by: Miranda Lightstone
Aspen, CO — The mountain air is thin. Despite the 90-degree Fahrenheit temperature, it still feels crisp, clear and pure. I’m surrounded on all sides by rolling, lush green hills and mountains and just beyond, snow-capped peaks that make me grin. I attempt to take a deep breathof fresh Aspen air, but am instead met with the feeling of constricted lungs and light-headedness. The reality of living at altitude just doesn’t match up to the dream-like illusion, that’s for sure.
In life, expectations often don’t add up to realities. Be it in your relationships, career, activity choice or even an online purchase you thought would fit you perfectly… Reality can be harsh.
Then there are those moments when expectations are unusually low — those moments you go in thinking something is a bad idea or just not going to work out — and yet when the reality sets it in goes so above and beyond what you originally expected you’re not only presently surprised, you’re legitimately impressed.
While I was not at all impressed by my lightheadedness due to lack of oxygen for three days straight, I was above-and-beyond surprised by the all-new 2017 Jaguar F-Pace; the British company’s first foray into the luxury crossover market.
So, a manufacturer that’s known for its dynamic and stylish sports cars decides to embark upon a segment in the market that’s so far from weekend track days and time attack runs it’s not even funny; sounds familiar, no?
See, Porsche did it nearly 15 years ago when they first introduced the Cayenne sports utility vehicle. The entire auto industry and customers alike threw their arms up in disbelief: How could a company so steeped in sport and performance drive cars suddenly swing in entirely the opposite direction and hope to succeed? And yet they did, and immensely so. The Cayenne continues to be one of Porsche’s bestselling models. And they did it again with their all-new luxury crossover the Macan.
But this isn’t about Porsche (thought I believe the Macan plays an important role here so it will make another appearance later on in the article…).
Back to the manufacturer at hand: Jaguar. Here’s a historically performance and luxury car driven company suddenly jumping onto the literally-on-fire-it’s-so-hot bandwagon of CUVs.
My expectations for the F-PACE were low from the very beginning. Sure it was supposed to be based on the CX-17 concept that looked stellar in pictures and in theory, but really; Jaguar making a CUV?
It’s not that I didn’t think Jaguar capable; I assumed they’d pilfer bits and pieces from Land Rover Range Rover, stick a Jaguar design atop said chassis and call it an all-terrain Big Cat.
The reality of it though is that Jaguar didn’t steal anything at all from their all-terrain SUV division. In fact, the Jaguar F-PACE is based on the same platform as the XF and all-new XE. While the front axle weight is heavier in the F-PACE (for off-roading purposes) the three vehicles are nearly identical in their chassis and suspension set-up. And it works well. Really, really well.
What they did steal was that signature front grille that both the XF and new XE sport. While slightly beefier and decidedly more muscular, the F-PACE wears its family resemblance with grace and style. There’s nothing bloated or oversized about the crossover’s look in comparison with its sedan brethren, and that’s just fantastic.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Jaguar is on its design A-game right now. They have the most stunning lineup up vehicles at the moment; starting with the smoldering F-TYPE, course. But there are bits of the sultry F-TYPE in the F-Pace. No, seriously, there are. Look at the rear. Notice anything similar? Those taillights weren’t pulled from the thin mountain air in Denver; nope they’re lifted straight from the sumptuous rear of Jag’s premium sports car. And they look fantastic resting on the rump of the F-PACE.
It’s also no coincidence that the F-PACE sports the “F” in its name; alluding to its connection to the performance-driven machine it shares a stable with. Now, while the F-PACE was originally borne of the C-X17 concept vehicle, it derives its name from Jaguar’s long-standing motto of “grace, space and pace.” It checks all those boxes easily.
When reality exceeds expectation
Let’s start with some numbers, shall we? To start, two versions of the 2017 Jaguar F-PACE will make it to Canadian soil, both featuring the same 3.0L V6 supercharged engine. Later on we’ll see a 4-cylinder turbocharged diesel, but that’s a topic for another review). For the base 35t model said V6 engine produces 340 horsepower and 332 lb-ft of torque. Jump to the F-PACE S and that same engine was tweaked by clever Jaguar engineers to spin out 380 ponies.
What’s really impressive here is the tenacity with which this high-sitting (the F-PACE features 8.4” of ground clearance, by the way), all-wheel drive luxury crossover clings to the road’s surface, no matter how savagely you throw it round the corners.
Feeling light and nimble on its wheels, the F-PACE traversed some fairly intense and winding mountain passes across the “Top of the Rockies” that reaches an elevation of just over 12,000ft. As breathless as the thin air up there made me feel, I kind of felt like it had to do with the exhilarating ride, as well.
I’d say that level of handling found in the F-PACE Is thanks to its shared platform with the XE sedan that features the same automatic damping control and torque vectoring that ensures the F-PACE stays squarely on course, regardless of the twisties. And trust me, I tried.
Steering is weighted in all the right way, and I may have found a new favourite steering wheel in the industry. Chubby and well designed, the 2017 F-PACE steering wheel is a joy to manipulate and hold on to, and movements don’t need to be exaggerated in order to point the vehicle where you want it to go.
Of course, in typical Jaguar fashion, you can choose between Dynamic, Normal, and Snow/Gravel terrain settings via buttons in the centre stack by the pop-up lever knob (also a known Jaguar feature).
You’ll recognize other features in the Jaguar F-PACE that are directly in line with the rest of the Big Cat family, such as gauge cluster that’s fully digital in the F-PACE S. Seating is luxurious and leather, and subtle design touches like available Houndstooth door inserts keep this Brit as classy as you’d expect.
While I was never a fan of the old onboard entertainment system, they blissfully updated it once again for this new CUV. Featuring a 10.2” coloured touchscreen, the F-PACE is equipped with the latest InTouch Control Pro system that’s a joy to use. There is a smaller InTouch Control (non-Pro) available as well, but it’s slightly slower and not as intuitive.
But this is more than just a jacked up Jaguar, right? This is supposed to be a capable crossover. So, is it?
You’ll never off-road you, but you could
One of the Jaguar F-PACE’s selling points is that it’s built for an active lifestyle, which means more than rushing off to the local Starbucks then Timmy’s soccer practice and back home in time for Game of Thrones. No, they mean if you like hiking, kayaking, wakeboarding, sky diving…. That sort of stuff.
So, if those things float your boat then the 2017 Jaguar F-PACE is for you! How so you might ask? Well, we took the F-PACE through its paces (see what I did there?) up the side of a rather steep and muddy hill then through a grassy, rough field that made me feel as if I should stop in the middle, spread my arms out and beginning screeching “The hills are alive with the sound of music…” but much to my drive partner’s delight, I did not…
All that to say, the ride height and AWD capabilities of the F-PACE mean it is a viable “off-roader” that will keep you comfortably safe and secure in the winter months in the city.
However, there’s more.
For the first time, Jaguar is offering something they call the “Activity Key.” I was skeptical at first, but just hear me out.
This key replaces your key fob. That’s right. And it’s not really a key at all, it looks very much like a FitBit and is worn on your wrist, secure. So, you leave your key fob in your F-PACE, gather your outdoorsy gear, close the trunk on your 949 litres of cargo space (that’s almost 450 litres more than the Macan by the way…), touch the Activity Key to the “J” in Jaguar across the rear et voila! Doors locked and key fob left inside the car completely useless. So, even if someone did smash your window and find the fob they wouldn’t be able to steal your F-PACE.
Completely waterproof (I know, I fished mine out of a river before hiking to the F-PACE it was associated with to drive myself back to the hotel) and comfortable to wear, the Activity Key is just a few hundred bucks as an option and as a runner who hates running with key fobs for fear it’ll pop out of my pocket as I bounce along, I say it’s well worth it just for that peace of mind alone.
All right, so have Jaguar really done it here? Have they successfully broken into a new segment after so many decades of being a sports car manufacturer? I truly believe they have.
The 2017 F-PACE will be an extremely important product for Jaguar going forward, and I feel it will change the face of not only the company but the average Jaguar buyer, as well. With a starting price of $53,900 for the base 35t, I’d recommend stepping up to the F-PACE S for $66,500 (starting) in order to reap the rewards of upgraded interior materials and the larger InTouch Control Pro system.
And people will upgrade to that trim level. And they will buy this vehicle, that’s the shocking reality here after such low expectations. The 2017 Jaguar F-PACE truly took my breath away, and I promise it wasn’t just the Aspen air.