Test Drive: Jaguar’s SUV — What’s not to like?

Cadillac, Lincoln, BMW and other luxury marques leaped into the SUV market years ago and found success there, so why not Jaguar? To be sure, the company that owns Jaguar, Tata Motors, also owns Land Rover – a brand whose reputation is founded almost entirely on rugged vehicles designed to traverse the Veldt. So is the new-for-2017 F-Pace everything it must be to wear the Jaguar label? The answer is a qualified yes.

2017 Jaguar F-Pace S First Edition interior.
2017 Jaguar F-Pace S First Edition interior.

We liked nearly everything about the F-Pace S First Edition, a midsized SUV rendered in tasteful Caesium Blue with a Light Oyster interior. It’s a stunning car, with elegant, instantly recognizable Jaguar exterior cues and luxurious interior accommodations. Yet it’s roomy front and back and it has a substantial cargo compartment of 33.5 cubic feet with the rear seatback upright. And it came out of nowhere for Jaguar, emerging as the brand’s U.S. sales leader last year with 10,016 units sold.

Powered by a 3-liter, supercharged V-6, it’s rated at 380 horsepower – 85 more than its likely arch-rival, the Lexus RX350. Also available are a 340-horsepower supercharged V-6 and a 2.0-liter, 4-cylinder, 180-horsepower turbodiesel. The latter engine choice exacts a high price in terms of performance, but its fuel-economy rating is significantly higher.

All three power plants come with 8-speed shiftable automatic transmissions.

Our test car had a sticker price of $70,695. The base model, with the 340-horsepower engine, starts at $41,990 – about $1,100 less than the base RX350.

The F-Pace’s long standard-features list includes leather upholstery, heated front and rear seats as well as a heated steering wheel, surround camera, panoramic sunroof, head-up display, blind-spot monitor, all-wheel drive and Jaguar’s InControl Touch Pro infotainment system.

Less visible to the driver is Jaguar’s extensive use of aluminum. The F-Pace is about 200 pounds lighter than the RX350, and more than 300 pounds lighter than the comparable Audi Q5. The control-arm front suspension and multi-link rear suspension deliver excellent cornering despite the F-Pace’s tall stance. Its ground clearance is 8.4 inches, higher than many in its class. The engine is responsive and powerful, and it produces an exhaust note that’s pleasant to hear.

Our only consequential criticism of the F-Pace was its fuel economy – significantly lower than that of major competitors like the RX350, Q5 and BMW X3. It’s rated at just 18 mpg city, 23 highway; on top of that, premium fuel is required. The 295-horsepower RX350 hardly is sluggish, it sips regular unleaded gasoline, and it’s rated 2 mpg higher overall than the F-Pace.

We also didn’t care for our test car’s 22-inch, low-profile Pirelli summer performance tires. They’re reportedly quite grippy on dry roads, but they weren’t up to the challenge posed by a light January snowfall in Connecticut. They also seemed to be responsible for the occasionally harsh ride. Fortunately, buyers can choose 18- and 20-inch all-season tires that would provide a smoother ride and perform better in New England weathers.

Steven Macoy (semacoy@gmail.com) is a longtime car enthusiast and full-time editor who lives in Bethel, Conn.

2017 Jaguar F-Pace S First Edition

Price: $70,695

Engine: 3.0-liter supercharged V-6, 380 horsepower, 332 lb.-ft. torque

Transmission: 8-speed shiftable automatic with shift paddles

Drive: all-wheel

Weight: 4,015 lb.

Suspension: control-arm front, multi-link rear

Wheels: 22-in. alloy

Tires: 265/40R22 summer performance

Ground clearance: 8.4 in.

Seating capacity: 5

Luggage capacity: 33.5 cu. ft.

Maximum cargo capacity: 63.5 cu. ft.

Fuel capacity: 16.6 gallons

Fuel economy: 18 mpg city, 23 mpg highway

Fuel type: premium unleaded gasoline