Luxury crossover culture reminds me a lot of boutique espresso shops. While the average venti cup of over-roasted coffee down at Starbucks may be plenty good for the masses, it’s the locally toasted, super bespoke serving of caffeine that should get the highest marks. It’s not just special because it has been tailor-made to your liking or that it costs more than most people’s lunch; it’s because it’s really damn delicious, and there’s a sense of superiority in knowing that you aren’t sipping the same swill as everyone else.
When Jaguar announced that it was getting into the crossover market a while back, and that the vehicle it would be ushering forth would strike a balance between all-season outdoor practicality and sporty on-road ferocity, we were elated to finally see something begin to percolate. For years we’ve been waiting and wondering, and now that the long overdue F-Pace has arrived, we took it for a spin in order to explore its strengths and weaknesses.
For those of you who are not familiar with the F-Pace, it’s an agile crossover that can be had with either the 340- or 380-horsepower supercharged V6 out of the XF and XE, or a turbo diesel four-banger for better torque and MPGs. In true Jaguar fashion, it’s also customizable from whisker to tail, and draws heavily from the sensational F-Type sports car both in engineering and appearance.
I recently got to experience this vibrant feline in the mountain passes surrounding Aspen, Colorado, and allowed it to dig its claws in both on and off the pavement. While it was an overall well put-together sport utility vehicle that conquered every obstacle thrown at it with vigor and a trumpeting exhaust note, it was apparent that the F-Pace isn’t built to appease everyone. Though the addition of a turbo-diesel down the line will help make the vehicle a bit more multifaceted, and the supercharged V6 version does offer a wide range of trim lines, the F-Pace won’t appeal to just anyone. Here’s why.
This is a sport crossover that has been engineered to appeal to a wide range of luxury buyers, and while the outdoor enthusiast is a large part of Jaguar’s target market for the F-Pace, the finer things in life are still a staple. Anyone wanting adjustable heated and ventilated seats, loads of leather, an attractive LED lighting display both inside and out, and a stand-out body style will more than likely love this CUV, because at the heart of it all is Jaguar’s impeccable taste in luxury design.
Another type of individual who will likely geek out over the F-Pace is the single child parental unit, who wants something safe and sensible but doesn’t need a massive land yacht in order to get their kid to water polo practice. From traffic speed recognition and variable cruise control to lane keep assist and driver condition monitoring, there’s a lot of safety tech beneath the F-Pace’s high-strength aluminum shell.
But get outside of Aspen where speed limits jump to 65 and it’s suddenly time to play. With Sport mode and race mode engaged, the F-Pace has the ability to turn all carnivore and offers more kick than a double shot of espresso. Driving enthusiasts will love it, because even in lower power trim lines, it is designed to hit you with sensational acceleration and taut steering inputs that encourage owners to push the boundaries of what is possible in a CUV.
On the slow side, Jaguar’s “All Surface Progress Control” (ASPC) for crawl control situations is a perk that will likely attract well-healed soft-road enthusiasts, and the battery-free “Activity Key” bracelet allows them to lock their keys in the car and go for a dip in the lake worry-free. Oh, and speaking of being one with the primordial soup, outdoor lovers will also get into the F-Pace’s available rear tie-down tracks, easy-clip roof racks, and cargo wet-mat for when snow soaked ski gear and creek-exploring canines need a place to rest at the end of the day.
But where performance fanatics, luxury snobs, and outdoor enthusiasts with dogs will love the F-Pace, there are populations that might not be as into Jaguar’s little SUV. For as fun and multifaceted as it may be, it can’t do everything, and not wanting to step on the toes of its Range Rover Sport sibling means that some sacrifices have been made.
Anyone wanting locking differentials, multiple traction modes for off-road action, and adjustable air ride suspension is better off in a Range Rover. The Jag also doesn’t come equipped with hardcore skid plates or under carriage cameras, so if rock crawling adventures or swamp stomping is a regular occurrence in your life, I suggest you look toward JLR’s more capable cousin.
Another kind of person that might not be too keen on the F-Pace is the green machine lover, because as of now there is no hybrid option for potential buyers, and even though the diesel variant will return respectable fuel economy, it still runs on crude. The supercharged V6 version also guzzles gas at a rate of 20 miles per gallon on average, which makes it a bit of a thirsty kitty, so if amazing efficiency is important to you and diesels aren’t attractive, this is not your kind of car.
Further, people concerned with long-term ownership costs might want to look elsewhere too. Jaguar Land Rovers aren’t typically lauded for their maintenance frugality, so if you want a luxury badge, light off-road capacity, and minimal upkeep when the odometer rolls past 100K, you might be better suited for something like a Lexus GX.
But despite its thirst for refined fossil fuels and lack of hardcore off-road components, the F-Pace could be one of the most exciting cars to be released this year. It’s far more utilitarian than it appears, it carries Jaguar’s unbeatable five-year/60,000 mile luxury warranty, hauls ass, and with JLR’s latest infotainment system, it’s as tech savvy as any vehicle. So if you have $40-80,000 to shell out on a luxury sport CUV, give the Jag a shot. It’s well worth the wait.