2017 Jaguar F-Pace: AutoGuide.com Utility of the Year Contender

AutoGuide.com gathered five of the most significant utility vehicles for the 2017 model year for our annual Utility Vehicle of the Year evaluations. This year, our contenders are the Kia Sportage, Jaguar F-Pace, GMC Acadia, Audi Q7 and Honda CR-V. There was no hard price cap on this year’s entrants, but we tried to make sure none of them were extravagantly priced. We will release a new video on each contender every day leading up to April 13, when we announce our winner. In the meantime, don’t forget to check out our Car of the Year and Truck of the Year series.

Don’t let its shape and stature fool you: The 2017 Jaguar F-Pace is nothing short of a sports car masquerading as a family-hauling sport utility.

That performance prowess makes it a bit of an awkward fit as a finalist for AutoGuide.com’s 2017 Utility of the Year, but it doesn’t make it any less deserving than the rest of this year’s contenders. As far as first forays go, this effort from Jaguar to break into the sport utility segment is a pretty impressive one. Of course, the Jaguar F-Pace does have the benefit of being related to a long line of Land Rover products, but none this side of the Range Rover Sport SVR are anywhere near this sporty.

The F-Pace can be dressed up in six different trim packages, with the choice of diesel or gas engines under the hood. The gas-powered choices are obviously more performance-oriented, with the tiny diesel domesticating this Jag somewhat. The gas engines available in the F-Pace include two versions of the same supercharged V6 used throughout the Jaguar Land Rover lineup, with output peaking at 380 horsepower to go along with 332 lb-ft of torque. A new turbocharged four-cylinder gas engine has been added to the F-Pace for the 2018 model year, but it wasn’t ready in time to qualify for this year’s testing. All engines come bolted to an eight-speed automatic transmission built by ZF, which sends power to all four wheels.

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The example used during our Utility of the Year testing is finished in R-Sport guise and represents a sweet spot in the F-Pace stable. With the more modestly powered 3.0-liter under the hood, output is rated at a respectable 340 horsepower and 332 lb-ft of torque. As in more powerful versions, the throttle proves nice and punchy, while the exhaust note is simply spectacular.

ALSO SEE: 2017 Honda CR-V: AutoGuide.com Utility Vehicle of the Year Contender

The sport utility’s all-wheel drive system is of the on-demand variety, which means a heavy rear-wheel bias in most driving conditions. It can, however, provide a 50:50 torque split at a moment’s notice — 165 milliseconds, to be exact — should the system detect a lack of traction. Likewise, the F-Pace benefits from a drive mode selector that can tailor the powertrain to mood and condition, and the system lived up to its billing. The pre-set programs range from rain and snow to race, adjusting variables like throttle, transmission and traction control.

When it comes to ride and handling the Jag is impressively responsive, providing steering feel and feedback that’s atypical of an SUV. As would be expected, it’s only with the larger wheel options that too many road imperfections make their way inside the cabin, while there isn’t much body roll to speak of. Of course, the tradeoff is that the F-Pace is a bit on the stiff side, and lacks the compliance that’s to be expected in a premium SUV.

Inside, the F-Pace provides a commanding view of the road ahead and certainly feels like a sport utility from behind the wheel. Unfortunately, the awesome views are limited to what’s visible from the windshield, with the sleek design leading to poor visibility out the back and sides. Park the F-Pace next to a Porsche Macan and it looks big and brooding. Climb inside, however, and it’s a different story. Much like its outward visibility, there are sacrifices made to its interior space. The F-Pace is a midsize SUV but feels somewhat smaller inside, particularly in the second row. However, it does have a decent amount of cargo room, with 33.5 cu-ft (949 liters) behind the second row of seats, and 63.5 cu-ft (1,798 liters) with the second row folded.

ALSO SEE: 2017 Porsche Macan GTS vs Jaguar F-Pace S

In terms of comfort and convenience features, the F-Pace is about as loaded as one would expect. Outside of oddly placed window switches that are located on the driver’s door sill, the layout of the cabin is handsome while the fit and finish is impressive across the trim range. When it comes to pricing, the F-Pace starts at a reasonable $41,990 ($50,990 in Canada) and ranges upwards of $60,000 ($70,000 in Canada) depending on trim and options. That’s competitive to say the least, and undercuts the Porsche Macan, the F-Pace’s most direct competitor, by a long shot.

The F-Pace is charting a new course for a brand long synonymous with luxurious sedans and sporty coupes and convertibles — and it’s doing a pretty good job of it. It’s also careful not to step on the toes of Jaguar’s sister brand Land Rover by emphasizing the ‘sport’ in sport utility. To think of the F-Pace as anything less than an oversized sports car is foolhardy. That does, however, come with its own set of consequences, and the F-Pace could be accused of being too much fun for a family hauler.