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2017 Jaguar F-Pace 35t R-Sport Road Test Review written by Rick Cotta

2017 Jaguar F-Pace 35t R-Sport Review

by Rick Cotta

“Sacrilege!”

That was the response of some Porsche purists when the legendary sports-car manufacturer brought out its first “crossover” SUV, the Cayenne -- which quickly became the make’s top seller.

Jaguar aficionados may have adopted a similar attitude when the famed builder of luxury sedans and sports cars introduced its first crossover, the 2017 Jaguar F-Pace luxury SUV, last summer. Yet in less than six months on the market, it has already outpacing all of its showroom siblings in sales.

Hmm. Maybe the whole crossover thing has some legs.

Certainly this cat does. Though considered a compact, most versions of the F-Pace come with a 340-horsepower 3.0-liter supercharged V6, a potent powerplant for the class. Tied to a standard 8-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel drive, these versions wear a “35t” badge (odd, since the engine is 3.0 liters and it’s supercharged, not turbocharged), and Jaguar says they can sprint from a standstill to 60 mph in a quick 5.4 seconds – and indeed, that’s exactly what our own tests showed. (Also offered are the 20d with a 180-horsepower turbodiesel and far costlier S with a “tweaked” 380-horse version of the 3.0-liter V6, but they’re expected to be peripheral sellers.)

More importantly, there’s instant power everywhere in the speed range. Not only does the engine provide a strong full-throttle jump off the line, but it also delivers a responsive surge when the throttle is stabbed at speed, thanks in part to prompt transmission kickdowns. Furthermore, unleashing all those ponies prompts a satisfyingly sporty growl, an attribute that probably contributed as much as the four full-throttle 0-60 runs to our lackluster 21-mpg average.

Although hot-rod versions of the competing Audi Q5, BMW X3, and Mercedes GLC can beat that 0-60 time by a bit, they’re all priced far above the F-Pace 35t’s $44,385 opening ante. And in their base forms – which are much closer to that price – all those rivals come with 2.0-liter turbo fours that don’t make near the suds. So right out of the gate, the F-Pace is a performance bargain.

Four version of the 35t are offered: base, Premium ($47,595), Prestige ($52,095), and performance-oriented R-Sport ($57,295). Our test vehicle was the last, which – after being loaded virtually to the gills – stickered for $70,735.

Added as standard to the R-Sport are 20-inch wheels to replace the standard 18s on the base, 19s on the Premium and Prestige. While these larger wheels look great, they’re shod with lower-profile tires that likely aid steering response some, but also likely deteriorate the ride. And since the latter seemed a bit stiff and “busy” over most surfaces, the other models would probably fare better over anything but smooth pavement. Note, however, that the R-Sport offers an adjustable suspension as part of a $1000 Adaptive Dynamics Package that Jaguar claims strikes “the optimum balance between precise dynamics and a supple, luxurious ride,” but – oddly – our test vehicle wasn’t carrying it.

As with most rivals in the class, it’s a bit surprising that many expected luxury features are only found on higher trim levels or as extra-cost options. For instance, the base model doesn’t come standard with a rearview camera (though it’s a $400 option) or satellite radio (a $350 option). Other options include a $1400 Cold Climate Package (heated windshield and washer jets, heated front and rear seats, and heated steering wheel – a “must have” bargain if you live in the snow belt) and a $500 Navigation Package that brings a navigation system and Jaguar’s “InControl Apps,” which allows you to control selected apps from your smartphone through the dashboard screen. But you have to move up to the Premium to get seat and mirror memory and Homelink garage-door opener, or to add optional blind-spot alert, rear cross-traffic alert, and front and rear obstacle detection (all in a $1900 Vision Package), or a 3G (not 4G) WiFi hotspot ($300). And you have to jump to the Prestige to opt for the Comfort and Convenience Package ($1800) that brings heated and cooled front seats, heated rear seats, and a hands-free power liftgate (though a power liftgate is standard, even on the base model). Other Prestige options include cargo-floor luggage rails with adjustable tie-downs ($150), a head-up display ($990), and the neat Jaguar Activity Key ($400), which is a Fitbit-like rubber bracelet that allows you to leave the keys in your car (for instance, if you go swimming or running) and still get inside.

Another option oddity has to do with colors. If you happen to favor black or white, you’re in luck. But all other hues are optional; most cost $550 (and only red, silver, and blue are available on the base model, with several others offered on Premium and up), but the Storm Grey of our test vehicle boosted its price by $1500. On the positive side, all models offer a choice of black or black/brown interiors, and Prestige adds a nearly white “Light Oyster” while the R-Sport adds grey or red.

Speaking of oddities, the F-Pace has its share. Granted, premium vehicles tend to lean this way (all seemingly taking BMW’s infamous early 2000s iDrive as inspiration), but some things in the F-Pace might seem strange even to experienced luxury-car owners. A few that jumped out:

  • Power window switches are on the door tops, the driver-seat memory buttons on the armrest – just the opposite of convention.

  • The overhead map light (usually a rectangular clear lens you push or a lighted button) was a thin, horizontal black bar that looked like a trim strip, particularly at night -- which is when you’d be looking for it – that you had to press to turn on. (Guess how many tries it took me to discover that ….)

  • Front-seat heat/cool “switches” are buried a couple layers down into the touchscreen and have to be turned on every time you start the vehicle. (The best have an easy-to-use physical button or knob.)

  • The audio system’s volume knob is on the right side of the center stack rather than the more conventional – and convenient – left.

  • When swung to the side, the non-extending (!) sun visor leaves four inches of the window uncovered.

  • Our test vehicle included a little speed-limit-sign icon in the instrument cluster to tell you the current speed limit. However, the speed limit displayed often didn’t match what the one on the road indicated, and I’ll bet Officer Friendly isn’t going to look at that as a viable excuse.

  • While this isn’t really an “oddity” – as many cars are the same way – note that the touchscreen won’t respond if you’re wearing regular gloves; you have to have the special “touchscreen” gloves. But it can really cross you up the first time cold weather hits.

  • On the bubble is the rotating gear-select knob on the console. Jaguar certainly isn’t the only make to use one (though I think it was among the first), and while I personally like them, some folks find them more “gimmicky” than useful.

Furthermore, many of the functions of the infotainment system will take some amount of study to master, and while that’s not unusual for a luxury vehicle, the “logic” behind some of them might leave you digging for the owners manual. However, with time and practice, many of these may shift from being somewhat annoying to part of the vehicle’s charming character.

From the driver’s seat, visibility is just OK, as all roof pillars are moderately thick, though our test vehicle had a 180-degree rearview camera that was very helpful when backing, as was the 360-degree “surround” view that shared the same screen. Interior materials are more “conservatively stately” than “luxurious” (with some of the padding being wafer thin), though our R-Sport included some neat, sweeping, LED lighting strips that really stood out at night. (Also standing out at night were the puddle lamps – “Approach Illumination” in Jaguar-speak – that projected “JAGUAR” on the ground instead of the make’s famous leaping mascot, which would seemingly be cooler.) Storage space is on the sparse side with nearly all compartments being rather small, but unexpected – and really handy – were bins set into the sides of the console.

Passenger space is impressive for a compact crossover. Six-footers should be able to sit in tandem, though a taller front seater may have the seat back far enough to make legroom tight for the person behind.

Cargo space is also quite good for a vehicle this size. Rear seat backs fold level with the cargo floor, making it easy to slide long items forward, and the power liftgate (which can be “hands free” with the Comfort and Convenience Package) is a nice touch. Another nice touch is that the cargo cover can be stored under the cargo floor.
 
One notable and unusual “feature” of the F-Pace has nothing to do with the vehicle itself. Jaguar says its EliteCare warranty offers best-in-class coverage with 5-year/60,000-mile bumper-to-bumper coverage that includes free maintenance. That last part alone can save thousands of dollars over the span of the warranty.
 
With the lone exception of the oddly unpopular X-Type all-wheel-drive compact sedan of the mid-2000s, it was only a few years ago that Jaguar finally began offering all-wheel drive in most of its cars (which is chosen by roughly half of all luxury-brand buyers), and that alone boosted sales tremendously. And clearly, the F-Pace is doing the same. Along with the compact XE sedan introduced at about the same time – and which shares the F-Pace platform, interior, and some mechanicals – it represents a turning point for a company that long subsisted on rear-drive sports cars and luxury sedans. That may trouble some traditionalists, but for anyone seeking a premium compact crossover that stands out not only for its performance, but also by wearing an uncommon yet revered premium nameplate, the F-Pace just may characterize the new face of Jaguar.

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