We’re not in Great Britain anymore, Dorothy. The good lads at Jaguar have planned a formidable entry into the most popular, largest growing automotive segment in United States in a big way: meet the F-Pace, Jaguar’s first medium luxury crossover SUV.
Critics will say the segment is already too crowded. But as I descend Montenegro’s Kotor-Njeguši road, which boasts 25 cliffside hairpin turns in succession — often squeezed into a single lane — I can’t help but think there may just be room for one more.
The F-Pace is, at its core, an SUV with the soul of a sports car, Ian Callum, Jaguar’s Design Director, tells me. We’re sitting on the roof Aman Sveti Stefan resort sipping Montenegrin white wine. As twilight falls into dusk, a greenish-pink splash of color lights up the sky. Callum ponders aloud the impact the F-Pace will have on the American marketplace.
The primary design mandate for the Jaguar team was to make this SUV look like, well, a Jaguar. The front-end bulge calls to mind the 1968 Jaguar XJ; the taillights are softly reinterpreted versions of those on the E-Type and F-Type. The horizontal line around the “S” on the F-Pace S is inspired by a similar graphic from the 1951 E-Type, Callum’s quite proud to note. There is a sense of muscular tension that runs the length of the car, accomplished by keeping the overhangs as short as possible, forcing the wheels to the corners.
As the third vehicle built on Jaguar’s new lightweight aluminum-intensive architecture, instead of steel, the F-Pace features a slimmed-down body structure, weighing in at less than 300 kilograms, roughly the same as a Fiat 500L. Remarkable, no?
This Jag moves with less of a hearty, bellowing laugh and more of a soft, obligatory titter. The 380 horsepower 3.0-liter supercharged V6 is nearly silent at idle, and there’s little body roll. And then I select “sport” mode, whereupon the car drops a touch and increases speed at a rate that makes me believe Callum’s “SUV with a sports-car soul” axiom. Down the yellow brick road we go.
Second-row occupants sit a touch higher than its front-row seats, which transforms cabin dynamics wonderfully. The F-Pace also boasts best-in-class rear legroom and trunk space — something Jaguar loyalists will most certainly praise.
Engine: turbocharged 2.0-liter diesel inline-four, supercharged 3.0-liter V6
Horsepower: 180, 340 or 380
Torque: 318 lb-ft, 332 lb-ft
0-60: 5-8 seconds (est.)
MPG City/Highway: 18-23/26-30
Base Price: $41,985-$70,695
Out in the Montenegrin backcountry, with its fetching views of the sparkling, cerulean Adriatic Sea, I shift into Winter mode. A bit counterintuitive, considering the balmy 75-degree weather, but roll with me. Officially termed Jaguar Adaptive Surface Response technology, it’s one of three modes, and the one that allows me to easily climb the rocky road, both at speed and at a slower pace. The transition is seamless. A ground clearance of 8.4 inches ensures that I’m not worried about any rocks that come my way.
The Lovcen National Park houses Lovcen Mountain, also known as Black Mountain, from which Montenegro takes its name. After a lunch of priganice — warm dough balls served with local honey and Kymak — as well as homemade veal soup and a dessert of traditional cherry pie, I hop into the F-Pace 2.0 D AWD R-Sport, the more economically priced diesel-fueled sister SUV.
Unlike the 3.0 SC V6 S, which starts at $56,700, the 20d AWD R-Sport begins at $40,990. That roughly $16,000 difference was enough to make my jaw drop, and will certainly appeal to those elusive millennial customers (I’m a card-carrying member).
Drivers of the 20D will lose a couple of seconds on their 0-60, but will still outgun any hybrid off the line. The drive is a little tighter, but that’s to be expected of the smaller engine. So, too, is the noise is a little greater.
After a quaint kayak around Perast on the Bay of Kotor, a UNESCO World Heritage site resplendent with over-water cafés and the Isola della Madonna dello Scalpello church, I’m back in the diesel. Jaguar launched a wearable key with the F-Pace — an activity-ready band (waterproof to a depth of 65 feet) that allows you to lock your traditional key in the car and swim/surf/boat to your heart’s content. “Think James Bond going millennial,” says Stuart Schorr, Jaguar Land Rover’s North American Vice President, Communications & Public Affairs.
The car increases speed at a rate that makes me believe Callum’s “SUV with a sports-car soul” axiom. Down the yellow brick road we go.
Don’t mind if I do. Technologically speaking, the F-Pace’s instrument cluster is a handsome 12.3-inch full color TFT screen that’s fully customizable, displaying the exact information I’d like in up to four different themes. The center console, called the “In Control Touch Pro” infotainment system, features a 10.2-inch touchscreen and is modeled after a tablet, according to Jessica Mattler, Jaguar’s Product Marketing Manager. She claims it’s the most technologically advanced system Jaguar’s ever conceived, what with its eight-device wi-fi-hotspot connectivity and 17-speaker Meridian sound system (not the finest in the land, but enough to knock Dorothy’s socks and sparkly red shoes off.)
What’s more, drivers can start the engine, lock the car and access the climate control all from a smartphone app or smart watch. There’s social media integration as well; it’s possible to tweet while driving, but please don’t.
The navigation is also extremely intuitive; I nicknamed her Milena after a former Montenegrin queen. Not only does she have a street-view feature, but she can easily send someone your ETA once you feed in the location.
Perhaps we can rendezvous for a pint in Oz?