairly normal figure for such a vehicle.
There’s nothing wrong with the F-Pace and everything that’s right for a performance SUV, so the chances are it will hold its value better than most Jaguars. It compares well in price to its competition and might even be a little less costly – those other SUVs have been around longer, so Jaguar needs more than just a prestigious name to compete against them.
The other performance SUVs all have faster versions that will blow the Jag into the weeds, but they’re much more expensive, too. Jaguar is surely taking the same approach as it did when introducing the F-Type, which is to start with the basics and then move up into more and more of a niche vehicle until there’s finally an aspirational halo car at the top of it all. It’s not difficult to spend $100,000 on a Porsche Macan Turbo – there’ll doubtless be an equivalent F-Pace soon enough. Even so, the less expensive versions that look just as good will always be the better value.
There’s no real need among buyers for a Jaguar F-Pace, since there are plenty of options out there. That’s just it, though – those are the vehicles that are selling now, and Jaguar wants some of those profits.
You’ll not buy the F-Pace because you love its looks, or crave its performance, or appreciate its comfort and finish. All the others have all these already. But you will buy it because you want to own a Jaguar, or at least something that purports to be British. Hopefully, you won’t be turned off by the silly name.
You’ll pay no extra money over the competition and you’ll have something that’s just as satisfying and far more exclusive than any German SUV. Or at least, you will for now. If Jaguar sells as many as it hopes, it won’t stay exclusive for long.