Jaguar F-Pace S: Enthusiast Approved

Jaguar F-Pace S Review 5

Damn, everyone is jumping on the crossover bandwagon. Clearly following Porsche’s success, Maserati, Bentley, and now Jaguar have now all made high-riding vehicles for people who want a station wagon that isn’t a “station wagon.” I haven’t been much of a fan of crossovers until pretty recently, when some of them have stepped into the ring of high performance. Yes, there is now a full segment of fast crossovers that handle pretty darn well, and they’re sort of like big, comfy rally cars.

I’d heard a lot of praise being thrown at the Jaguar F-Pace, so when I was able to try on out for myself, I jumped on the opportunity. The car I drove was the top-of-the-line F-Pace S, so if this one didn’t impress me, none of them would. And you know what? In many respects, it may be the best fast crossover I’ve driven to date.

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I do like the idea of mixing the easy ergonomics and practicality of an SUV with a high performance package. As a do-everything daily driver, it’s just about perfect. The big thing Jaguar has done with the F-Pace S is to inject a healthy dose of personality into a crossover that could’ve easily been forgettable.

The F-Pace surely has that sly Jag look to it, and the one I drove was triple black, so it was heavy on the badass appeal.  This is definitely the exact car James Bond would be ever so cordially kidnapped in by the baddy’s henchmen. I’m not only talking about style when I say the F-Pace has flavor, though, I’m talking about the experience of driving it. It’s quite enjoyable, and it’s more emotionally exciting than any SUV I’ve ever driven, and that includes the Porsche Macan Turbo.

If there’s one thing Jaguar knows how to do well, it’s how to give an engine a soundtrack that will send chills up your spine. The F-Pace S shares the same supercharged 3.0L V6 found in the F-Type S sports car. Thankfully, Jaguar still let the engine howl mightily in the SUV. Engage Dynamic mode, and you won’t be able to get enough of how the F-Pace sounds with its exhaust flaps open.

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Let the revs climb, and the F-Pace S absolutely screams. I thought it had to all be coming through the speakers, but then I heard it rev from the outside. It’s loud, and it’s got the the aural presence you want from performance model. I’m sure there is some sound amplification through the speakers in the cabin, but it only serves to make the car sound like it does from the outside on the inside. Don’t underestimate how much of a difference the sound a car makes matters to the experience of driving it.

The F-Pace S also has some “go” to match its show. It’s got the higher output supercharged V6 under its hood, which is good for a worthy 380hp. Acceleration is brisk, certainly quick enough to enjoy, but I honestly, think it needs just a little more horsepower to really be perfect. It seems to feel faster than it is, partially thanks to the lovely engine note, but every time I looked down at the speedometer I was going about 10mph slower than I thought I was. I mean, it does 0-60 in 5.1 seconds as-is, but being a big SUV, it can use all the grunt it can get.

That being said, the slight shortcoming on horsepower is made up for by the merits of the rest of the F-Pace S. The engine is very responsive and power comes on nice and linearly. It’s also the relative lightweight among performance SUVs, weighing just over 4,000lbs. That helps its handling tremendously, and that’s where the F-Pace won me back.

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Being light for what it is enhances the big Jag’s driving experience in every regard. It doesn’t weigh much more than an Audi S4. Jaguar did a wonderful job making the F-Pace S feel lively and eager to attack back roads with fury. Its steering responds sharply to inputs, and that chassis stays tight and composed at a brisk pace through corners. The F-Pace’s chassis is also totally un-phased by bumps and dips in the road taken at speed, a trademark trait of any rally-style car. It may be an SUV, and it may have a plush interior, but this thing is a superb handler and all-round performer in the real world.

Adding to the experience is the superb 8-Speed automatic gearbox that Jaguar uses in all of their cars. In dynamic mode it’s shifts are satisfyingly crisp, worthy of that S badge for sure.

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For me the Jaguar F-Pace had to prove itself on the sports car side of things. Anyone can make a comfortable, practical crossover that looks sporty, but isn’t. The challenge for everyone in this segment is, how do you make an SUV genuinely fun to drive quickly?

I think Jaguar has nailed it with the F-Pace S, and they didn’t do it by relying on tons of horsepower. It’s the lighter weight that makes the F-Pace S so enjoyable, and it will also allow any horsepower you might add to go that much further. I don’t think the F-Pace needs 600hp, or any other excessive number, to be spot on. I think just another 20% or so would do it, somewhere around 450hp. That should be totally doable considering F-Types with the same motor have been able to jump to 430hp with ECU software alone.

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Dollars and Sense

The F-Pace S also offers a lot of value in the world of fun crossovers. Starting at $57,000, pricing goes up to around the $72,000 window sticker of our test car. Optioned as I’d buy mine, I’d be out the door for under $65,000.

Comparably, you can’t even have a Porsche Macan Turbo for the price of a loaded F-Pace S. In fact, for the $65,000 I’d spend on the Jag, I couldn’t even have a Macan GTS either. The F-Pace, as I’d have it, would be squarely in moderately-optioned Macan S territory, and the Jag seems like a far better value to me at that level. I won’t deny, the Porsche Macan Turbo is probably a better car than the F-Pace S, but a loaded Macan Turbo also costs nearly $100,000.

The Audi SQ5, BMW X4 M40i, and the upcoming Mercedes-AMG GLC 43 are all tempting options as well. However, the BMW doesn’t do anything for me flavor-wise, and the Audi doesn’t excite me as much as the F-Pace does. The Mercedes is a wildcard here, maybe they’ll give it a healthy dose of brutish AMG personality. That’s the struggle in this segment, though. Even if they are fast and capable, making these crossovers feel “special” is a challenge, and that’s where I think Jaguar has nailed it with the F-Pace S.

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Verdict

Jaguar got the things right that they needed to get right with the F-Pace S. It’s genuinely fun to drive and it feels like something special, even with the package of a crossover. It’s comfortable, practical, and well-polished for daily concerns as you’d expect, but it’s also one of the few crossovers I could be genuinely happy with as a driving enthusiast.

I give this one my stamp of approval!

-Nick Walker

MoM Score: Jaguar F-Pace S
Primary Function: Luxury: 2
Secondary Functions: Driving Experience(2) Practicality(2) MPG(2): 2
Visual Appeal: 2
Build Quality: 1.5…. long term costs, reliability are iffy, it’s a Jag.
Value for Money: 2
Final Score: 9.5 /10

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