Jaguar Looks for a Brand Leader with new F-Pace

It’s risky to make predictions on how a new vehicle will do in the marketplace. Critics can always circle back on such fortune telling if it’s dead on arrival at the bottom line. Still, this reporter will dance out on what looks like a pretty thick limb and predict the brand new Jaguar F-Pace crossover SUV will be the British automaker’s top seller a year from now.

The F-Pace is just hitting the market as Jaguar’s first genuine crossover. It enters the fastest growing and most competitive automotive sector as crossovers are muscling out sedans and big SUVs as some of the most popular vehicles on sale today. It’s an important machine for Jaguar’s future plans, and the company’s designers and engineers absolutely met that challenge.

The F-Pace is essentially designed to max out luxury and performance in a crossover, while maintaining a competitive MSRP. The vehicle is not priced as an entry level option in its class, but with a starting mark around $42,000, it’s affordable compared to most other Jaguar options.

The basic F-Pace will come with three engine options. A 380 horsepower V6 engine will power a special limited run of First Edition F-Pace before settling into the higher end S trim level. A 340 horsepower V6 is also available for those looking for a little less oomph. Time will tell if the horsepower proximity of those two engines makes coexistence untenable — sending one or the other away. A 2.0 liter, turbocharged four-cylinder diesel engine will join the two V6 gas models in the family.

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The most entertaining trim can only be the F-Pace R-Sport. All luxury makers have their special, performance-tuned editions. BMW offers the M badge. Lexus opts for F-Sport. Jaguar packs the most power and handling options into the R-Sport versions.

As for the F-Pace R Sport, buyers get the 380 horsepower engine sport tuned. Add on 20-inch alloy wheels, R-Sport body kit, LED headlamps (adaptive with intelligent high beams), Autonomous Emergency Braking and front fog lamps.

It’s the driving experience that will put F-Pace over as a Jaguar brand leader. During a recent preview event in Aspen, Colo., there was ample wheel time in different conditions to gauge the crossover’s capability. It packs all of the comfort and luxury of any Jaguar into its more spacious environs with enough power and refined precision to make any drive a pleasure. The suspension and handling are especially good.

The F-Pace is also off-road capable within reason. It can chew up a dirt road or glide you into some grassy, lakeside scene without working hard. But, it’s not intended for fording rapids or tap dancing over rocks. They make Land Rovers for that.

There’s only one tricky bit to the seemingly certain success of the F-Pace. Jaguar’s sister company is Land Rover. Together they make up the happy JLR family. Time will tell if the F-Pace might bite into the market for the 2016 Range Rover Sport SVR: Vehicle Fit for a (sort of) Queen of Range Rover Evoque.

Since the F-Pace is priced similarly to the Evoque and significantly lower than the Range Rover Sport, the Jaguar entry could draw away some would-be Land Rover buyers — especially since the F-Pace will be a new option with a fresh badge. Of course, in the end, the money all ends up under the same umbrella — but it’ll be interesting to see how well the F-Pace sells in its first year. It seems set up to be a major success.