The new Jaguar F-Pace SUV would have caused controversy a decade or so back. Not today. The question has long been when will Jaguar make its first SUV, rather than should it make one at all.
Engineers admit that, after being surprised by how impressive it was, they targeted benchmarking focus on it. They tried a BMW X4 too, but soon dismissed it; the Audi Q5 is another alternative, simply because it sells so well, rather than because the ageing five-seater is a particularly standout benchmark standard.
The F-Pace gives it a good go. This is an Ian Callum triumph, despite him never having done one before. “It’s a Jaguar that’s an SUV,” he says, “rather than an SUV that’s a Jaguar. It’s a subtle but important difference.”
So we have a well-proportioned, well-formed machine with a sleek roofline, elegantly formed body sides and beautifully sculpted rear haunches. It’s a tall SUV, but not a square and boxy one. The detailing is terrific, not least the power bulge in the bonnet and the F-Type rear lights.
Jaguar’s offering the F-Pace with a 180hp 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbodiesel that almost everyone will buy, plus a 300hp 3.0-litre V6 turbodiesel and a 380hp 3.0-litre V6 supercharged petrol for top-10% bragging rights. There’s a rear-drive entry-level machine for tax-conscious fleets; the rest will be all-wheel drive.
It’s derived from the same aluminium-intensive architecture already used by the acclaimed Jaguar XE and Jaguar XF. The building blocks are good – and Jaguar created this scalable platform with an SUV in mind. It’s no compromised saloon-derived machine, this.
Jaguar is confident the F-Pace will become its best-selling car ever. It’s almost as if the Jaguar revolution was warmed up with the XE and XF saloons it knows how to do so well, before the big bang of the Jaguar SUV was rolled out. Now, it’s here, and the stakes are high. Is this the car to make Jaguar firmly grab a share of the modern premium car sector?
On the road
A super-stiff structure and levels of lateral suspension stiffness measurably greater than the Macan give the F-Pace excellent fundamentals. It feels reassuringly like a solid, premium machine on the move. It’s also very precise, with the familiar Jaguar steering accuracy and ease of placement through bends (once you’re used to the quick steering gearing, that is).
The front axle is very strong and direct, encouraging you to lean on it without suffering squishy, lollopy body roll as a reward. The F-Pace flows as finely as all modern Jaguars, changing direction with little effort, sending back lots of reassuring road feel, generally feeling light on its feet. Steering doesn’t have any particular feel but it does weigh up in bends and the rear-biased AWD feels great when deploying heavy-foot torque out of bends.
Predictably, the fruity 380hp petrol V6 S is a lot of vocal, wailing fun: it is an F-Type engine, after all (the exhausts’ bark can be felt through the floorpan, for heaven’s sake!). The hushed 300hp twin-turbo V6 diesel is preferable though, with a cultured timbre and monumental torque. 516lb-ft from 2,000rpm makes light work of the diesel S’ chunky 1,884kg kerbweight.
The surprise engine is the 2.0D. in a good way. In the XE, this is too noisy and clattery. Here, it’s been silenced considerably. Jaguar’s taken away the gruff rattle, left the mechanical whine (generally nicer than the usual diesel drone) and, most importantly, made it far smoother and more cultured.
180hp and 1,775kg sounds a losing battle but 316lb-ft of pulling power flat from 1,750-2,500rpm does a better job of hauling it than you may expect (0-62mph takes 8.7 seconds) and, so long as you have 2,000rpm showing, the entry-level F-Pace diesel is perfectly fine. You will feel the mass (and have to wait a couple of seconds) if you ask for full beans at sub-2k rpm though…
Body control is superb and the F-Pace is unruffled by almost everything it’s thrown into. It even works on 22-inch wheels, amazingly: they’re the biggest-ever factory-fit mid-size SUV wheels and Jaguar pulls it off without turning the ride awful (although engineers will privately admit 20”s are optimum: we’ll do it publically).
On the inside
The simple, neat F-Pace interior delivers the Ian Callum modern Jaguar look that the XF and, in particular, the XE somehow fail to. A high centre console makes it feel more coupe-like than its steup height suggests and the neat detail touches all blend in well.
The centre piece is the InControl touchscreen infotainment. Typically, it’s at its most impressive in optional InControl Touch Pro guise, whose fast-acting widescreen functionality so impressed on the launch: even standard cars get navigation included though, albeit from SD card rather than the Pro’s ultra-fast SSD hard drive. Wi-Fi internet for passengers is also standard.
All F-Pace have plenty of space for five. You read that right. In the rear, it’s broad, boasts ample headroom and abundant legroom.
The boot is the biggest in the class. A massive tailgate (power operation is standard) reveals 650 litres of space that’s 1 metre wide and can carry loads 1.8 metres long.
Practicality extends to its SUV abilities. With greater wading depth (525mm) and ground clearance (213mm) than any rival, plus an arsenal of off-road electronics trickery that Land Rover would be (is?) proud of, the F-Pace will off road, and not just the soft road type.