Over the past few decades, few other automakers have had as many “most important car since…” moments as Jaguar. After being spun off from moribund British Leyland, the company celebrated its independence with the 1986 XJ40, a modern range-topper designed to compete with the Mercedes S-Class and BMW 7 Series. Thirteen years later and now owned by Ford, it fell to the S-Type, that retro-modern BMW 5 Series fighter that was built on a Ford platform. It was closely followed by the X-Type, a rebadged Ford Mondeo that was meant to threaten the BMW 3 Series, and ended up being a rolling punchline.
The trouble was, none of these cars really did what they were supposed to. None of them introduced Jaguar to a wider audience, and if anything, they pushed it farther away from its German rivals. But things have changed at the company in the last few years. Since it was bought by Tata Motors in 2008, Jaguar has been in the black every year since, and it projects that it’s on track to sell 200,000 cars a year worldwide by the end of the decade. After selling 80,000 cars in 2014, however, it still has a long way to go.
Thankfully, it seems that no one knows that better than Jaguar. Unveiled earlier this year, the XE is the company’s first serious BMW 3 Series/Audi A4/Mercedes C-Class fighter in company history. It followed that up with a competitive five-year/60,000 mile warranty to put the company’s reputation for unreliability to bed once and for all. And now, after months of teasers, Jaguar’s first ever SUV, the 2017 F-Pace, has been unveiled at the Frankfurt Motor Show, and with that, it instantly becomes – without hyperbole – the most important vehicle in Jaguar’s lineup.
Since its inception, Jaguar has been very good at building two things: sports cars and large sedans. But the SUV/Crossover market has gotten to the point where everyone from the traditional (Rolls-Royce, Bentley) to the performance-based (Lamborghini, Maserati, Aston Martin) has decided that they need to get on board, and Jaguar is no exception. If it wants to compete against the big guns, it needs to have a damn good SUV. From here, it looks like Jag just might have pulled it off.
The company calls the F Pace “The World’s Most Practical Sportscar,” which may be a stretch, but not by much. Its base engine, for one, is the 3.0 liter V6 found in the F-Type. Blurring the line between people mover and sports car that much more is the 380 horsepower supercharged version, which takes the F Pace from zero to 60 in 5.1 seconds, over the naturally aspirated SUV’s 5.4 seconds. Both use a ZF-sourced eight-speed transmission and have have an electronically limited top speed of 155 miles per hour, and at 3,913 pounds, the aluminum-intensive F Pace is the lightest SUV in its segment. Both also have torque vectoring and adaptive dynamics systems derived from the F-Type’s, meaning that this SUV will handle better than most things on or off-road.
That said, it won’t be easy for Jaguar. Because of its performance pedigree, the F Pace looks to be gunning for rivals like the Porsche Macan and the Audi SQ5, but with its prices ranging from $40,990 to $56,700, it’ll also be competing against more sedate, established, and strong-selling SUVs like the BMW X3, Lexus RX, and Mercedes GLC-Class. While this seems like it could be a liability, it could turn out to be the F Pace’s greatest asset. The Jag walks that line between being both performance-centric and luxurious while not being too intimidating to scare off the suburban set. Its front end is closely related to the range-topping XJ Sedan, and its taillights are nearly identical to the F-Types. Inside, you’ll find the blend of proper leather and wood, with the perfect amounts of modern style and tech.
For a legendary brand, Jaguar still has some growing to do if it wants to rival the Germans in sales. at least from the auto show floor, the F Pace seems to be just the SUV the company needs to do it. It’ll be a few months before we’re able to get behind the wheel, but by the time it enters the market, it could already be one of the most competitive models in its segment. Within a year or two, don’t be surprised if you see a lot of very tall Jaguars driving around.
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