Words: Calvin Chan
Photography: Calvin Chan
Published: April 26, 2019
Luxury SUVs are a dime a dozen in today’s burgeoning automotive market. For those lucky few with roughly $60-80,000 to spend, your choices for a premium SUV are not lacking. The Porsche Macan would be the obvious choice for those seeking brand cache and a chassis with pedigree, but that price tag balloons up north faster than the Leafs can get ejected out of the playoffs. There’s the Audi Q5 too with its handsome sheetmetal, top-shelf materials, and tech-laden interior, but is marred by deceivingly fake exhaust tips and insufficient drama or driver engagement to run full green on the scoreboard. The BMW X3 would be our pick of the German litter with its phenomenal ride quality and convincing premium appointments, but look outside the box and there are many other competitive products to be found. There are entrants from Cadillac, Volvo, Range Rover, and even Jaguar.
I was skeptical when the Jaguar F-Pace first launched in 2015. A Jaguar SUV? What has the world come to? But one look at the sales chart will tell you the whole story. The world loves jacked up crossovers, and it seems producing an SUV is the only way for automakers (especially smaller ones) to stay afloat. Just look at the Bentley Bentayga and Rolls-Royce Cullinan. Bean counters seem to be calling the shots these days and as much as we despised its inevitability, Jaguar’s F-Pace has turned out to be one of the sexiest and best handling SUVs on the market today.
In an effort to gain as much market hold as possible, Jaguar offers buyers a choice between five powertrains for 2019: a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbodiesel, two variants of a 2.0-litre turbocharged gasoline engine with 247-hp and 296-hp outputs, a 3.0-litre supercharged V6, and a 550-hp 5.0-litre supercharged V8 in the F-Pace SVR. All are mated to the same 8-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel drive. While the SVR is bound to be a riot, those seeking the sweet spot of accessible performance and no shortage of emotions will certainly want the V6. The four-pots are no slouch and are clearly more fuel efficient but they lack the same auditory and accelerative theatre that you get with an extra pair of cylinders and a blower in your pocket. The V6 packs a heavy punch, and is exclusive in the F-Pace S trim.
With 380 relentless horses on tap, the F-Pace S hits 0-100 km/h in a speedy 5.5 seconds. It’s quiet, collected, and tame at low speeds, just the thing you want in a luxury crossover. But give it some gas and the blown V6 really begins to howl at the higher RPMs. Without turbos to bog down power delivery, forward propulsion comes on nearly instantaneously as long as you’re in the right gear, and the 8-speed generally plays ball. To add to the enthusiasm, the exhaust sings a raspy note, just like the seductive F-Type but without the synthesized pops and bangs.
The F-Pace’s structure is 80% aluminum and sits on the same platform that underpins the XE and XF sedans. It doesn’t ride like an SUV either, more like a raised sports sedan with well composed body movements and a low center of gravity. The F-Pace carves corners without feeling floaty or cumbersome, a rare attribute for a vehicle that weighs as much as it does. The front end bites hard and the rear follows almost instantly, swinging out when desired and instilling utmost confidence in the driver when the road gets twisty. That’s due in part to its all-wheel drive system, which was mirrored after the F-Type. It keeps 100% of power in the rear wheels by default and sends up to 50% to the front if needed. As a result and even at slow speeds, the F-Pace S harbours an athletic persona and isn’t shy about letting the driver know that.
The F-Pace S is a willing and engaging dance partner when driving spiritedly but one of the downsides to that firm suspension setup is the dip in ride quality, and the impact harshness over bumps and undulations can come off as a negative point when compared to its cushy rivals. You can set the firmness of the dampers via the vehicle’s menu but even in the most comfortable setting, the F-Pace S is not nearly as supple as the comparative BMW X3 or Range Rover Velar. That’s not helped by those massive 22-inch wheels either. Best to stick with 20s or 21s if you’re looking for a more compliant ride.
The interior radiates with English charm and signature Jaguar design cues like the rising rotary gear dial and swooping dashboard. Unlike the 2019 XE or XF models, the F-Pace keeps its analog instrument cluster and high-resolution infotainment unit, both of which have come along way since the initial clumsy version with shortcut buttons flanking each side. No longer as laggy or as confusing, the new crisp and colourful displays are still prone to freezing and drops in frame rate but not as consistently as before.
Interior space and comfort is impressive given its large dimensions, with adequate headroom and legroom for my six-foot stature in any one of the five available seats. However, the small door portals made us think otherwise, as did the overly heavy doors which will find any excuse to slam shut, even on the smallest of road inclines. Trunk space is sufficient, boasting slightly more volume than the Mercedes-Benz GLC 300 and Porsche Macan, but storage space for the front seat passengers is notably lacking. There is no 7-seat option like the Land Rover Discovery Sport either.
In my eyes, the Jaguar F-Pace is subjectively the best looking and competitively one of the best handling SUVs on the market. It has pleased the bean counters but better yet, it has pleased the masses with an alluring premium product that adds emotion and enjoyment to the monotonous everyday commute without sacrificing its inherent form of practicality. If you hold performance and cornering dynamics dear to your heart, and aren’t worried about the occasional dip in ride quality, comfort, or technological consistency, then the F-Pace S is worth taking seriously.
Model: 2019 Jaguar F-PACE S
Paint Type: Loire Blue
Base Price: $69,900
Price as Tested: $83,635
Length/Width/Height (mm): 4,731 / 1,936 / 1,652
Curb weight (kg): 1,861
Engine: 3.0-litre supercharged V6
Horsepower: 380 hp @ 6,500 rpm
Torque: 332 lb-ft @ 4,500 rpm
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Engine & Drive Configuration: Front engine, AWD