Jaguar adds ‘the Jaguar’ of SUVs

June 20, 2017 by
Filed under: Weekly test drives, Autos 

One of the most storied names in sports cars and sedans, Jaguar has jumped into the SUV segment with the F-Pace that gives up nothing in the classy luxury area.

Duluth, MN.

Jaguar. The very name connotes slinky handling and exotic and classy styling. The name does NOT conjure up the image of an off-road truck.

The word “Jaguar” and the term “SUV” do not, on the surface, seem compatible. But only if you have not seen the new Jaguar F-Pace. I got to spend a week test-driving the F-Pace in Northern Minnesota, along with a couple other Jaguar more traditional Jag staples — the XF coupe and the XE sedan

You may have heard that every auto company in the world either has made an SUV or is in the process of making one. This includes the usual suspects of manufacturers that are accustomed to making rugged vehicles. But it also includes some companies that challenge you to believe it now has a legitimate sports-utility vehicle.

The F-Pace is Jaguar’s first attempt at building a world-class SUV, and it is a keeper. It gets a 2.0 turbo-diesel or 3.0 supercharged V6, which can be selected as 380-horse missile. It is fast in a straight line, and it handles…well, like a Jaguar. There’s never been a Jag that didn’t handle well. This just happens to be an SUV.

At about $70,000, the Jaguar F-Pace has a clean and classy silhouette, unencumbered with too many grooves and swoosh styling touches. It won a recent winter-drive competition by Motor Trend, beating the AMG-trim Mercedes GLC and a Porsche Macan GTS in performance — and also, the magazine says, with the most comfortable seats.

Other F-Pace models range from $42,000 to $57,000 for base price, but if you want to hold the price down, stay away from the delectable option bin.

Jaguar is owned, these days, by Tata Motors of India, a big-time auto manufacturer in a country that is rushing to the top of auto-selling, as if pursuing China to become the largest. Within a year or two, those two will be among the top three car-selling nations on the planet.

Maybe we shouldn’t be that surprised; Tata also bought Jag’s British cousin, Land Rover, which makes some of the best-engineered off-road vehicles anywhere. The plan works well, with Range Rovers now boasting Jaguar power and Jaguar undoubtedly benefitting from Land Rover’s off-road expertise.

Duluth, Minnesota, is a city with 90,000 on the Western tip of Lake Superior. Built on the side of a cliff means it has fantastic vistas of every sunrise. Its size also means Duluth doesn’t have the full spectrum of auto dealerships, although the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul are only 2 hours away. From my experiences there might be more car-fanciers per capita in Duluth than anywhere else I’ve been.

Every summer, some sort of vintage car show is held somewhere in the Duluth area virtually every weekend. The biggest is the annual Sidewalk Days downtown, when they close off Superior Street to traffic and have all the shops and restaurants take it over. For the first weekend, there is a huge hot rod and vintage car show, with at least a hundred beautifully restored cars lined up on both sides of the street for about six blocks.

As the area’s new car test-driver in residence, I knew I’d have a new car that week last summer, and I was able to park on the street, amid the show cars.

That week I had at my disposal a new Jaguar F-Type coupe. Now, as exotic cars go, we have Ferraris, Lamborghinis, Porsches, Aston Martins, Maseratis, a Lotus or two, and a Mercedes or four. But jolly old England, with its Jaguars, takes a back seat to nobody. To coin a phrase.

Sleek from any angle, the rear corner view captures the F Coupe R best.

The latest edition of the F-Type is a dramatic example of how well a storied old company in Coventry, England, with the right infusion of financial backing, can create a spectacular array of progressive and contemporary exotic cars. Under the ownership of Tata Motors, Jaguar is at the top of its game.view

F-Coupe R Jag stopped classic car viewers in their tracks at Duluth Sidewalk Days..

So there I was, with “my” Jag on Superior Street, right out front of a music and specialty shop where I could watch interested car folks meander by, stopping now and then to look at a 1957 Chevy, or some similar ancient car. But all of them, every single one, stopped in their tracks to gaze at the Jaguar F-Type.

That’s when I felt a little guilty. Those custom and restored cars consumed hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars, and many were prize-winners. But none of them could divert passers-by from stopping to appreciate the Jag.

You can buy the F-Type R-Sport with its optional 5.0-liter V8, supercharged up to 575 horsepower and 516 foot-pounds of torque for just under $130,000. You also can buy it for $62,000, which represents a tremendous bargain with its 3.0-liter supercharged V6 with 340 horsepower and 332 foot-pounds of torque, or tweaked from the factory to 380 horses and 389 foot-pound.

In any form you get fantastic performance, and either a 6-speed manual, or a 6-speed automatic that is operated by a neat little puck-shaped gadget that rises out of the console when you start the car. You also can get it in a convertible.

Classic and clean, midsize Jag sedan is striking.

Stunning as the F-Type is, particularly from the rear corner, where the spectacular tapering roofline is more than just exotic, it is just the hot model of Jaguar’s livery.

Within a few weeks, I got the Jaguar XE sedan. The F-Type is drop-dead gorgeous. The XE sedan came in two forms, the XE 35t Prestige, with the same 340-horse 3.0 supercharged V6, at $46,595, or the XE 20d, with a 2.0-liter turbocharged diesel engine, with 180 horsepower and 318 foot-pounds of torque and all-wheel drive.

The XE sedan came with a powerful, smooth and economical 2.0-liter turbo-diesel and all-wheel drive.

Yes, an AWD turbo-diesel sedan, with Jaguar flair, at just under $50,000. Diesels have been getting a bad rap lately, but they still perform with great power and can roll up impressive fuel economy figures.

By interesting coincidence, after thoroughly enjoying the drives in all these Jaguars, the timing continued to be fortunate. Another vintage, classic and hot rod car show was being conducted a few weeks after Sidewalk Days, out in West Duluth. By chance, that was when I had the XE 20d. I decided to be more subtle, and I parked at the far end of the gathered shopping-center parkers.

Sharing powertrains with other models, the F-Pace provides Jaguar owners with usable storage space.

As my wife, Joan, and I were about to leave, we walked up to the car from behind, and a couple of arriving car fanatics stopped. “Wow,” one of them said, reading the small plaque on the car, “an all-wheel-drive Jag sedan?”

Yeah, I told him, and the amazing thing is it’s a 2.0-liter turbo-diesel. “You’re kidding!” he said. “A diesel?”

Maybe I should try to get another test in the full rotation of Jaguars this summer, so I could try my luck with the F-Pace one more time. Jaguar keeps building better and more useful vehicles every year, but with all the eager car-nuts in the North Shore region of Minnesota, I’m sure Jaguar will run out of models before Duluth runs out of car shows.

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