SVETI STEFAN, Montenegro – Jaguar is at a crossroads and its all-new F-Pace is in the crosshairs, but if our recent test drive is any indication, the British luxury brand’s first-ever CUV is right on target.

The ’17 F-Pace breaks with Jaguar’s long tradition of selling sports cars, coupes and sedans, many of which hold iconic status in the automotive pantheon for their styling if not their mechanical stoutness.

With the F-Pace, Jaguar seeks to rewrite that legacy by producing a sporty and utilitarian vehicle that, like the Porsche-saving Cayenne SUV that preceded it, can substantially grow the company’s portfolio and its revenue.

Joe Eberhardt, president and CEO-Jaguar Land Rover North America, says even with a $5 billion annual infusion of development funding since 2008 when Indian parent company Tata bought the brands from Ford, the automaker needs sales growth to be viable.

Jaguar hopes to double its full-year volume in the U.S. to about 30,000 units with the addition of the F-Pace and the XE entry-luxury sports sedan. Eberhardt says that number, combined with growth on the Land Rover side to 100,000 units annually (from 75,000), makes a strong business case for dealers.

“This is an incredibly important moment for Jaguar,” Eberhardt says during an interview with WardsAuto. “I don’t want to sound dramatic, but if we don’t turn this corner now, I don’t know what will happen.”

Thankfully for Eberhardt and Jaguar, the F-Pace is a strong entry in a market segment slated for substantial growth this year. Jaguar estimates the premium-medium SUV segment in which the F-Pace will sell will grow 50% in the next five years to about 1 million units annually.

WardsAuto data shows the middle-luxury CUV segment has been running at a 12% annual growth clip at least since 2006 and is on track for the same performance this year based on first-quarter results. While sales might soften with the overall automotive market, WardsAuto projects the segment will maintain a steady share of light-vehicle sales at least through 2020.

Joining a hot segment is nothing without a product that represents a good value, something Eberhardt has been working on for the past year in preparation for the F-Pace and XE launches. The F-Pace starts at $40,990, bumps to $43,390 for a midlevel version and tops out at $56,700, not including $995 destination and handling.

By lowering prices, adding standard equipment and providing a Jaguar Elite Care 5-year/60,000-mile (96,561-km) warranty and complimentary service/roadside assistance plan aimed at quelling negative perceptions about quality, the entire Jaguar lineup is more competitive than ever, he says.

“We have done the investment on the product side, so now we need to do everything we can to implement on the marketing side,” Eberhardt says.