WHEN IT UNVEILED THE F-PACE IN SEPTEMBER LAST YEAR, JAGUAR WAS RELUCTANT TO REFER TO ITS HIGH-RIDING WAGON AS AN SUV.Who could blame them? SUVs aren’t exactly sexy, unless you consider the morning school run “a thrilling drive”.And after spending a day behind the wheel of the F-Pace, we can understand why the British automaker was so hesitant to apply the SUV term. It may look like a jacked-up softroader, but the F-Pace is more car-like than you might imagine.Vehicle Style: Medium Prestige SUVPrice: $74,340 (F-Pace 20d Prestige) to $120,700 (F-Pace First Edition 35t)Engine/trans:20d – 132kW/430Nm 2.0 litre turbo diesel 4cyl | 8sp automatic,30d – 221kW/700Nm 3.0 litre turbo diesel 6cyl | 8sp automatic35t – 250kW/450Nm 3.0 litre turbo petrol 6cyl | 8sp automaticS petrol – 280kW/450Nm 3.0 litre turbo petrol 6cyl | 8sp automaticFuel Economy claimed: 5.3 l/100km (20d), 6.0 l/100km (30d) 8.9 l/100km (35t)OVERVIEWThere’s a lot riding on the F-Pace, commercially speaking. Right now Jaguar ranks as a bit-player in the luxury car stakes, and that’s largely due to the absence of an SUV product in its model range (there’s no volume-selling small car either, but that’s another story).Despite an improvement in sales brought about by the still-fresh XE midsize sedan, Jaguar had only sold some 1274 cars to the end of June this year. Compare that to the 4800+ sales logged by Lexus over the same period.Jaguar’s corporate cousin Land Rover has traditionally been the SUV stalwart of the JLR Group, but for Jaguar to stand on its own two feet it needed a crossover of its own. Enter the F-Pace.Starting at $74,340, the F-Pace range is positioned as a rival to BMW’s X3, the Audi Q5, Porsche Macan and Mercedes-Benz GLC. Crucially, Jaguar expects 90 percent of F-Pace buyers to be trading in a rival brand.With the F-Pace, Jaguar Australia hopes to roughly double its sales. It will still be a minnow compared to the sharks of Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Audi, but the F-Pace will play a key role in attracting younger buyers to the marque.THE INTERIORStandard equipment: front and rear parking sensors, bi-xenon headlamps, power tailgate, keyless ignition, leather upholstery, power front seats,Infotainment: 8-inch colour display, satellite navigation, 380-Watt Meridian audio system with 11 speakers, Bluetooth audio/phone integration, AM/FM/CD/USB. 10.2-inch display and 825-Watt premium audio available as cost optionCargo volume: 508 litres minimum, 1688 litres maximum.“Car-like” is how we’d characterise the F-Pace’s cabin. With a high beltline and feet-out-front driving position, it’s got a flavour that’s less SUV and more sportscar.A shallowly-raked windshield and a minimal glasshouse makes it feel very much like an XE or XF inside, and while you have a slight height advantage over those cars, the F-Pace doesn’t exactly elevate you head and shoulders above the surrounding traffic.The centre console is tall and reinforces the feeling that you’re sitting low in the chassis, too. As far as the interior is concerned, the F-Pace is the missing link between car and SUV.But it doesn’t compromise on the more practical considerations that a high-riding wagon must address. Younger folks will be buying these, probably younger people with growing families, and these people need plenty of space for their stuff and their brood.The back seat area is huge, with bountiful legroom considering the F-Pace’s positioning as a “medium” SUV. There’s enough space for a lanky 6’2” passenger back here, even if you order yours with the optional panoramic glass sunroof.Four-zone climate control and heated rear seats can also be optioned in at extra cost.And behind that second row (which can also be equipped with a power-reclining backrest, if you wish) lies a 508 litre boot area that’s wide, flat and perfect for hauling all sorts of cargo.The boot floor is easily reversible and features a hard plastic surface on its underside for carting wet or muddy gear, and is level with the hatch’s loading lip. Handy.There are some complaints though. During our initial taste of the range we encountered a persistent trim rattle from the rear half of the cabin in two cars, and were surprised to discover that the high-grade F-Pace 35t S only had hard, scratchy plastics on the upper centre console.The latter may be forgivable on the base 20d variant, but the F-Pace S petrol V6 requires a $103,420 buy-in. Meanwhile the much cheaper R-Sport grades get leather-upholstered centre consoles and upper dashboards as standard. Strange.All models get a power tailgate (good), but a set of boot-accessible release levers for the second row backrests are a cost option (not so good).In this day and age a car with the F-Pace’s sticker price should probably also have a digital radio tuner as standard equipment too, rather than a $900 option.
Jaguar’s cutting-edge In Control Touch Pro infotainment suite (below) is a slick piece of hardware (and replaces the instrument panel with a 12.3-inch reconfigurable screen), but it’s a cost option in all but the pricey First Edition models.ON THE ROADEngine:,20d – 132kW/430Nm 2.0 litre turbo diesel 4cyl,30d – 221kW/700Nm 3.0 litre turbo diesel 6cyl,35t – 250kW/450Nm 3.0 litre turbo petrol 6cyl,S petrol – 280kW/450Nm 3.0 litre turbo petrol 6cyl,Transmission: 8sp automatic, all-wheel drive,Suspension: double-wishbone front, multi-link rear,Brakes: Ventilated disc,Steering: Electrically assisted, 11.87m turning circle,Towing capacity: 2400kg braked Like most modern Jags, the F-Pace’s forte lies in its stellar handling. Dynamic? Brother, this car defines the term.Its bare structure is 80 percent aluminium by weight, incorporates a high level of recycled material (read: it’s made from beer cans), and tips the scales at just 298kg.Fully dressed, the F-Pace weighs between 1665kg and 1884kg – that’s light in the context of medium SUVs. A Porsche Macan weighs roughly 200kg more, spec-for-spec.Weight is distributed close to 50:50 front to rear and the F-Pace rides on double-wishbone front and multi-link rear suspension. Those aspects aren’t just car-like, they’re ‘sportscarlike’ – the Jaguar F-Type uses similar suspension hardware and boasts a similar weight distribution.And it all comes together on a twisting road. It doesn’t matter which variant, whether it’s the base model 20d four-cylinder diesel, mid-spec 30d turbo diesel V6 or the range-topping 35t supercharged petrol V6, they all handle extraordinarily well.Point it into a corner with the superbly well-weighted electric steering and you’re rewarded with almost unending grip at the front end. The F-Type digs its claws into the pavement and refuses to let go, only transitioning into mild understeer at a level of cornering G that’s well past where most drivers would dare venture.Though it’s AWD, the system is rear-biased most of the time and can only take up to 50 percent of available torque to the front axle.As a result it feels and behaves like a RWD car most of the time, though a brief offroad exercise demonstrated that the driveline is clever enough to shuffle torque between all four wheels when the surface gets properly greasy.Of the four engines offered, the mid-ranking 221kW 3.0 litre turbo diesel V6 is the best all-rounder.With exceptional refinement, plenty of torque and a relaxed power delivery, Jag’s silken V6 diesel is the best match for the F-Pace. Our only criticism is that it doesn’t quite feel as torquey as brochure’s 700Nm claim, but with a 6.2 second 0-100km/h time it’s plenty quick.The entry-level “20d” 2.0 litre four cylinder diesel is a fine engine, with little in the way of diesel clatter or vibration to spoil the F-Type’s cabin ambience. With just 132kW and 430Nm it’s not exactly a rocket, but is more than adequate for the average motorist.Two versions of Jaguar’s 3.0 litre supercharged petrol V6 occupy the upper reaches of the F-Pace range, with a “low output” 250kW/450Nm model and a range-topping 280kW/450Nm version sitting above it.If you want all 280kW, you’ll need to get yourself into the $103,420 F-Pace S.It’s a cracking engine, with a rev-happy character and seamless, lag-free power delivery that matches the F-Pace’s scalpel-sharp chassis. Working in conjunction with the standard 8-speed automatic (which all models receive), it’ll zip to 100km/h in just 5.5 seconds.There’s some mechanical noise that filters through firewall on light cruising with the supercharged V6, however. It’s something that’s not there in either diesel model.In all models there’s plenty of road noise to contend with, with coarse chip asphalt generating plenty of decibels in variants equipped with 20-inch or 22-inch alloys. The shallower sidewalls also give the suspension a sharper edge, though the adaptive suspension of the F-Pace S managed to quell some of that.SAFETY ANCAP rating: The Jaguar F-Pace has yet to be rated by ANCAPSafety features: ABS, EBD, brake assist, traction control, stability control, six airbags (front, front side, full-length curtain), autonomous emergency braking, lane departure warning are standard across the F-Pace range.A top-down camera view, park assist, lane keep assist and blind spot monitoring are available at extra cost.RIVALS TO CONSIDERAudi Q5,Porsche Macan,BMW X3,Mercedes-Benz GLC,Lexus RX,Infiniti QX70,TMR VERDICT | OVERALL The F-Pace is the F-Type of SUVs, that much is clear. It’s without doubt one of the most nimble SUVs around, and is especially intoxicating with that supercharged 35t engine under the bonnet.For us though, it’s the 30d R Sport that is the sweetest deal of them all. It’s got huge torque, exceptional refinement, a nicely furnished interior and 19-inch alloys for a plusher ride, all for a not-unreasonable $90,350.Jaguar Australia is confident the F-Pace will make a big splash once cars start flowing into showrooms, and the company already has over 200 firm orders from customers.Will it double the company’s sales in this country? After our first date with the F-Pace, we can’t see why it should not. If you enjoy a dynamic drive, we would definitely recommend a look.
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