Can Jaguar’s first-ever SUV convert the doubters and give the Porsche Macan a run for its money? We drive it to see if it can
What do we have here?
In the main, the Jaguar F-Pace went into production last year without the expected uproar from traditionalists concerned that this producer of sporty driving cars has bowed to the pressure of SUV sales.
It was a big year for sporting and luxury SUVs, though, after Maserati launched the Levante SUV, Bentley gave us the Bentayga (whether we wanted it or not), while Rolls-Royce seemed to up its efforts to bring its own SUV to market.
So are we mellowing as a nation of car lovers or have we simply accepted that the march of time is sending SUVS on to the forecourts of previously unimaginable car brands?
However, Jaguar have promised that the F-Pace has sporting intentions and is 'based' (in spirit at least) on the F-Type. That, therefore puts it up against the Porsche Macan which the Jag is going to have to beat if this venture is going to be a successful one.
Or does it? The F-Pace is already off to a flying start. For the 9 months it was on sale in 2016, the F-Pace became the fastest selling vehicle in Jaguar’s history, with 8,000 models rolling off forecourts.
It’s really not hard to see why as the F-Pace is a great looking thing, it's got a good choice of engines and specifications with prices starting from just over £35,000.
On the diesel front, there’s a 2.0-litre four-cylinder with 178bhp and 318lb ft of torque and is available with either rear-wheel or all-wheel drive (AWD). Both come with a six-speed manual gearbox as standard while an eight-speed automatic is only available on the AWD version.
A more powerful 3.0-litre V6 diesel engine develops 296bhp and 516lb ft of torque and comes with all-wheel drive and an eight-speed auto as standard.
From the petrol corner, you get one choice, but what a choice it is. It’s a 3.0-litre supercharged V6 that develops 375bhp and 332lb ft of torque. That’ll get this range-topper from standstill to 60mph in 5.1 seconds. It gets AWD and an eight-speed automatic as standard.
The F-Pace is available in four trim levels, Prestige and Portfolio, R-Sport and S.
Here, we’re testing the 3.0 diesel in S trim which costs £51,450. However, our vehicle came fitted with Italian Racing Red (£675), 22” Double Helix 15 Spoke Silver Wheels (£1,600), privacy glass (£375) and activity key (£300) which increased the price to £54,400.
The S is packed full of standard equipment, including: torque vectoring; cruise control; front and rear parking sensors; rear view camera; lane departure warning; keyless entry and start; autonomous braking; 8.0in infotainment touchscreen; Meridian sound system (800W); DAB radio, Bluetooth; sat nav; ‘S’ bodykit and dual-zone climate control, to mention just a few.
Stay tuned as in February we’ll be testing the 2.0-litre AWD automatic in R-Sport trim which will be accompanied by a video review.
How does it drive?
Nothing short of miraculously. Your immediate driving impressions are similar to what you get in a Porsche Macan, “is this really an SUV and how is it doing that.”
With a lightweight aluminium architecture, this car weighs just 1,884kg, which is only 134kg more than the equivalent XF (1,750kg) but 71kg lighter than a Porsche Macan S (1,955kg), which is pretty impressive. That actually translates to the car feeling lightweight.
Throw it into the corners and there’s no lumbering load urging understeer, which is no doubt aided by the torque vectoring system that brakes the inner wheels to mitigate understeer during corner entry, not that you’ll notice it happening.
Under braking, it doesn’t feel like you’re trying to stop the Titanic, either. It feels light on its feet, agile, you could almost say nimble - almost say.
Body lean is brilliantly controlled with its double-wishbone front and Integral Link rear suspension keeping everything in check, giving you plenty of confidence to drive the F-Pace in a sporty manner.
There’s endless amounts of front end grip and it’s keen to turn in with electric power assisted steering providing a weighty feel and precise response.
In just 165 milliseconds the on-demand all-wheel traction comes to life and with its electronic systems limits almost all wheel spin, even on damp roads and at the most awkward of junctions.
None of this means there’s a hard ride to put up with, quite the opposite in fact. The F-Pace has a supple suspension setup, meaning the largest of bumps and potholes are well contained. In fact, it’s downright comfortable.
The F-Pace also has excellent damping meaning that you can traverse a hillock at pace without any of that bouncy wallowy nonsense to worry about.
And what a lovely engine to go with this car. The 3.0-litre V6 diesel is silky smooth with vast amounts of power in reserve. There’s a little diesel rumble on start-up but after that, it’s quiet and refined.
Sink the hammer under your right foot and it takes off, pulling hard and fast but in a controllable manner. Peak torque arrives 4,500rpm and power at 6,500rpm with its delivery being consistent and unrelenting. It’ll get off the line to 60mph in 5.8 seconds and onto a top speed of 150mph.
Eight speeds might sound ridiculous for a gearbox but you never notice the Jaguar searching for the right gear, or changing too regularly meaning there’s no annoying constantly varying in engine pitch. It’s also super-fast to respond to downshifts, whether left in automatic mode or changed manually with the steering wheel-mounted paddles.
What's it like inside?
Inside the design will be familiar to you if you’ve been in the latest XE of XF. What will surprise is the high-up driving position, although you are nicely cocooned. It’s a proper high-up 4x4 position and suddenly you’re reminded of the Land Rover DNA here, as will the horizontally mounted window ledge location for the window controls (straight out of a LR).
It’s a welcoming interior, clad in leather trim with contrasting stitching. The controls are classy as are the materials used. Most of the dash is clear and simple, although, some of the buttons by the rotary gear selector are on the small side.
The instrument cowls are a nice sporting touch, while the steering wheel is well sized, is good to grip and has plenty of electrically assisted adjustment.
The seats also adjust electrically and due to decent levels of headroom and good shoulder room, so most people are likely to find a comfortable driving position.
Visibility out is only restricted by thick rear roof pillars but this car gets a reversing camera and parking sensors to help when manoeuvring.
There’s plenty of storage up front, with deep door bins, cubbies by the side of the gear selector and a smallish central bin. Between the seats there are two cupholders.
In the back, there are two sculptured and comfortable seats and there’s decent headroom. There’s seatbelts for three but a high transmission tunnel will mean few are likely to want to be sat in the middle for longer journeys. Rear passengers get USB ports and good sized door bins to store their stuff.
The boot is huge (650 litres) and much larger than a Porsche Macan (550l). It has a flat floor with underfloor storage. There are a couple of bag hooks and a low loading lip. For more space, the rear seats split and fold 40:20:40.
Despite the powerful engine, AWD and SUV body, the claimed fuel economy on a combined cycle is an impressive 47.1mpg. CO2 emission of 159g/km means the 3.0d S falls into the 31% company car tax BIK banding, while one year’s road tax will set you back £185.
The 3.0d S falls into insurance group 42E.
It gets a three-year unlimited mileage warranty complete with roadside assistance for the UK and Continental Europe.
Servicing for the first five years is required every 12 months or 16,000 miles, whichever comes first. There’s an optional service pack available that covers five years or 50,000 miles for £699.
The F-Pace is simply spectacular. It has all the benefits of a high-riding, spacious SUV with none of the drawbacks as it handles with aplomb and with this engine, has rapid performance.
Does it outperform a like for like Macan, for us, yes it does and that is the biggest accolade you can give the F-Pace, although it is £5,500 dearer.
Not yet an SUV convert, then try an F-Pace or a Macan and you may just change your mind.