In an industry that lives and dies by the sales of Camrys and pickup trucks, advocating for enthusiasts sometimes feels like standing in a raging river and shouting at it to reverse course. Manu*al transmissions are slipping toward oblivion. Fuel-economy regulations are driving diversity from manufacturers' engine port*folios, replacing it with efficient homogeneity. And perhaps most worrying is the proliferation of crossovers. They're like an algal bloom threatening to choke out all other life-forms in the interest of easy ingress and a commanding driver's position.

But a few shafts of light have started to pierce the heavy blanket of crossover conformity. Porsche's first glimmer of hope, the Cayenne, dates to before most people realized the market potential of a high-performance crossover. In its first year on the market, the Cayenne became Porsche's best-selling model. The creators of the Pink Pig learned lessons from their new 5000-pound supersow, and the smaller, Audi Q5-based Macan has already dethroned the Cayenne as the brand's sales leader. The example tested here is the new-for-2017 GTS, which splits the difference between the $55,450, 340-hp S model and the $77,050, 400-horse Turbo.

Revised ECU tuning boosts the Macan GTS's output over the S's to 360 horsepower and 369 pound-feet, while standard adjustable air springs lower ride height by 0.4 inch. Like other Macans, the GTS is only available as an all-wheel-driver with a seven-speed PDK dual-clutch transmission. This example's $68,250 base price swelled to an as-tested sticker of $77,255. Notable extras include the Premium *Package Plus ($3390; panoramic sunroof, heated seats front and rear, keyless entry and starting, and auto-dimming mirrors), brake-based torque vectoring ($1490), the Sport Chrono package ($1290; dash-mounted stopwatch, launch control, and sport-plus mode for harder-edged suspension and drivetrain responses), and a key painted to match the car (cost to you: $525; cost to Porsche: maybe a buck). Any color other than simple black or white also costs extra, and our Volcano Grey Metallic lists for $690. The Carmine Red on our cover Macan? $3120.

Jaguar's beacon of hope is new for 2017. Never mind that Land Rover functions as the SUV arm of jointly owned Jaguar Land Rover; to get Americans to pay attention, every brand needs its own crossover. Jaguar plows a lot of aluminum into the F-Pace, using the lightweight stuff for most of the body structure and suspension components. A diesel four-cylinder is the base engine, but the likely volume engines are a pair of aluminum V-6s shared with the F-type.

Displacing 3.0 liters and pumped full of 13.8 pounds of boost by an honest-to-John-Force Roots-type supercharger, Jag's V-6 posts a 20-hp advantage over the Porsche's, peaking at 380 in the S trim tested here. ZF's ubiquitous eight-speed automatic sends torque to all four wheels, as it does in every F-Pace that Jaguar plans to bring to the U.S. Our example is one of 275 First Edition F-Paces, loaded up with 22-inch Pirelli P Zeros, an 825-watt Meridian stereo pounding through 17 speakers, Jaguar's new In*Control Touch Pro 10.2-inch infotainment interface, and more. Total retail price: $71,095.

Aired up and topped off, we charted a course for Caldwell, Ohio, tucked into the state's southeast corner near the Ohio River and the West Virginia state line. Here, where the roads swell and pitch across the Allegheny Plateau, we began to see the F-Pace and Macan as more than just a pair of new vehicles. Maybe crossovers like these, squatting lower, with roof- and beltlines creeping back toward the ground, portend a gradual shift away from wannabe off-roaders and back toward the lower-center-of-gravity car architectures on which the crossover boom was born. Or maybe they're just flukes. Even if that is the case, they're delightful flukes.

A little larger than the Macan and a lot *sexi*er, the F-Pace blends the requisite crossover stance and Jaguar's corporate face with rear haunches and taillights reminiscent of the company's F-type *roadster. It's a modern and more artful interpretation of the backwoods Corvette-on-a-Blazer-frame mash-ups that you see on YouTube, and it's a stunner, particularly in profile and from the rear.

The F-Pace also stuns from behind the wheel, a congruent follow-up to the excellent F-type and XE. Its variable-ratio steering rack is hypersensitive, snapping to attention immediately off-center and piping feedback up to the driver's palms. And the chassis commanded by that steering boasts a neutrality rare in the crossover realm, rotating off throttle before a poke of the accelerator tucks everything back in line. The all-wheel-drive system sends torque exclusively rearward until it senses a need for it at the front end. In extreme conditions, it can divert up to half the engine's output forward.

But those 22-inch wheels that look so good, and the Pirellis that grip so well, can often overpower the dampers, transmitting impacts into the cabin that the Macan is able to filter out. The tires also tram-line on uneven freeway surfaces while the Porsche tracks true. And even in dynamic mode, which firms up the adaptive dampers, the F-Pace moves around more on its springs. While both stick to the skidpad at 0.88 g, the Porsche pulls through the slalom a skosh faster on account of its *superior body control. And while their 70-to-0-mph braking perform*ances are nearly identical—160 feet for the Jaguar and 157 for the Porsche—the F-Pace's pedal travel starts with a moment of worrisome squish. It's progressive once the driver pushes through, but the imprecise initial reaction saps confidence.

Jaguar did, however, nail the packaging basics on its first crossover. It seems likely that notes were passed between the Jaguar and Land Rover R&D teams. Occupants sit upright, with excellent lines of sight and plenty of room front and rear. It might look as if it belongs in a different size class, but the F-Pace isn't actually much larger than the Macan at all, measuring just 1.6 inches longer and 1.4 taller, with 2.6 inches more wheelbase. But as soon as anyone needs to climb into the back seat, the F-Pace again seems one size up, with real space in back for adults—even three of them, in a pinch—while time in the back of the Macan rates as punishment for everybody. And no mere pretty face, the F-Pace is rated to tow 5290 pounds while the Macan is cleared to tug 4409.

It's spacious, but the Jag's interior lacks the fastidious detailing and cohesive sense of quality that the Porsche's exhibits. The latter's materials feel richer and the design better realized. Jaguar's InControl Touch Pro touchscreen infotainment system organizes vehicle functions in a far neater manner than Porsche's button explosion, but while it is quicker than the brand's last-generation system, there's still a fair bit of lag between screen poke and response. And a back button that sometimes takes you back one menu and sometimes pitches you all the way to the home screen is one sure way to raise the driver's pulse.

Those drivers who do probe its limits will find the F-Pace an appealing blend of engagement and practicality. And those who need to regularly transport more than two adults will appreciate its more spacious second row. But for drivers seeking enlightenment in a crossover, Porsche's light burns just a little bit brighter.

Initially, this felt a little bit like throwing the Jaguar to the wolves—or, given the English translation of the Indonesian word macan, to the tigers. Catfight, indeed. Is the regular F-Pace, even a fully trimmed one, a fair match for the tightly focused Macan GTS? Well, they line up on price, and most of the stuff that makes a Macan a GTS is available on other Macans as well. A lightly spec'd Turbo or a loaded S would keep the prices close but even *further tilt the scales in performance and features. If you're looking for a crossover that doesn't act like one, Porsche can provide it in a variety of flavors.

All share an inherent greatness. The Macan was our unequivocal comfort champ, even with sport seats so extreme that one must climb up over the thigh *bolster to get out. From outside, both the Macan and the F-Pace sound spectacular. Associate online editor Joseph Capparella noted that if you heard them coming through the woods, you'd never expect these two little school buses to pop out. But climb aboard and fire them up, and the Jaguar, from the inside, just moans into consciousness, while the Macan starts with an authori*ta*tive snarl and settles into the bassy burble that identifies serious sporting machines.

Engage the launch control that comes with the Sport Chrono package, wind up the 3.0-liter twin-turbo six before releasing the brakes, and the Macan hits 60 mph in just 4.4 seconds, almost a full second ahead of the Jag. It maintains that lead through the quarter-mile, posting 13 seconds flat to the Jag's 13.9 and 105 mph to the leaper's 102. The PDK gearbox snaps off shifts so quickly that it sounds like a record skipping, but it's remarkably civilized under lighter loads as well. Originally a performance-*enhancing development, this dual-clutch is now a model of smoothness for automatic transmissions of all types. And few vehicles on the market have better brakes than the Macan's firm and progressive pedal.

While the steering is nice and heavy, that's about the only thing it has going for it—except that it commands a more buttoned-down chassis. Even trying to upset the Macan by sawing at the wheel *mid-turn doesn't do much. It simply follows its front axle around. Both our drivers had exciting moments in the Jaguar over a lumpy chicane-like turn on our drive route, while the Porsche plowed over the crest unfazed.

Stuttgart's stylists withheld few flourishes on the Macan, from the recessed taillights with their protruding central rib to the shifter that looks like the metal bones of the Terminator's robotic forearm. The rest of the interior is a rich blend of soft black leather, Alcantara, brushed-aluminum trim, and contrasting stitching. It is, however, so overloaded with buttons that Porsche had to hide a few. The one to activate the heated steering wheel is tucked into the split bottom spoke. We discovered it by accident when lazily hooking a finger through the wheel on the highway. And the external release for the rear hatch is on the bottom of the rear-wiper mount. Owners, read your manuals. Button overload is a fact of life with modern Porsches.

That the brand's DNA can be translated so purely into a crossover is heartening. And that it's not the only brand doing such a good job is exponentially so. Maybe these two foretell a future strain of the crossover boom that morphs back into five-door cars and sports wagons. But even if that's not where the trend is leading, we like where it's already led.

Text Source: Car and Driver