It can be tempting to dismiss the 2019 Jaguar F-Pace S as just another cushy, high-priced SUV.
It has a powerful engine (a 3.0 litre V6 with 380 horsepower), aggressive looks and a price to match (the S version’s MSRP is $69,900; the gloss black wheels on my review model alone added another $3,570 to the pricetag.)
So, yes, based on those few facts, this isn’t a vehicle for everybody. After all, no one needs a plus-$70,000 SUV. A Honda Pilot, Ford Explorer or Hyundai Santa Fe can pretty much do anything this Jaguar can do. As well, the F-Pace certainly doesn’t have an easy ride within the luxury market. Mercedes-Benz, Audi, BMW and even Maserati and Porsche are all chasing the well-heeled luxury SUV consumer. The competition is as fierce as the animal this brand is channelling.
But I can’t help but like it. What the F-Pace S does well is take many of the elements of a classic Jaguar – power, style and refinement – and recast them in the form of a five-passenger performance-oriented SUV. You ride a little taller but you still feel like you’re behind the wheel of a sports car. And therein lies its appeal.
To start with, the clean exterior lines give the F-Pace a sleek, sporty look. The design is more sport coupe than sport truck.
Inside, the bolstered leather seats remind you that you’re sitting in it, not on it, a pet peeve of mine when it comes to some other SUVs (I’m looking at you, Honda Pilot). It’s a reminder that this Jag is designed for people who appreciate the visceral side of driving. Once you’re behind the wheel, this machine that seemed so large from the outside now seems lean, muscular and nimble. The steering is precise and the handling is impressive.
Controls are laid out nicely around the driver. The 10” touchscreen is intuitive to use and the audio controls are complemented by a plain analog knob for the volume control. There’s no need to take your eyes off the road when all you want to do is raise or lower the volume. Apple and Android phones can connect to the vehicle through the InControl system.
The dial gear selector, which rises from the console when you start the engine and disappears when you shut it off, saves some interior space but still takes some getting used to. I found that I could turn the dial faster than it could engage a gear. Most of the time that wasn’t a problem, but it did result in a sometimes awkward delay if I tried to quickly shift between forward and reverse, for example, when working into a tight parking spot.
The supercharged 380 hp V6, found only on the S version, is smooth and mostly quiet in Eco and regular Drive modes. Once you engage Sport mode and step on the throttle, though, the Jag shows its roots and the engine comes to life with a roar. There’s a slight hesitation as the horses get ready to run but the takeoff is impressive nonetheless thanks in part to the Jag’s generous helping of aluminum within its Lightweight Aluminum Architecture. Jaguar says this F-Pace can go from zero to 100 km/h in 5.5 seconds. (Switching into Sport mode also changes the interior accent lighting to red from green, which is pointless but, I admit, still kinda cool.) Keep in mind that roar comes with an increase in fuel consumption, although after a week of combined highway and city driving, the F-Pace S returned a respectable 11 litres per 100 km.
The S version has a range of high-tech driver aids available. Among others, our tester had Head-Up Display, which shows information like speed and navigation details on the windshield, directly but unobtrusively, in the driver’s eye line. Active cruise control uses the set cruising speed but adapts to keep a pre-set distance between you and the vehicle directly ahead – handy for long highway drives and a feature that adds a layer of safety without you even knowing it.
The cargo space is ample, with a capacity of 650 litres (fold the rear seats and Jaguar says you can increase that space to 1,740 litres). Of course, there’s also creature comforts like the heated steering wheel (my current favourite automotive innovation) and heated and cooling front and rear seats.
So while the Jaguar F-Pace S is not exactly for everyone, it does prove that in an era of one-size-fits-all SUVs, there’s still one out there that’s built for drivers.