2017 Jaguar F-Pace first drive review Page 2

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Jaguar F-Pace performance

Jaguar wants the F-Pace to rival SUVs like the Macan, the X3, and the GLC, so it’s given the new crossover a lightweight aluminum body, plenty of power, and road manners that evoke Jaguar sedans and Range Rovers equally well.

When it goes on sale this summer, the F-Pace will be outfitted with a supercharged V-6 of two different power levels. In lower tune, the F-Pace kicks out 340 horsepower; in higher-performance trim, it makes 380 horsepower. That latter version is good for 60 miles per hour in about 5 seconds, and a top speed of 155 miles per hour, according to Jaguar's estimates.

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Soon, a turbodiesel inline-4 will be available. With 180 horsepower and 317 pound-feet of torque, it’ll hit 60 miles per hour in about eight seconds. It's the torquey, miserly version for the crowd stepping down from angular Range Rovers: it's perfectly suited for off-roading, and fuel economy should hover near 35 miles per gallon on the highway--for those who aren't diesel-averse, given VW's ongoing PR catastrophe.

The choice between its engines really does depend on where you drive. The F-Pace for the open road carries the supercharged V-6. It’s quick and makes no bones about its sporting intentions. The V-6 exhaust note is always present, though, and it can get tiring on long interstate drones. It's overboosted and undercuts the cabin's serene themes.

The turbodiesel F-Pace is less vocal, more gradual, more relaxed no matter what kind of road. It’s slower, and passing power isn’t overwhelming, but the diesel can trundle over rocky paths with the measured 800-rpm pace of a Range Rover.

Driving modes and off-road hardware

All F-Paces get a rotary-controlled 8-speed automatic (with paddle shift controls on the S model) and a programmable driving-mode system that lets the driver tailor throttle delivery, shift timing, and traction-control settings based on the driving surfaces. Select snow/ice, wet pavement/gravel, or a deep-snow mode, and the F-Pace adjusts its power delivery accordingly.

The F-Pace is the first Jaguar to offer standard all-wheel drive. It’s a new chain-driven system that lets power split from a heavy rear bias to a neutral split from the front to the rear wheels. The setup can constantly vary which wheels get power, based on acceleration and cornering forces.

It's a key part of delivering real off-road ability in the F-Pace. Even though it's fitted normally with 18-, 20-, or even 22-inch all-season tires, the F-Pace can pick its way around rocks and mud thanks to some Land Rover-like specs.

The F-Pace has up to 8.4 inches of ground clearance, and approach and departure angles of 25.5 degrees and 25.7 degrees, front and rear. It can wade through water up to 20.7 inches high.

We trundled across old roads hacked into stony hillsides and worried mostly about cutting a tire. The F-Pace's suite of electronics handle hillclimbs and descents flawlessly. Forget the days of manual transmissions and manual locking hubs--vehicles like the F-Pace remove the skill and the challenge from moderately difficult off-pavement treks.

For almost every driver we can think of who might be interested in driving a Jaguar SUV, that's entirely appropriate.

2017 Jaguar F-Pace

2017 Jaguar F-Pace

Enlarge Photo
2017 Jaguar F-Pace

2017 Jaguar F-Pace

Enlarge Photo
2017 Jaguar F-Pace

2017 Jaguar F-Pace

Enlarge Photo

Jaguar F-Pace ride and handling

The F-Pace is kin to the hardier vehicles sitting across the showroom, but it’s no Land Rover.

No, its prime directive is to handle and ride like a Jaguar, to be the most practical sports vehicle the brand sells.

Physically, it stays grounded in the performance-car terra firma with dynamic hardware derived from the XF and XE. It has control arms in front and a rear suspension linked directly to the subframe. Many of those pieces are cast in aluminum. Monotube dampers are standard, but the F-Pace also offers adaptive air dampers as an option. 

Steering is variable-ratio, driven by electric motors, tunable in the F-Pace's driving modes. The brakes can simulate torque vectoring by clamping on an inside wheel to tighten the cornering line.

For most of our 300-mile loop of Montenegro, we took to very narrow lanes, including a series of 16 hairpins descending into the valley of Kotor, a UNESCO World Heritage site. There's a reason it's known as the southernmost fjord in Europe--the valleys are missing only snow to mimic their Norwegian mirror site.

Having driven those Scandinavian roads just last year, the parallels were keen.

With the F-Pace, Jaguar’s delivered an SUV with the sporting edge you’d expect from its name. There’s a Teutonic feel in its tightly controlled ride and linear, progressive steering. The tires work hard to keep up with its 4,000-pound curb weight, but the F-Pace's extraordinarily stiff body and suspension deflect most of the stuff laying on Montenegro's mildly broken roads with fluency.

The F-Pace does far better dynamically than some of the class champs. There's very little head toss, a sign of too-stiff dampers, and excellent body-motion control. It was exhilarating, not exhausting, to whip around a set of 16 hairpins down into an achingly gorgeous ravine that looks like Europe’s southernmost fjord.

It's noticeably more at ease on the 20-inch wheels and tires, the setup engineers chose as the happy medium. The optional 22-inch tires (on Pirelli P Zeros we won't get in the U.S.) give great grip, at some cost to ride quality. With the 20s, the F-Pace is more absorbent, and steering feel is just plain better. There’s not as much wheel mass to overcome, and finer inputs are easier to execute.

Even before the F-Pace dials up sport mode in its driving systems, it can slice and dice about as well as the XFs we've driven. There just aren't any dynamic downfalls to the package. There's nothing to suggest you're not driving in a modern-day Jaguar. The F-Pace as close as any SUV has come to matching Porsche's pinnacle of SUV form factor and sport-sedan dynamics.

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