Jaguar Land Rover has significantly upped its game in recent years, making cars people actually want to buy. Whilst the Range Rover Sport has been experiencing success for a fair few years now, things haven’t been quite so rosy on the Jaguar front. Then all of a sudden we get the F-Type, XE, revised XF and palatial XJ to give Jaguar some serious brand appeal. That makes the launch of the marque’s first-ever SUV well-timed. Called the F-Pace, it promises a harmonious blend of SUV practicality with Jaguar’s sporting pedigree. Now there was just one question to answer: could the F-Pace put the ‘Sports’ into Sports Utility Vehicle? Time to find out.
Looks – 10/10
There are two approaches to styling an SUV. You can go big, aiming for a bold presence. Or you can go for coupe styling and take the sleek option. Jaguar has opted for the latter, and it absolutely works. That’s not to say that the F-Pace isn’t big – you only have to see one in the flesh to appreciate the size – but it hides it well. The S is the model to go for. And my test car was a dreamy spec: Italian Racing Red metallic paint contrasted by the gloss black accenting on the grille, side vents and window surrounds. The optional 22-inch alloy wheels give serious kerb appeal, and fill the arches wonderfully. From the front the big, shouty grille is framed by distinct LED daytime running lights, and is am imposing image when viewed in your rear view mirror. From the rear three-quarter view you can sense the nods to the F-Type styling, and twin exhausts hint at the performance lying under the bonnet.
The cabin is inviting to say the least: sumptuous sports bucket seats allow the driver to sink comfortably behind the controls. There’s a fabulous line which runs from one front door, underneath the windscreen, to the other side. The interior is complimented by LED mood lighting, and there’s a customisable one available as an option. The large, deep-dish dials change colour depending which drive mode you are in; the red of ‘Dynamic’ is by far the best. The widescreen multimedia screen is nicely nestled in the centre of the dashboard. The rear seats are also ever-so-slightly bucketed, and look great if selected with one of the two-tone trim options. A panoramic roof lets a good amount of light into the cabin, and also creates that ‘wow’ factor when you pick up your friends.
Handling/Performance – 10/10
If you opt for the F-Pace S, you have the choice of two engines. The first – which I tested – is a 3.0-litre, turbocharged V6 diesel engine. It produces 300PS and a colossal 700Nm of torque: this is no slouch. Power is sent to all four wheels via an 8-speed automatic gearbox, and 0-62mph takes a brisk 6.2 seconds. The top speed is 150mph. If that’s not quick enough for you, the alternative engine is a 3.0-litre, supercharged V6 petrol engine. This one puts out 380PS and 450Nm, capable of going from 0-62mph in 5.5 seconds. In SUV terms that’s damned quick. The S features Jaguar Drive Control with different drive modes – from Eco to Dynamic – ensuring you get the responsiveness you need. Acceleration on the diesel is staggering. From a standstill it just gets up and goes, and those 700Nm ensure you have some serious in-gear acceleration and overtaking grunt whenever you stick your right toe into the carpet. Being a V6 there’s not a rattle to be heard: this engine is as smooth as it is powerful. Sure, the petrol would have more bark, but this diesel still has a serious bite!
Jaguar has put a lot of effort into the chassis and handling dynamics of the F-Pace. Being a big, tall SUV is no longer an excuse for sloppy handling, and Jaguar definitely got this memo. For starters the F-Pace gets Torque Vectoring technology, which provides controlled braking of the inside rear wheel. The result is staggering. From behind the wheel you completely forget you’re in an SUV. You can chuck the Jag into a corner and hit the apex perfectly. You could even describe it as agile. The ride is great too. The optional 22-inch alloys rode comfortably and quietly on the motorway, and the low-profile tyres helped cornering stability. The engineers in the suspension department have done a brilliant job of virtually eradicating body roll. Sure, if you chuck it around with all you have then there is a bit of pitch, but this is only at the absolute limit, and even then it’s not enough to deter driver confidence.
Economy – 10/10
Having raved about the performance of that mighty V6 diesel engine, you may well be expecting that the downside would come with economy. Happily I can report that this is not the case. The 8-speed automatic gearbox, start/stop technology and ‘eco’ driving dynamics mean that CO2 emissions are 159g/km. That means the first year rate is £500, and £140 thereafter. The only other complication is that because the F-Pace costs more than £40,000 there is a supplement of £310 a year for 5 years, rendering the subsequent road tax is £450 as opposed to £140. This is slightly unfortunate, but this car with this engine is worth the annual tax. Combined fuel consumption is a respectable 47.1mpg, and that’s a credit to Jaguar’s engine department. The silly road tax aside, which ultimately you won’t care about, the F-Pace is a reasonably cheap car to run.
Practicality – 9/10
The ‘U’ in SUV stands for “Utility”, so the Jaguar should be practical. The signs are good, with a generous boot and plenty of room in the front. Despite the sleek, coupé styling, there’s still a lot of headroom in the back. What I was a little surprised at was the rear legroom. I’m only 5ft7in and don’t like to stretch too far to reach things. Behind me there was a good amount of legroom, but I can only go so far as ‘good’: for such a big car I would have expected more. Jaguar Land Rover has invested in technology to enhance driver experience. Gone is the clunky sat-nav, replaced by Jaguar InControl: a suite of services and apps to fully integrate you with your car. This is operated via an 8-inch touchscreen display. Also standard on the ‘S’ is lane departure warning, keyless entry and go, traffic sign recognition with intelligent speed limiter, powered tailgate and 10×10 way electrically-adjustable front seats. Whether you are a sole commuter or a family of 4, the F-Pace makes life on the road a dream. Stick a tow bar on it and you could drag a caravan (or rally car in my case!) behind you with ease.
Fun – 10/10
Although I got to spend a week with the F-Pace, it left me wanting more. I did a reasonable amount of driving over the course of the week, some of which was a boring, traffic-riddled commute to Leeds. It may only be 35 miles or so, but it takes a good hour and half on a good run. Despite this soul-destroying journey, I never got angry or stressed in the jaguar. In fact, I was glad to spend more time behind the wheel. And stop-start traffic gave other motorists time to admire the stunning lines and aggressive styling of the car. Finally, when I reached the end of the traffic and found myself on an open dual carriageway I could unleash the full extent of that 3.0-litre V6 diesel. Accelerating away from roundabouts was a welcome treat, and I never tired of it. Jaguar makes sports cars with excellent driving dynamics. And this is still true of the large, tall F-Pace. Well done Jaguar, well done.
And there you have it: a week with the Jaguar F-Pace S, over in an instant. I think it is one of the most handsome cars currently on sale. It looks aggressive, and the styling nods nicely to the mighty F-Type coupe. My test car may have come with a diesel, but that In no way took away from the sportiness. It’s an absolute gem, and makes me wonder how good the V6 petrol would be. Despite a sleek design the cabin is spacious, although the rear legroom isn’t quite as generous as you might expect from such a big car. Prices for the F-Pace start at £34,730. The diesel ‘S’ model starts at £51,450 and with a few options my test car came in just shy of £60k. But for this blend of style, performance and practicality, it represents good value. For more information head over to the Jaguar website or pop in to a local dealer. The F-Pace bolsters the Jaguar model line-up, and the S model showcases Jaguar’s sporting pedigree, literally putting the “S” in SUV.
Total Score – 49/50