Mountain Wheels: Affordable Jaguars – including a new SUV – seek to broaden appeal
While they’ve long been admired for their design, their mix of old-world class and up-to-the-minute style and sportiness, Jaguar’s automobiles have always been just a little out of reach for most folks — save for the aspirational types who bought the very Fordy X-Type a decade ago, and maybe regretted that later.
All new this year are a pair of quite revolutionary new Jaguar entries which will certainly change the face of the British brand in America and across the world. The XE, a smaller but still very sculpted sedan that draws inspiration from the larger XF, starts at just $34,900 and offers the looks, feel and sporty driving experience of its more expensive brothers and sisters.
More interestingly, especially to High Country residents, the all-new F-Pace offers an SUV experience done Jaguar style — beautiful, athletic, fun to drive and fully snow-equipped — also debuting for as little as $40,990.
True to all luxury vehicles, if you want all of the very many bells and whistles that are typical to a brand like Jaguar, you’re going to pay significantly more, especially when you factor in the higher-output engine choices.
But for the same starting price as some very ordinary domestic automobiles, you can at long last sample the beautiful interiors, sporty seating and legendary driving experience that’s always been a part of the Jaguar brand.
F-Pace is the shining star here, a sleek and spry machine that will probably do for Jaguar what the Cayenne SUV did for Porsche. That is, make up the biggest portion of its U.S. sales, and serve to shock some old-school die-hards.
The good news is that the vehicle retains nearly all of the standard Jaguar character and driving qualities, with 8.4 inches of ground clearance and a sophisticated AWD system that pushes most of the power to the rear wheels when you’re not dealing with slippery conditions.
There’s also 33.5 cubic feet of interior storage and a 40/20/40-split rear seat, making it the first Jaguar that’s really suited for both ski trips and excursions to big-box stores; a 113-inch-long wheelbase means rear passengers also get decent room and easy access, unlike some small SUVs.
F-Pace takes a number of direct design cues from the very accomplished F-Type two-door sports car, notably the cat-eye tail lamps and the rounded feel of the cabin; the brand-specific rounded grille and optional LED headlamps also stamp the car with that Jaguar feel.
Inside, it’s futuristic, loaded with smart equipment and can be infinitely customized with different wood and leather combinations (the bright red package is quite amazing); the seating is in a sporty but upright position that’s half Jaguar, half Land Rover — which is sort of the ultimate effect of the vehicle.
You can indeed carve corners in a speedy but composed fashion, with barely any body movement at all, and when you opt to head into deep snow or even venture onto a gravel trail to a camping spot, the F-Pace’s confident stance and new-found clearance make it as versatile as any small SUV out there.
Available now at dealers, the F-Pace debuts with a pair of supercharged V6 engines putting out 340 or 380 horsepower (and also raising the starting price to $42,390 or $56,700); later this year, the less expensive and more fuel efficient option is a 2.0-liter inline-four diesel version, with 180 horsepower and 318 lb.-ft. of hill-climbing torque.
The new XE is no slouch, though, offering much of the F-Pace’s style and flash with a more traditional automobile flavor. It’s not quite as chiseled as the larger XF, but the looks are still striking and the cabin and layout offers all of the same flavor and style as bigger Jaguars, just at a more budget-minded entry point.
You also get a wide range of engine choices in the XE, including the F-Pace’s diesel and 340-HP V6, as well as a 240-HP 2.0-liter turbo four-cylinder that is the car’s standard offering. We got to roll around on Aspen’s Independence Pass in the diesel and were impressed by the overall ease and smoothness of the experience, though you’ll have to carefully plan out any passing as the pull can be a bit limited at high altitude.
Optional AWD also promises to make the XE a good performer in the winter, with the same system making it a mostly RWD-biased vehicle on dry roads, which helps keep that sporty Jaguar feel year-round.
As one of those fancy options for both vehicles, the new InControl Touch Pro navigation and entertainment option entirely replaces the older and slow-to-react systems with a broad, infinitely adjustable screen offering WiFi-based live maps, weather information or even news headlines; a widescreen map display can also be shifted to the cars’ instrument cluster, helping you to keep your eyes (sort of) on the road.
You can also totally geek out on the F-Pace and get the Activity Key, a waterproof FitBit-styled bracelet that acts as a wireless key for the vehicle, allowing you to abandon those pocket-filling key fobs forever.
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