On Autos: Jaguar’s sporty crossover doesn’t forget to be useful

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The 2017 Jaguar F-Pace is the brand's first crossover or SUV. (Brady Holt/The Current)

High seating positions and spacious interiors have made crossovers endearing alternatives to sedans in pretty much every market segment. Buyers who are looking for a fun premium vehicle now have yet another crossover option: the all-new Jaguar F-Pace.

The F-Pace is the British brand’s first SUV or crossover, but Jaguar drew on the experiences of its sister marque, Land Rover. While many of today’s premium crossovers are little more than all-wheel-drive hatchbacks or station wagons with an extra couple of inches of ground clearance, the F-Pace delivers a commanding seating position and respectable off-road capability. There’s also ample cargo space and comfortable seating for five adults, unlike many sport-oriented models that ignore practicality altogether — such as the BMW X6 and Porsche Macan.

From the rear end in particular, the 2017 Jaguar F-Pace looks the part of sporty crossover. (Brady Holt/The Current)

But Jaguar didn’t stop there. The brand is known for performance and style, and the F-Pace delivers on those fronts as well. Available V6 engines offer ferocious acceleration, and Jaguar didn’t abandon the handling poise found in its sports sedans. And although the F-Pace’s exterior isn’t dressed up with flashy styling details, the overall shape — especially from the rear — makes its focus on performance evident.

Somewhat surprisingly, the F-Pace starts at a relatively affordable $43,060. The base model comes with a four-cylinder engine and is missing some desirable luxury features, but it’s still in line with an Audi Q5, BMW X3 or Lexus RX. Prices can rise quickly — the tested well-optioned V6 model costs about $67,000 — but it’s still not a bad deal given the Jaguar’s roomy interior and 340-horsepower V6. There’s also a rare option for a fuel-efficient four-cylinder diesel engine; it’s not quick, but it’s rated for an outstanding 29 mpg in mixed driving compared to 20 mpg with the tested V6.

The 2017 Jaguar F-Pace interior is more austere than some might expect from the British carmaker. (Brady Holt/The Current)

The F-Pace isn’t ideal for everyone, though. If the Jaguar name conjures the idea of a coddling experience — an ultra-cushy ride and acres of burled-wood trim — this crossover won’t impress. The focus on handling agility results in a ride that’s on the stiff side, and the interior aesthetic is somewhat plain. For supreme comfort and opulence, the Mercedes-Benz GLC or the roomier GLE is probably a better choice.

But for a combination of performance and utility, the new F-Pace is an impressive new entry in its class.