Review: 2017 Jaguar F-Pace
A road trip to Ontario’s apple country
in the Jag we’ve yearned for
At the first hint of a red leaf in the trees each fall, I feel a magnetic pull from the north. In the sleepy Southwestern Ontario towns hemmed by Georgian Bay, cooler nights are setting in, apples are ripening across a broad swath of orchards and at roadside farm stands, the scent of pie practically clouds the highways, which have been branded locally as the “Apple Pie Trail.”
I set out gleefully for that trail in a Jaguar I’ve been waiting decades for (as has every other space-seeking fan of the storied British brand): the F-Pace, a five-seat luxury crossover SUV. Dreamed and whispered about for eons – yearned for, even, by Jag loyalists who found themselves squeezed out of the brand by its insistence on a car-only lineup – the F-Pace was unveiled last year to much fanfare; its creators called it “the most practical Jaguar sports car.” It made headlines – and a Guinness world record – by completing a gasp-worthy lap of a 62-foot, 360-degree loop at the Frankfurt Motor Show.
Now it is making itself known on Canadian roads. A sighting of an F-Pace is still rare enough that spotting one creates almost as much excitement as seeing Tesla’s Model X, with those “falcon wing” doors. As I took appraisal of my ebony black tester – an R-Sport model featuring a 3.0-litre, 340-horsepower supercharged V-6 – I couldn’t find one angle that looked out of sorts.
Brought to life by famed Jaguar design director Ian Callum, but still showing glimmers of its Land Rover relatives, the F-Pace is stunningly beautiful, managing to look low and sleek despite its verticality. Its allure is deepened by a press of the push-button start, which ignites the SUV’s moody growl. It’s sportier than I expected, and quick to respond to the lightest pressure on the gas pedal, a trait that is surprising at first, but served us well as we began the highway slalom northward out of Toronto.
The F-Pace has all the comfort, refinement and politeness I expected but it wasn’t shy about declaring its SUV status. Set on a stiff frame with high haunches, it was wobblier over the top of uneven pavement and potholes than full coffee cups could handle. I took to pre-empting spills by picking up the cup to buffer the vehicle’s jiggle every time we encountered a rough surface.
I’ll chalk some of that behaviour up to the larger tires on the R-Sport. It comes with 20-inch wheels; reams of reviews suggest that dropping an inch off the wheels and opting for a $1,000 upgrade to add an Adaptive Dynamics Package will help solve the problem. After a week with the F-Pace, I was convinced that $1,000 to address the jiggle would be money well spent.
Leaving behind four-lane roads for peaceful twists and arcs of County Road 9, our first stop was in Creemore, a quaint town that has become a darling among noted designers in recent years for its handful of precious main street shops. We parked in front of the Creemore Springs Brewery, forgetting our annoyance at the F-Pace’s temperamental navigation and infotainment system, to peer through the building’s red-brick facade to the gleaming copper tanks of suds.
Next, it’s on to the The Old Mill House Pub for lunch, where we eat homemade hamburgers and a mountain of french fries alongside construction workers, firefighters and tourists who had filled every table in the place.
And then we made for the hills. To test the F-Pace’s mettle, we ran up and down gravel farm roads and blew past a few tractors on paved roads. The miles of hilly, tree-lined roads that criss-cross the region reward drivers with a kaleidoscope of autumn leaves that give way to staggering views of the bay. For all of it, the F-Pace was equal parts beauty and beast. It takes a back seat to the Porsche Macan’s responsiveness when it comes to executing a quick highway pass. But the F-Pace allows a more ensconced but spacious feel, and the driver sits at a slightly higher elevation. The F-Pace never feels compressed despite its relatively small size.
Stopping for a sip of cider, the F-Pace was the picture of refinement despite a slight covering of dust. Rolling down the long gravel laneway that leads to Georgian Hills Vineyards, it was a sleek, muscular head-turner. One of the upstart wineries in the area, Georgian Hills grows 10 varietals and offers a tasting menu. After much sampling, we bought a few bottles, tucked them in the hatch (which has more space than BMW’s larger X5, by the way) and took the F-Pace for an off-road adventure.
Over the lumps and bumps of the vineyard and then across a ditch that led to a nearby apple orchard, the F-Pace was more than capable. It had no trouble on uneven terrain and no shortage of power when it came time to climbing out of a small ditch.
With its automatic lift, the F-Pace was more than ample for the apple-picking part of our program. There is no third row of seats, but the F-Pace has a surprising amount of trunk space. In an effort to fill it up, we fit three giant crates of apples before giving up. There was still room for another crate, a stash of wine, shopping bags and a couple of duffels.
In the utility department, the F-Pace gets a gold star. With its WiFi capability, it could even deliver some recipes to make use of our apples. If only it could also bake the pies.