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The Jaguar F-PACE Is the Average of Every Other Luxury SUV

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author photo by Doug DeMuro October 2017

I don't love the Jaguar F-PACE. I also don't hate it. I recently spent a week driving one around, and the conclusion I came to is that it's perfectly fine. Not amazing, not class-leading, not ultra-desirable, not the kind of thing you waste your time at work building on the online configurator. But also not offensive, not unattractive, not too big, or too expensive, or too uncomfortable, or too behind on technology, or too slow. Just right there in the middle. Just fine.

I'm going to tell you how I came to this conclusion in a minute, but first, let me tell you how I came to drive a Jaguar F-PACE for a week. I borrowed it through Turo, which is this service that lets you rent other peoples' interesting cars instead of normal, dull airport rental cars. I borrowed the F-PACE in Nashville, Tennessee, which is the home of country music and also Taylor Swift. I got an SUV in case I bumped into Taylor and she wanted to come hang out with me. Unfortunately, this did not happen.

But what did happen is I drove the F-PACE around Nashville for a week, or maybe 4 days, and I discovered I have no major complaints about it, but also no major accolades to give it. I first started to realize this when I discovered it's not the very best SUV in any single category. For instance, it's sportier than an Acura MDX, but not as sporty as a Porsche Cayenne. It has more off-road capabilities than a Lincoln MKX, but not as many as a Range Rover Sport. It's cheaper than a Mercedes GLE, but not as cheap as a Lexus RX. It's more technologically advanced than a Lexus GX, but not as high-tech as an Audi Q7. It has more room than a BMW X6, but not as much room as a Volvo XC90.

I could go on, but I think you get the point -- and the point is the F-PACE is decent but not exactly class-leading. This is carried over to its powertrain lineup: for 2018, the F-PACE offers a base-level 4-cylinder (247 horsepower), a fuel-efficient diesel (180 hp) and the one I drove, the "S" model, which has 380 hp. This ensures the F-PACE has more available power than the luxury SUVs that don't really go for the "performance" realm, like the Lexus RX and Cadillac XT5, but not as much as truly sporty SUVs like the Porsche Cayenne Turbo and Range Rover Sport Supercharged. It is, once again, right in the middle.

And this is also carried over to the F-PACE's pricing. The base-level F-PACE starts at $43,000 with shipping, which makes it far cheaper than a BMW X5 ($57,600) but more expensive than a BMW X3 ($41,000). The one I drove, the "S" model, was something like $65,000-$70,000, which still makes it cheaper than an X5 -- but by that point, it's far more expensive than the X3. It's right in the middle -- and it's right in the middle on sizing, too, with less interior space than most midsize luxury SUVs (like the Mercedes GLE and Acura MDX) but more interior space than most compacts (like the X3 and the Mercedes GLC).

In terms of driving experience, the F-PACE is something of a standout; it's relatively athletic around corners, and the steering is pretty direct. But once again, it's not the class leader. Drivers who want something truly sporty, once again, have better options -- like the upcoming Mercedes-AMG GLC 63, or the Cayenne, or one of the performance-oriented Range Rover Sport models. This is driven home by the fact that the F-PACE's top-level engine has just 380 horsepower, compared to 550 in the Cayenne, and 510 in the Range Rover Sport Supercharged, and 469 in the GLC 63. Still, the F-PACE is better in this regard than many of the bland, comfort-over-performance rivals.

It's also better than many rivals in terms of technology; the F-PACE boasts many excellent high-tech features, like forward-collision braking, and a quick-responding touchscreen, and various drive modes. But its touchscreen isn't as big -- or as responsive -- as the one in the Volvo XC90, and it doesn't even come close to the Audi Q7's amazing Virtual Cockpit gauge cluster or the Range Rover Velar's incredibly high-tech center-console screen.

You might think, after reading all this, that I'm calling the F-PACE "mediocre" -- but that's not the case at all. The current standard in the luxury SUV segment is so high that even an "average" vehicle is well above average when compared to other cars on the market -- and especially when compared to cars from just a few years ago. Instead, what I'm saying is this: If you have a major priority, like cargo space, or interior room, or technology, or performance, you'll want a different SUV that does one of those things better. If you just want an SUV that's good -- but not necessarily great -- at everything, the F-PACE is a good choice. It's the perfect compromise -- and the perfect average of every other midsize luxury SUV.

Doug DeMuro is an automotive journalist who has written for many online and magazine publications. He once owned a Nissan Cube and a Ferrari 360 Modena. At the same time.

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The Jaguar F-PACE Is the Average of Every Other Luxury SUV - Autotrader