Monday, December 11, 2017

Ready to Pounce

2017 Jaguar XF v F-Pace

Eight years ago, a new era dawned for British luxury carmak­er Jaguar. After decades of building sleepy, nostalgic sedans and coupes for the pipe-and-slippers set, a range of fresh, modern and athletic Jaguars began to emerge. First came the XF mid-sized sedan, soon followed by a new flagship XJ, and now we have a compact XE sedan and Jaguar’s first-ever SUV, the F-Pace. These light, fast and chic new Jags instantly made Jaguar’s past models appear as old as a vintage E-Type. This issue, we’re profiling the two very different and quite wonderful ways that a car can make a cat person out of you.



After introducing Jaguar’s new style to the world in 2008, the 2016 XF has just undergone a full redesign, and its uncanny resemblance to its predecessor indicates that Jaguar clearly likes what it sees in the mirror. It went on an aluminum-intensive diet and shed up to 250 pounds while gaining rear-seat space. Headlamps and taillamps are now dressy all-LED units, but the 2016 model appears so close to its predecessor that few common folks will know you’re driving the new one.

Different story inside, where the XF’s redesigned trappings are legitimately cushy, yet elegantly austere. A quick-reacting, intuitive touchscreen interface, electronic gauges and clean climate-control graphics shining through a darkened panel are new, and other than the flimsy rotary transmission switch that rises up from the console upon startup, materials are otherwise consistently upscale. If you don’t like cold spaces, we suggest warm colors; if you believe luxury cars should look formal, go all black.


No matter the hue, the XF has the dynamic acuity that would make the porky BMW 5-Series cry. Its light weight is evident in its laser-like steering and eagerness to change direction without listing like a cruise ship on the high seas. The sporty XF-S version suffers from an uncouth ride at times, but otherwise, it and the other two XF trims cover ground brilliantly. What trims are those? Base XF models are powered by a 2.0-liter diesel engine, while the mid-grade R-Sport model brings a supercharged V-6 with 340 hp and the top-dog XF-S is powered by a more powerful 380-hp version of that same V-6. Each uses an 8-speed paddle-shifted automatic capable of prioritizing efficiency, sportiness or striking a happy balance of both. And while all-wheel drive isn’t particularly popular in these parts, it is available for $3,000 with any motor.


Speaking of prices, while the 2016 XF’s comfort, quality and perfor­mance characteristics have all risen, its prices have dropped by as much as nearly $5,000 on certain models. With base XFs starting at $48,445, the R-Sport at $51,485 and the XF-S starting at $63,695, prices are quite aggressive compared to its more established European competi­tors. With Jaguar’s renaissance still quite new, the Jaguar XF remains a rare, exclusive car, but once word gets out about its sharper claws and aggressive pricing, it may not stay rare for long.


With Porsche, Maserati and, soon, even Lamborghini and Rolls-Royce building crossovers—yes, Rolls is building an ute—it seems like every automotive brand on the planet is doing a crossover. So how does a fledgling luxury brand like Jaguar make its new crossover stand out? Make it look like the F-Pace, that’s how. Indeed, Jaguar’s first-ever SUV is a stunner, translating Jaguar’s bold new form vocabulary brilliantly into SUV proportions. It’s not a big beast—closer to the BMW X3 in size than the X5—but it looks like it could claw either of those trucklets to pieces in a street fight. Its long, contoured hood, cat-eye headlamps, deep-set grille, and even the taillamps are all familiar Jaguarisms, at least since its rebirth began in 2008. And with its sloping rear window capped by an aggressive spoiler, the rear end is resolved not with do­mestic, utilitarian boxiness but with a saucy, aero-honed edge.


While the XF’s crossover stance places its occupants higher than conventional sedans, affording that excellent view ahead that so many SUV drivers can’t live without, the seating position itself feels decidedly car-like. One doesn’t sit on the supportive sport seats as much as one relaxes back into them, feet positioned well in front rather than below your knees. The high window sills and steep windshield are also more sports car than sport-utility. Yet there’s enough room for four adults and a load of gear in the cargo space. Like the XF, the décor is minimalist, which means that it can take on many looks, depending on how the customer has kitted it out.


Like many SUVs, the F-Pace looks aggressive, but whereas most don’t back up those looks with real performance, the F-Pace covers ground less like a pampered housecat on a stroll through the yard than, well, an actual jaguar chasing its dinner. To characterize its handling as having “cat-like reflexes” borders on the cliché, I know, but there is no better way to describe it. Base models get along well enough with a 2.0-liter diesel four-cylinder, but if you like your cats on the frisky side, the “35t” or “S” models, with their 340-hp or 380-hp supercharged V-6s, are the ones to get.


Even with the sweet V-6 engine and a load of options, the F-Pace price can remain well below $60K. In fact, with prices starting at $41,985 for the diesel model, the 35t starting at just $43,385 and the S starting a bit higher at $57,685, the F-Pace is a screaming bargain, especially when compared to the only crossover that can outperform it: the pricey Porsche Macan. As with the XF, the F-Pace is priced to get noticed, only this one is styled to get noticed, too.