June 17 2018, Jaguar Vancouver


An SUV with soul

It’s been a long time coming, but I couldn’t have imagined a Jaguar SUV any more enticing than the new F-PACE.

Along with stunning styling and driving dynamics that are easily amongst the most capable in its class, the storied British luxury marque delivers a value-oriented more for less strategy that should make the new model even more appealing.

The F-PACE rides on a longer wheelbase that reaches farther from side-to-side than any of its compact luxury SUV peers, which bumps it up to mid-size territory despite pricing that fits within that more affordable smaller segment, while on top of this the base F-PACE is better equipped than most compact competitors.

The latest vehicle comes in five levels of trim including $49,900 Premium, $54,400 Prestige, $59,900 R-Sport, $66,400 S and the $78,900 First Edition, plus two engines including the 20d and 35t, the latter in two states of tune, with the least of these loaded up with every expected luxury feature plus a number of unexpected items unavailable with class rivals until reaching up into their much pricier trims such as adaptive cruise control, rain-sensing wipers, proximity access with pushbutton ignition, an electromechanical parking brake, paddle shifters, a 5.0-inch colour TFT multi-info display, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, JaguarSense touch or proximity control, a highly graphical 8.0-inch infotainment touchscreen with Bluetooth phone functions that include wireless connectivity, text messaging and audio streaming, a backup camera with dynamic guidelines, navigation, great sounding 380-watt Meridian audio, HD radio, a powered liftgate, a reversible carpeted/rubberized cargo floor, metal tie-downs, ultra-versatile 40/20/40-split rear seatbacks expanding the already sizable 948-litre cargo compartment to a generous 1,798 litres, and much, much more.

Another standard bonus is a fuel-efficient 180 horsepower 2.0-litre turbo-diesel with 318 lb-ft of torque, plus an eight-speed automatic and AWD that includes the Intelligent Driveline Dynamics software to improve handling by minimizing understeer, All Surface Progress Control (ASPC) developed from Land Rover’s Terrain Response system for tackling slippery situations, torque vectoring AWD, Jaguar Drive Control for Standard, Eco, Dynamic (sport) or Rain/Ice/Snow modes, plus trailer stability assist that helps the F-PACE achieve its impressive 2,400-kilo maximum tow rating, although most will be more interested to know this base model is good for a spirited 8.7-second sprint to 100km/h and 208 km/h top speed. No doubt this model is stingy on fuel, but we’ll need to wait in order to find out its official rating.

What impresses me even more is the F-PACE’ aluminum-intensive construction, the first SUV benefiting from the same high-tech approach to lightweight manufacture as its full-size XJ luxury sedan, the fabulous F-Type sports car and the new XE. Rather than steel, the F-PACE body structure enters the compact segment as the only model mostly constructed from bonded and riveted aluminum. More than one third of the SUV is aluminum alloy, 75 percent sourced from recycled materials. Of course this reduces weight, but more so it strengthens the body to improve handling, NVH levels and crash worthiness.

This in mind the F-PACE’ front and rear crash structures plus key body panels are bolted on to reduce repair time and costs (Jaguar even built sacrificial slipping fixings into the suspension to prevent pricey components from getting bent or broken if hit by curbs). It’s all part of JLR’s iQ modular platform, which includes a chassis design that incorporates a similar aluminum double wishbone setup to the XF and F-Type in front and an entirely new subframe-mounted multi-link system in the rear, dubbed Integral Link. According to Jaguar this design is more expensive to build yet allows for greater tuning versatility, and all it took was a short stint behind the wheel to realize the advanced suspension and lightweight, ultra-rigid body shell was money well spent.

The result of the brand's engineering prowess is an SUV that drives like a sports car, other than its impressively compliant ride. True, it’s thoroughly comfortable, but it takes to corners with shocking capability, the F-PACE right up there with the best from Germany, although the fabulous snarl its 3.0-litre supercharged V6 makes under full throttle with Dynamic sport mode engaged, and even more delectable gurgle caused by backpressure at liftoff might make you reconsider anything from das vaterland. This SUV’s got soul, yet my tester was only fitted with the model’s mid-grade 3.5t engine making 340 horsepower and 332 lb-ft of torque; I can’t wait to drive the S with its 380 horsepower mill. As tested it’s good for 5.8 seconds from standstill to 100km/h and a 250-km/h top speed, whereas the more powerful version will shoot the F-PACE to 100km/h in just 5.5 seconds.

The eight-speed autobox provides rapid yet smoothly applied shifts via aforementioned paddles, a good thing being that the F-PACE comes standard with the brand's brilliantly dramatic rotating drive selector that powers up out of the lower console, while at the limit braking is breathtaking.

The R-Sport benefits from 20-inch rims on 255/50R20 rubber and uprated 350-mm front brake rotors for shorter stops, along with autonomous emergency braking, lane keep assist, a driver condition monitor to make sure you don’t fall asleep at the wheel, a unique R-Sport front bumper, satin-chrome front fender “power vents” with R-Sport badges, body-colour R-Sport door claddings with grained matte black finishers, metal treadplates with R-Sport branding, bright sport pedals, headlight washers, auto-dimming power-folding heatable side mirrors with approach lights and memory, a powered steering column, mood lighting, a universal garage door opener, satellite radio, front and rear parking sonar, and more.

It’s all packaged within a cabin that’s a visual delight, with my F-PACE R-Sport’s dash top finished in red-stitched black leather, which also ran down each side of the centre stack and across the majority of the lower console’s edges, taking things to a level of luxury most competitors don’t, while the door uppers and inserts were suitably soft touch as well. Attractive padded leather armrests wrap up and over in an elegant curve to follow the forearm, my tester’s done out in red to match the seat inserts that are perforated leather and wonderfully comfortable with superb side bolstering.

Additional interior details include motorcycle-style aluminum gauge binnacles boasting the wonderfully large full-colour multi-information display at centre noted earlier, all framed by a thickly padded leather-wrapped sport steering wheel with eye-catching satin aluminum around the edges of its spokes, not to mention beautifully detailed high-quality switchgear at the 9 and 3 o’clock positions.

Piano black lacquer covered the outside of the infotainment and HVAC interfaces, plus along the centre section of the lower console. Satin-silver detailing highlights these surfaces as well as the vents, door handles and elsewhere throughout the interior, while an elegantly sculpted bit of buffed metal displays the Jaguar name across the top of the glove box lid. There’s a sense of occasion in the F-PACE that few others in the segment can match, followed up by class-leading utility.

It’s an SUV after all, so it had better be utile. Along with a larger and more accommodating than average front seating area the second row is spacious and extremely comfortable, mine outfitted with outboard seat heaters and an open, airy panoramic sunroof above, whereas the cargo compartment is appropriately finished in high-grade carpeting plus the chrome tie-downs and reversible floor noted earlier, while even more importantly it features handles at each side of the cargo wall for lowering the 40/20/40 split seatbacks without having to walk around to the side doors. It opens up a large, flat area for hauling a lot more than the average compact can handle. 

All of this is good news, but what about reliability? It should come as some comfort that Jaguar rates second amongst all premium brands in J.D. Power’s most recent Initial Quality Study, while the F-PACE with its optional front crash prevention features should likely earn an IIHS Top Safety Pick Plus rating when tested, but certainly the number one reason the new SUV will enjoy unprecedented success for the brand comes back to styling, the F-PACE R-Sport pulling jaw-dropping stares wherever I drove.

I think Jaguar might just have a hit on its hands, the new 2017 F-PACE easily one of the more impressive luxury crossover SUVs I’ve ever experienced.

Story credits: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press
Photo credits: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press
Copyright: Canadian Auto Press Inc.&nbsp

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