When Porsche rolled out its first SUV, the Cayenne, for 2003, the sports car world alternately marveled or snickered at the idea of such an iconic brand straying so far from its roots to create such a vehicle.
But that gamble paid off quite well, with Porsche going on to create a variety of Cayenne versions, including turbocharged gasoline and diesel models, and sales have been more than satisfying. Then for 2014, Porsche added a second, smaller SUV, the Macan.
So perhaps it was with Porsche’s success in mind – not to mention how well mainstream luxury brands such as Mercedes-Benz and BMW have done with SUVs – that the storied British sports car brand Jaguar has finally joined the fray, debuting its first sport utility, the five-passenger F-Pace, for 2016.
Even though Jaguar was 13 years late to the party – by Porsche standard, anyway – it’s clear that the legendary company took at least some of that time to get its first-ever SUV right.
This new F-Pace is a no-compromise sport utility with a huge emphasis on the “sport” aspect, but not lacking in the other attributes that consumers seek in an SUV, either.
Besides accelerating and handling at least as near to a real sports car as possible in such a practical vehicle, the F-Pace looks distinguishingly like a Jaguar car, as well.
But imagine if you will a Jaguar vehicle that not only looks and drives wonderfully, but also can accommodate a family of five quite comfortably for daily soccer-mom duties or long, scenic road trips.
This is a vehicle that offers comfort and convenience in all five seating positions, with plenty of leg, knee and head room even in the back seat. There’s even a roomy cargo area that can handle up to 33.5 cubic feet of “stuff,” from luggage to beach gear to soccer equipment or the week’s groceries.
The rear seatback can even be lowered to expand the cargo compartment to carry some big items such as flat-screen TV purchases or DIY supplies from Home Depot. There has never been a Jaguar car that could do that.
Realistically, adding an SUV to the Jaguar lineup probably isn’t as big a stretch as it was for Porsche, whose prior offerings amounted to small sports cars that never really accommodated backseat passengers.
Jaguar, on the other hand, has long had a variety of automobiles in its stable, ranging from two-seat sport models to nearly limo-like sedans. If Audi can make SUVs along with its similar car offerings, why not Jaguar?
Auto-industry bean counters will tell you that SUVs – and particularly ones like the F-Pace that are actually car-based “crossovers” – are the price of admission to the car business these days. Without such an offering, any manufacturer today is at a distinct disadvantage.
The F-Pace is slightly smaller than the Cayenne, closer in size but still a couple of inches longer than the Macan. It plays in the same category as the Macan, BMW X3, Marcedes-Benz GLC and other similarly sized compact luxury crossovers.
Although Jaguar hasn’t talked about what went on internally as the F-Pace was undergoing development, I have to believe that somewhere along the way there was some advice imparted by the engineers and designers at Land Rover, the British sport utility brand that is now a sister company to Jaguar. The two makers are now owned by India’s Tata Motors, and their U.S. operations are combined in a single New Jersey headquarters.
Jaguar says the F-Pace was inspired by the Jaguar C-X17 concept vehicle, and was “designed and engineered to offer the agility, responsiveness and refinement that Jaguar cars are renowned for, together with the exceptional dynamics and everyday versatility of an SUV.”
One of the first surprises is that this isn’t a particularly expensive SUV in today’s market – prices start at $40,990 (plus $995 freight) for models with a 2.0-liter four-cylinder, 180-horsepower diesel engine; $42,390 for models with the 340-horsepower, supercharged 3.0-liter V-6 gasoline engine; or $56,700 for the ones with the 380-horsepower, supercharged 3.0-liter V-6 gasoline engine.
Prices range as high as $69,700 for the top-of-the-line First Edition, which comes with the 380-horsepower engine. All models have eight-speed automatic transmissions and all-wheel drive.
An R-Sport gasoline model with unique 20-inch wheels and other special features starts at $55,300, and comes with the 340-horsepower engine.
Our tester, the F-Pace 35t Prestige model, has a base price of $50,100, and features the 340-horsepower engine. The tester came in Glacier White Metallic paint ($550 extra), with a Jet/Light Oyster leather interior with Pistachio Stitching.
We had a bunch of extras that drove the final sticker price up to $61,235, including freight. Among the options were the Technology Package ($3,200), Vision Package ($2,100), Comfort and Convenience Package ($1,800), Head-up Display ($990), Gloss Black roof rails ($350), Black Design Package ($350), satellite radio ($350), Loadspace storage rails ($150), and Gloss Figured Ebony Veneer interior trim ($300).
The Prestige 35t model comes standard with 19-inch wheels, a power-operated panoramic sunroof, 10-way power-adjustable heated front seats with four-way lumbar support, smart key system with pushbutton start, rearview camera, navigation, front and rear parking aids, a 380-watt Meridian audio system, driver memory, and the folding rear seatback.
With the 340-horsepower engine, eight-speed transmission and all-wheel drive, this vehicle can go from zero-60 mph in 5.4 seconds. We didn’t measure that ourselves, but there was no lack of power at any time during our test. Top speed is electronically limited to 155 mph, but we didn’t try that, either.
EPA fuel-economy ratings are 18 mpg city/23 highway/20 combined. During our weeklong test, we averaged about 19.7 mpg, with about 60 percent city driving, and the rest on interstates and country roads.
Our F-Pace turned heads wherever we took it, and was quite the conversation piece when we stopped in restaurant, gas station and shopping center parking lots.
Like its Range Rover cousins, the F-Pace has lightweight aluminum construction. Its all-wheel-drive system keeps it in rear-drive configuration until extra traction is needed. While it’s not designed for serious off-road driving, we found the system to be useful during some limited national and state park touring, and in some fairly deep sand. The torque-on-demand setup can send all 332 foot-pounds of torque instantly to the wheels that have the traction.
The F-Pace is sleeker looking than some of its competitors, and it’s a bit lower overall, as well as lower to the ground.
With the Technology Package comes such extras as upgraded navigation with a 10.2-inch touch-screen display, a 12.3-inch instrument-panel display, an 825-watt Meridian Digital Surround System, and more.
The Vision Package brought LED headlights and the signature LED “J” shaped Daytime Running Lights, a Blind Spot Monitor with Closing Vehicle Sensing, Adaptive Front Lighting with Intelligent High Beams, and Reverse Traffic Detection.
Our Comfort and Convenience Package added heated and cooled front seats with heated rear seats, power-reclining rear seat, and the hands-free power liftgate.
The Black Design Package gave us a Gloss Black radiator grille with the same Gloss Black on the side window surrounds and the side power vents.
Towing capacity is 5,290 pounds, which is among the highest in this class. The F-Pace weighs just under 4,000 pounds in base configuration, and is 186.3 inches long.
The rotary gear shift knob pops up out of the center console in front of the dual in-line cupholders. When only two passengers are in the rear seat, a center armrest can be lowered from the seatback, and it has two side-by-side cupholders.
Overall, the F-Pace is a nice luxury SUV that offers sports car styling and sporty handling in a vehicle the whole family can enjoy – and at a price that’s in line with most other midsize crossovers these days, including some non-luxury brands such as Honda and Toyota.
The automotive columns of G. Chambers Williams III have appeared regularly in the Star-Telegram since 1994. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @gchambers3.
2017 Jaguar F-Pace crossover
The package: Midsize, five-door, five-passenger, four-cylinder diesel or V-6 gasoline-powered, all-wheel-drive luxury crossover utility vehicle.
Highlights: All new for 2016, this is the first SUV from legendary British sports car maker Jaguar. It’s actually reasonably priced, has great styling and roadhandling, and offers a choice of engines and a variety of standard and optional amenities and technologies.
Negatives: No third-row seat available for larger passenger capacity.
Engines: 2.0-liter four-cylinder diesel; supercharged 3.0-liter V-6 (two versions).
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic.
Power/torque: Diesel: 180 HP./318 foot-pounds; V-6: 340 HP./332 foot-pounds; V-6: 380 HP./332 foot-pounds.
Length: 186.3 inches.
Curb weight: 3,913-4,015 pounds.
Brakes, front/rear: Disc/disc, antilock.
Cargo volume: 33.5 cubic feet (behind rear seat).
Towing capacity: 5,290 pounds.
Side air bags: Front seat-mounted; roof-mounted side-curtain for all rows.
Electronic stability control: Standard.
Fuel capacity/type: 16.6 gallons/unleaded premium.
EPA fuel economy: 18 city/23 highway/20 combined (340 HP.).
Base price range: $40,990-$69,700, plus $995 freight.
Price as tested: $61,235, including freight and options (35t Prestige).
On the Road rating: 9.3 (of a possible 10).
Prices shown are manufacturer's suggested retail; actual selling price may vary.