Despite the ever rising cost and continually dwindling reserve of gasoline, Canadians like big cars.
Of the top 10 best selling vehicles in Canada in 2015, just three were compact and economically minded. The rest were pickup trucks, SUVs and crossovers.
For automakers, this has meant an increase in sales in one particular segment – the luxury SUV.
Early pioneers like the Cadillac Escalade of the late ’90s served as a status symbol for the wealthy and were often out of reach for the average customer.
But in modern times, practically every manufacturer has a well-equipped and luxurious SUV available for purchase.
The latest addition to the brigade is the Jaguar F-Pace.
As part of a new series reviewing autos, Global News put the century old automaker’s SUV to the test
The F-Pace is Jaguar’s first foray into the SUV market.
It was styled by award-winning British designer Ian Callum, whose previous work includes the Aston Martin DB7 and Vanquish supercars. The F-Pace certainly has a sporty and sleek look compared to other SUV’s on the market. Its low-slung stance, dual exhaust and large wheels add to that performance-oriented appearance.
On the inside, the focus on performance continues. The interior is decidedly modern and almost minimalist, a stark contrast to the old word opulence of burled wood and sheep-hide carpeting Jaguar was once known for.
The F-Pace, like many of the vehicles in Jaguar’s lineup, is comprised largely of aluminum – one third of which is recycled. For Jaguar, that translates to a more environmentally friendly vehicle with a much smaller carbon footprint. For drivers, that provides a more sports-car like feel on the road, as well as an overall lighter vehicle, which helps with fuel economy.
Jaguar’s SUV comes in three flavours ranging from a frugal sensibility to all out performance. The cheapest, a 2.0 litre turbocharged diesel, offers relatively affordable entry level luxury. While the flagship F-Pace, a 380 horsepower 3.0 litre supercharged V6, offers sports car performance in a comfortable, luxurious package.
Our test car fell right in the middle of the range, sporting the same supercharged V6, but only producing 340 horsepower.
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The F-Pace can be as tame or as exciting as you need it to be.
While it can feel big, driving the F-Pace through a narrow city street, a suburban side road or a wide highway is surprisingly easy. The tight sports-car-like handling helps the big Jaguar feel firm and planted, even while going around a tight corner.
Unlike some other larger SUV’s and trucks, there is very little body roll. The steering is responsive, but not heavy. With the exception of some engine noise during acceleration, the cabin is remarkably quiet and comfortable.
Its 8-speed automatic transmission is responsive, smoothly cycling through the gears during normal operation, and allowing quick acceleration when overtaking.
In lieu of a traditional gear selector, Jaguar uses a round dial, almost like an old rotary phone, to shift between park, reverse, neutral and drive. The dial will raise while the car is in use, and recess into the centre console when the car is off. While it is stylish, it will take some getting used to – especially during maneuvers like a three-point turn where this setup can make it easy to put the car into the wrong gear.
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Like the trick gear selector, the rest of Jaguar’s interior is stylish and modern. Rich wood veneers and supple leather give way to sleek aluminum accents and bucket seats. But despite the contemporary styling, the luxury is still there. Self-parking, heated front and rear seats, a heated steering wheel, a massive panoramic glass roof and adjustable mood lighting are just a few of the optional extras in the F-Pace that make living with it a breeze. Neither front nor rear passengers will feel cramped in the roomy interior.
As well, a large 650-litre trunk space offers more storage than similar SUV’s from BMW and Porsche.
Jaguar’s centre console in the F-Pace is dominated by a large touchscreen interface that oversees media controls, navigation, climate control, and phone pairing. It is in this interface that the F-Pace’s biggest faults lie.
In our test car, this screen was unresponsive, slow and, at times, redundant. For instance, the slow loading navigation software will struggle to keep up with the destination you’re trying to punch in. Or, when trying to activate your heated seat, you must first push a button on the console, then configure the heat level through the touchscreen.
Typically, this is all done with the touch of one button in practically every car with heated seats. But in the F-Pace, it’s a two-step process. A minor gripe, admittedly, but in a time when distracted driving is at an all-time high, the less drivers need to take their eyes off the road, the better.
Although it’s a newcomer in a market that’s already quite crowded, Jaguar’s F-Pace stands to be a strong competitor in the Canadian market. Starting at $50,900 in Canada, the F-Pace is priced competitively compared to similar offerings from BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Audi and Cadillac.
Despite its shortcomings, the F-Pace’s stand out styling, practicality and relative affordability make it a worthy choice in a market that’s currently dominated by the same established manufacturers year after year.
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