First drive: 2017 Jaguar F-Pace

Practical yet primal, Jaguar's first SUV is a big kitty that never bores

When I tell people I’m off to review a new Jaguar, they usually assume I’ll be piloting a high-end luxury car through a sleek metropolitan landscape or something similar. Usually, they’re right. This time around though, I found myself crawling up a rocky hill, spewing up dust and filth with every turn of the wheel. That’s because I wasn’t reviewing a typical Jag, I was reviewing the 2017 F-Pace.

The brand’s first-ever SUV, the F-Pace is a family-friendly crossover with an injection of F-Type DNA to keep things interesting. It’s certainly no hardened off-roader, but the vehicle’s dynamic driving feel, well-appointed cabin, and impressive functionality make it more capable than any Jaguar owner will ever need.

In other words, the F-Pace is a jungle cat, domesticated.

Better late than never

It took awhile for Jaguar to dip its paws into the SUV game, but with the arrival of the F-Pace, the automaker is diving headfirst into the red-hot crossover segment. In fact, the F-Pace became Jaguar’s best-selling vehicle on pre-orders alone, which makes you wonder why the brand didn’t do it earlier.

One reason for the vehicle’s instant success is its surprising practicality. With the seats folded down, the SUV boasts a generous 63.5 cubic feet of cargo volume, and even tall passengers will enjoy 37.2 inches of legroom as well as ample headroom in the back. All-wheel drive is also standard on every powertrain, and the ride quality is delightfully smooth with every available wheel size.

The interior also looks great, with real textured wood, supportive 14-way ventilated seats up front, and plenty of striking color combinations available on R-Sport ($53,900) and S ($56,700) models. Even the leatherette chairs featured on the base model ($40,990) are supportive and soft. That’s all well and good, but here’s the important part — does it drive like a Jag?

Inspired by F-Type

The inherent problem with a Jaguar SUV is that it must feel sporty and linear while also being practical, and those two goals don’t always mesh. For a big kitty, though, the F-Pace is a real treat. I sampled all three powertrains during my short time with the car — a 2.0-liter diesel with 180 horsepower and 318 pound-feet of torque, a 3.0-liter supercharged V6 with 340 hp and 332 lb-ft, and on S models, a beefier 3.0-liter V6 with 380 hp and 332 lb-ft. Each was satisfying in its own way.

The F-Pace is a cozy family-hauler that still drives like a Jaguar

The F-Pace S was obviously the quickest with a 0 to 60 time of 5.1 seconds, but the primal, crackling engine note from its supercharged engine is perhaps its biggest selling point, as far as I’m concerned. The mid-range V6 still provides plenty of power in a slightly tamer package, and while the diesel is significantly slower than both, it still has plenty of pop down low and will save you plenty at the pump. That being said, EPA fuel economy ratings are still TBD.

The influence of the F-Type is apparent all over the F-Pace, but its performance DNA shines brightest in the corners. For example, the vehicle’s Torque Vectoring system is lifted straight from the aforementioned sports car, and it uses metered brake inputs on the inside wheels to fight understeer. Add in 50/50 weight distribution, rear-biased AWD, and an Adaptive Dynamics system that constantly monitors body roll and you have a cozy family-hauler that actually drives like a Jaguar. If there’s one gripe worth mentioning, it’s that the brakes feel a little softer than I’d like.

2017 Jaguar F-Pace
Andrew Hard/Digital Trends
Andrew Hard/Digital Trends

One thing that most definitely did not come from the F-Type is the F-Pace’s off-road capability. Yes, the F-Pace is built on the same modular architecture as the XE sedan and won’t win the Baja 1000 anytime soon, but its AWD system and All Surface Progress Control (ASPC) systems are actually quite impressive. Put simply, ASPC works like a low-speed cruise control over rough terrain, taking over throttle and braking while the driver steers. It also recognizes when you’ve reached the crest of a hill and switches from ascent mode to decent mode automatically.

At the top of our rocky, dirt-caked off-road course, I realized I had just done something most Jaguar drivers will never do. Still, it’s nice to know the F-Pace can get a little dirty if the situation so calls.

Infotainment that works?

Jaguar Land Rover is one savviest automakers out there when in comes to autonomous and connected car technologies, but its recent infotainment systems have been slow and often flat-out bad. Thankfully, the F-Pace equips offers the upgraded InControl Touch Pro, and you’ll be glad to hear it’s much, much better than its predecessor.

An Intel quad-core processor takes infotainment speed to the next level

Highlighted by a 10.2-inch touchscreen, InControl Touch Pros’ Intel quad-core processor takes infotainment speed to the next level while offering new features like an automatic parking locator, a Commute Mode to optimize your daily route, and an 825-watt Meridian audio system that sounds fantastic. That said, some of the features are difficult to access, such as the seat heaters, which oddly require pressing a button and navigating a submenu to locate.

Theirs is a new companion app for Android and iOS devices that allows you to display select apps on the vehicle’s touchscreen, and it offers door-to-door navigation that automatically switches to your phone as you leave the car. Jaguar’s in-house system takes the place of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto for now, but the automaker plans to integrate both interfaces later on.

2017 Jaguar F-Pace

All things considered, InControl Touch Pro is a huge improvement. It’s only available on Prestige ($48,700) trims and above with the $3,200 Technology package, however, and that means more frugal buyers will be stuck with standard InControl Touch and the clunky 8.0-inch touchscreen. The Tech package does include a fancy digital instrument cluster as well, and it displays full-screen navigation, media settings, and more. It’s similar in design to Audi’s Virtual Cockpit, but if I’m honest, the German equivalent is much sexier and more vibrant.

Conclusion

Ahead of the vehicle’s First Drive event, I assumed the F-Pace would be engaging behind the wheel like most Jaguar products are. Interior ergonomics and domestic utility were big question marks though, but I was pleasantly surprised to learn these were some of the vehicle’s strongest attributes. And if that weren’t enough, the F-Pace manages to retain as much of Jaguar’s signature driving feel as a 4,000-pound SUV can, which makes it an effective compromise even sports car fans can live with.

Yes, Jaguar may be a bit late to the SUV party, but when you build a car this good, you can take all the time you need.

Highs

  • Simple, sexy styling
  • Good acceleration and handling
  • Responsive touchscreen
  • Excellent rear cargo room and interior comfort
  • Competitive pricing

Lows

  • A few infotainment gripes
  • Brakes could be stronger
  • No Apple CarPlay or Android Auto (yet)
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