If this award was for the best-driving premium crossover of the year, then the BMW X4 M40i would have won this category emphatically. Although not a full-blown M car, the X4 M40i is a cracker of a crossover thanks to the chassis that it shares with the splendid 3 Series, and the same 3.0-litre turbocharged straight-six that powers our Coupé of the Year, the M2.
At 360bhp and 465Nm of torque, it has plenty of oomph on tap, and does the benchmark sprint in less than 5.0 seconds. In Sport and Sport+ it sounds like a sportscar with loud crackles and pops on the overrun, and thanks to the M Performance suspension with its stiffer springs and electronically controlled shocks, it handles like one too.
But as we’ve explained earlier, we take into consideration a whole bunch of factors that are relevant to the respective segments before we come to a verdict. Buyers generally choose a crossover for the added practicality it offers over saloons or hatchbacks. The X4 M40i disappoints here, as the rear compartment is crammed for adult passengers of above-average height. The lowered ride height, meanwhile, diminishes the regular X4’s modicum of off-road ability even further. It’s a compromised car and that’s never a good thing.
The other contender, Cadillac’s all-new XT-5, scores much better on this count, but it’s let down on the performance front. A worthy successor to the popular SRX, the XT-5 benefits from a new chassis and is lighter than its predecessor as well as rivals like the Audi Q5. It also offers plenty of room, and a comfortable ride, but refinement levels aren’t what you expect in a luxury CUV. However, the biggest disappointment is the 3.6-litre V6, which makes 310bhp and 366Nm, but does not feel as powerful as those figures suggest. Although it’s just fine at cruising speeds, the eight-speed gearbox struggles when you call for sudden acceleration, which takes some sheen away from the overall experience.
That leaves us with the winner, the Jaguar F-Pace. With its rising beltline, sloping roofline, short front and long rear overhangs, it’s arguably the best-proportioned and most elegant looking utility vehicle on sale today. Inside, it feels exceptionally roomy for its outward size, and unlike many of its rivals, the rear affords class-leading leg-, head- and shoulder room. And it’s not just in looks and practicality that the Jag scores big.
With a lightweight chassis and entire front sub-frame and suspension specifically designed for it, the F-Pace is immediate in its responses, and is planted and confident when driven enthusiastically. The steering is direct, and the 380bhp, 460Nm V6 sounds and performs like you’d expect a Jaguar engine to. It strikes a fine balance between looks, performance, and practicality, and that makes it our Luxury Crossover of the year.