This is Jaguar's first attempt at the sports SUV segment - does it have what it takes to intimidate the established players?
Photos by Azfar Hashim
Initially, you’ll never know what you’re gonna get with this new SUV from Jaguar. With the X3, you know it will feel close to an X5 that has been around for a hundred years; then with the Q5 you have a slight idea, just by looking, that it will have an uncanny resemblance to the Q7 that has also been around for a century. Even the XC60 at one glimpse will give you an impression, “Aha… It will definitely feel like a smaller XC90.” Then with the Macan, you could just know it will be the more playful brother next to the ‘elder’ Cayenne.
The F-Pace, mind you, has no reference point. You want to think it feels just like a taller XE, but from an engineering point of view, that’s akin to asking Gordon Ramsay to have his dinner at, say, McDonalds – it just doesn’t make any sense.
What we have here is the range-topper S variant, and there’s that undeniable intimidating ‘get-out-of-my-way’ face and stance – if you want an SUV that will be given the right of way out of any junctions or even scare road-hogging gits off the fastest lane, this F-Pace will do a fine job at that. On a personal note, I’m not a usual fan of white–coloured cars, but I must say this example here looks very handsome.
From the rear, the tail lamp looks as though it was taken off the XF, but oh how wonderful of Jaguar to mask it all off by adding a large rear bumper diffuser, equally large spoiler and twin exhaust tips. That said however, the large wheel well made the 20-inch wheels (wrapped in 255/50 R-20 Continental ContiSportContact 5 rubbers) still looks, erm, puny.
Jaguar has obviously adopted BMW and Audi’s style of making a dashboard that looks similar across the board. That’s not exactly a bad thing, but a wee bit of differentiation would be nice here. It’s neither offensive nor boring, don’t get me wrong, but when you just came out of a Lexus RX, the difference between the two is quite telling. In this F-Pace, the cockpit has all the right build quality paired with well-appointed control buttons, but for a $345k car, it still doesn’t seem special enough.
At the rear, the F-Pace offers a comfortable bench that will no doubt be a joy for long drives, and with the addition of a standard glass roof, gives off that feel of airiness. Unfortunately, the legroom being offered is not class leading and the intrusive transmission tunnel does compromise passenger's seated in the middle.
The cabin’s saving grace however is the boot space. At 650-litres with all seats in place, it is the largest next to the X3 (550-litres), Q5 (540-litres) and even Macan (500-litres). In case you need more space, bring the rear seat down and this expands to 1,740-litres – again, the biggest in class (X3: 1,600-litres, Q5: 1,560-litres, Macan: 1,500-litres).
It gets power from a 3.0-litre supercharged V6 powerplant and mated to a ZF-sourced 8-speed automatic, provides 375 horses along with a stonking 450 Nm of torque all at your disposal. With a kerbweight of slightly more than 1.8-tonnes, it also ensures the F-Pace gets from meow to a massive roar in only 5.5 seconds - should be good enough to scare the living daylight out of any hot-hatches.
Pulling power is strong with this one, to the point you have to discipline your right foot especially in the MCE. In the tallest gear, it gets from 80 km/h to 120 km/h in a blink of an eye; but thankfully the brakes are responsive enough to slow the car down to 70 km/h before approaching those nasty speed cameras. This may sound a little immature, but slotting down to third and then giving the accelerator a good mash just to hear the exhaust note and V6 growl combined – in the tunnel – proved to be rather addictive. Of course this antic hurts the F-Pace’s fuel economy, but the smile it returns… Priceless.
Handling wise, there is nothing to fault as the steering provides good feedback, the chassis felt as one and body movements err towards the sportier side of things; and this is in default mode. Select Dynamic mode and this improves further, to the point it gets very, very close to the Macan S, which I have to report, is still the class leader in this particular segment. The F-Pace is good, yes, but the chassis needs some more tinkering to really give Porsche something to worry about.
In a nutshell, the Jaguar F-Pace is an exciting sports SUV that ticks all the right boxes in terms of dynamics and performance; flawless, if I may.
However as a first attempt, the unimaginative interior and lack of legroom could potentially make buyers, who are willing to give Jaguar a chance, some second thoughts. On top of that, the asking price for this range-topping variant puts it beyond the more established Macan S that has a starting price of $332k. If even a $308k SQ5 can’t sway buyers to look into the direction of Audi, the F-Pace has lots more to prove.
The Jag’s character, then, is the only thing that would give it the edge.
This Fitbit-looking device allows you lock and unlock the car with its key left inside the cabin - great for active individuals