“You’re born naked, and the rest is drag,” according to mega-diva RuPaul, whose timeless quote rings with absolute truth. It applies to this month’s two luxury vehicles, because fans of these brands wouldn’t necessarily associate the names with what they’re stuck to.
Mention Jaguar, and beautifully-styled sedans come to mind, while Volvo reminds one of safety-first wagons and crossovers. But their dresses have been swapped, and so the Jaguar F-Pace and Volvo S90 present their takes on roles that seem at first unfamiliar.
Both the Jaguar F-Pace and Volvo S90 start at just a bit less than $52,000, so they present two distinct ways to scratch your upscale itch. Do you want the roominess and ride height of the crossover Jaguar, or the sleek lines of the sedan Volvo?
Would you even want a Jaguar with a truck’s proportions? And would you bypass BMW, Audi, Mercedes-Benz, Lexus and Cadillac to buy an executive car with a Volvo logo on its snout? After spending a week with both, I can report that there are compelling reasons to give both of these contenders a good look.
The F-Pace is Jaguar’s first crossover. It’s based on a modular car platform, and the F-Pace is a far cry from the low-cut Jags of years past. Its wide open and finely-tined grille got an outsized amount of attention, and you could see the gears turning onlookers’ heads to reconcile this Jag’s unexpected shape. Be forewarned that the F-Pace also picked up focused gazes from within just about every SFPD and CHP cruiser it passed; the F-Pace’s styling is striking enough that you’d be advised to mind your Ps and Qs after you fire it up.
That’s not as easy as it sounds, as the F-Pace has plenty of that good ol’ Jaguar silkiness. The F-Pace’s 3.0-liter V6 ribbons out 340 supercharged horses through an eager automatic transmission with eight speeds and paddle shifters. Steering response is creamy yet direct, and the suspension admirably steadied the tested F-Pace as I threaded its two tons through traffic.
By comparison, the Volvo S90 has its own set of virtues, but first among them is not performance. Volvo made a bold move to equip its premium sedan with a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine instead of a torquey V6. The Volvo’s four is both supercharged and turbocharged, and its 316-horsepower rating isn’t far from the Jag’s, but it lends the S90 a small engine feel. That’s appropriate for a compact sedan, but it’s unwelcome in a luxury car.
If that doesn’t bother you, then the S90’s distinctly Scandinavian styling may captivate. Several passersby feasted their eyes on the exterior’s visual surface tension, and inside, the S90’s planks of wood and leather trim were broadly elegant. The infotainment interface clearly needs more than a week of use to feel less prickly, but the tablet-like screen got lots of oohs and aahs.
So with this Jaguar and Volvo, we find that RuPaul is right—swapping the usual drag can turn up some unexpectedly satisfying experiences.