What You Learn is a recurring look at the cars passing through R&T's test fleet. Sometimes you'll learn a lot about the car, other times, not so much. But it'll always be a succinct take on something we've driven recently. - Ed.
We, as car enthusiasts, are at the point where we should start accepting modern performance crossovers. Given their high-riding nature, they'll always be compromised compared to sports sedans and wagons, but buyers worldwide don't care, and automakers have to respond. Performance crossovers are here to stay, and really, they're not half-bad to drive.
Take the Jaguar F-Pace. This year alone, the F-Pace has accounted for nearly half of Jaguar's sales in the US, and the company is hard at work bringing more crossovers to the market. Clearly, this car is the future of Jaguar, and thankfully, it still drives pretty damn well.
We used an F-Pace S as a support vehicle during a recent photoshoot with a both Miata soft top and RF, the Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio, and amazingly, it held its own. The Miata and the Giulia Quadrifoglio are two of the most viscerally exciting cars on sale, so I expected to be let down getting into the F-Pace.
I wasn't. The F-Pace has decently sharp steering and a rear-biased four-wheel drive system that makes it a lot more engaging than a lot of other crossovers out there. Both the 380-hp supercharged V6 and eight-speed gearbox are lifted straight out of the F-Type S, and work brilliantly here. The V6 has a lovely old-school snarl from its exhaust, and the ZF-sourced gearbox seems to make no mistakes.
When you're behind the wheel, you're aware of the fact that it's a big, tall vehicle, but it's a lot more agile than you'd expect. The F-Pace is not a car that'd lead you to wake up early to go and tackle your favorite backroads, but, if you ended up on those roads, you'd still have fun.
That's not a bad trait for a car that can carry your whole family in comfort, and fit all their stuff in the huge trunk. The F-Pace is a relatively uncompromised, practical daily driver that doesn't make you feel like you've given up fun for being sensible.
Does the F-Pace S drive better than the equivalent XF sedan? Of course not. The XF uses the same basic ingredients as the F-Pace, but thanks to its lower center of gravity, offers sharper handling. The F-Pace is good, but it doesn't defy physics.
Our tester also had one big problem, its 22-inch wheels. Sure, they look cool, and they're wrapped in grippy Pirelli P-Zero summer tires, but man, they ruined this car's ride. Jaguar engineers are masters of achieving a good ride/handling balance, perfect for the UK's notoriously bumpy roads, but these giant wheels throw all of that out the window. If you're ordering an F-Pace, avoid these wheels, even if they look cool.
The F-Pace arguably faces an even bigger problem in the form of Jaguar's upcoming XF Sportbrake, which, astonishingly, is US-bound. While the XF wagon will undoubtedly be more expensive than the F-Pace, it'll offer the sedan's superior driving dynamics with the crossover's practicality. The ultimate have your cake and eat it too car.
Of course, the F-Pace will outsell the XF Sportbrake by a significant margin, since the American appetite for wagons is minimal and crossovers are everything. It's understandable to disagree with the F-Pace's raison d être, but strip away the philosophy and you're left, simply, with a nice driving, high riding, practical car.