Jaguar is now an SUV maker and this is their first entry into this proverbial ‘wild side’. That might seem like an abnormal sentence. but if you’re surprised by that when the F-Pace was announced, you’re in for even more shockers.
You see, an increasing number of sports car makers are turning their attention toward to these ‘faux-roaders’ as there are myriad reasons why today’s average car buyer just doesn’t find a traditional saloon or estate to cut the mustard anymore. Therefore, they need to go up.
Ride height solves all problems, apparently, but not issues concerning rougher terrain as clearly these very buyers are not likely to ever require their vehicles to tread on anything more challenging than a puddle or a fastidiously trimmed field.
Cynicism aside, this new discipline that Jaguar has decided to undertake is made more difficult as its sister company happens to be Land Rover, who specialises exclusively in SUVs - a marque that earned their stripes by producing machines to tackle tricky terrain and over time expanded into luxury versions that can also hold their own off-road.
What would Jaguar have to do to not tread on their own (Jaguar Land Rover’s) toes? Nothing it would seem, as JLR seemed to have kindly instructed them to ignore all such superfluous protocol and make the best SUV they can manage. Indeed they have.
Based upon the same platform as the XE saloon, the F-Pace arrives at a time when the Porsche Macan is firmly rooted in the nook it had planned to have for itself, with the German’s product beating it to market and causing the folks at JLR to have a little rethink, inadvertently influencing the car it would become.
In some ways too, the F-Pace poses a larger threat to the Porsche than the XE does to the German trio of compact executive saloons, managing to keep with the Macan’s tempo and in some areas outclass it, at least for sheer panache.
“The F-Pace is a fantastic-looking filly. Outside, from front to back, it is an eye-catching beast with plenty of presence.” - CarsGuide
An easy simplification people often make about the F-Pace is that it’s just a jacked-up XE. Mechanically, there are quite a few noteworthy changes but visually, that comparison rings true. But where the XE’s rear doesn’t quite live up to its face, the F-Pace maintains that a uniformly stylish design.
Probably more so than any other current SUV on the market, the F-Pace clearly has a strong leaning toward being more sporting, determinable even when seeing it for the first time. Trim levels such as S only add to the aggressive facade (less so with the R Sport), but even with the more sedate F-Pace Prestige or Portfolio, the squinty headlamps, long bonnet, gaping front maw, and swept back lines will not afford you much room for misinterpretation that this is a performance SUV.
Jaguar’s inaugural high-rider arrives at a crest of the coupe SUV/crossover’s popularity, and its design puts it immediately in fair stead against the Porsche and Audi SQ5. It’s the few vehicles to use JLR’s recent iQ platform, currently shared with the second-generation XF and XE saloons, endowing it with an ‘aluminium intensive’ construction and some rather dynamically talented genetics that we’ll get into soon.
The crux is that, with other SUVs, a sporty look tends to only be the domain of a particular trim level (think M-Sport or AMG-Line) whereas the F-Pace manages the same effect in its standard form, allowing you to start from an aesthetic high ground so to speak, gradually raising or lowering the degree to which your own F-Pace is perceived: svelte or savage?
Engines and Drivetrain
“Away from the test track, the F-Pace is well capable of making fairly brisk and assured progress on country roads and it hauls along keenly enough on the motorway.” - Autocar UK
The Jaguar F-Pace comes with three engine choices, comprising of a diesel duo and a single petrol motor in two states of tune. We kick off with a 2.0-litre turbodiesel from JLR’s own (and new) line of Ingenium motors.
This will likely prove to be the most popular engine in the F-Pace range, offering an impressive level of performance with fuel economy at a claimed 5.3-litres/100km while cranking out 132kW and 430Nm of torque - enough to propel the British SUV to 100km/h from rest in 8.7 seconds.
Next up, the second of the two black-burners is a more familiar addition in the Jaguar recipe, a 3.0-litre V6 turbodiesel that, in the F-Pace, produces a meaty 221kW and torrential 700Nm of torque from as early as 2,000rpm, cutting the 0-100km/h acceleration time to a hot hatch beating 6.2 seconds and handily makes it the most potent overtaker. Naturally, it isn’t as frugal as the 2.0-litre Ingenium, but 6.0-litres/100km is still very fuel economy.
In the F-Pace Prestige, Portfolio or R-Sport ,the sole petrol engine, a supercharged 3.0-litre V6 dishes out 250kW and 450Nm while in the S or First Edition variants, power is bumped to 280kW and 460Nm with 100km/h arriving in either 5.8 or 5.5 seconds. Clearly, this is the motor to choose if you want the most visceral experience from F-Pace ownership.
The diesels do have their moments, but the supercharged V6 petrol engine can often sound better than many purpose-built sports cars and, paired with the F-Pace’s agile handling, can evaporate any previous apprehensions about not choosing a larger sedan.
All versions of the F-Pace comes standard with all-wheel drive and all engines are mated to an 8-speed torque converter automatic transmission, but in keeping its sporty pretensions, only a maximum of 50 percent of drive is allowed to be sent up front.
“Front seat comfort is another big plus for F-Pace, providing a near-perfect blend of cushioning and bolster that make even hours behind the wheel a real pleasure, no matter what condition the road surface.” - CarAdvice
In keeping with the F-Pace’s non-SUV like appearance and performance, Jaguar had designed its interior to be very shallow departure from anyone coming from a mid-size saloon. Yes, the car’s hip point is quite high but once you’re situated, there is a sensation of space, decent visibility, and controls that fall to immediate reach. The design flourishes, too, have a very considered nature to them - unique and ‘designed’ but not ornate.
Everything is risen to meet your new perch and it all wraps around you the way you’re used to if you’re used to contemporary Jaguar car interiors. Most of the surfaces that you will see and want to touch and luxuriously soft and of quality material, but are oddly interspersed with hard scratchy plastics in lower areas of the door trim and dash, to name a couple.
In spite of this, the seats, while reasonably comfortable, are a bit on the firm side and also more heavily bolstered (front seats) than most. The assumption is you’ll be driving it quicker than most SUVs, and naturally keeping you in place is key.
Life for second row passengers is quite pleasant, with a comfortably wide door opening for easy ingress. Once situated, they’re treated to a good amount of knee and headroom, the latter being because of the F-Pace’s roofline being sloped toward the boot and not after the B-pillar.
There is a transmission tunnel hump that will impede foot placement for that occasional third middle rear occupant, which is made worse by the fold-out armrest that they’d have to rest their back against.
Where the F-Pace claws back some points is with its boot capacity and the practicality this affords. Typically having a sporty SUV means compromising on things like versatility, but with 508-litres of cargo room to work with and 1688 with the seats folded in their 40:20:40 split - though, they unfortunately don’t lie flat.
What is flat is the load lip which will allow you to easily slide in any luggage or longer items into the back of the car without issue. But the trade off there is there is only a space saver spare tyre under that floor and opting for a full-size spare will require an unsightly raised cover for it.
Behind The Wheel
“The powertrain response feels almost identical, too. While the diesel is slower off the line, that engine is lighter and hence the handling balance is almost preferable to that of the bigger V-6.” - Motor Trend
This is an area where Jaguar wants to separate the F-Pace from the other SUVs you might be considering and is the centre of its appeal, but has it managed to blend these two disparate corners of motoring: SUV and sportiness?
In a word, yes. But it isn’t quite as impressive a feat as it was when Porsche introduced the Cayenne or when they repeated the trick in the smaller Macan. Other automakers also gradually infused more sportiness into their high riders, some going so far as to create a fully high performance variants.
The F-Pace, no matter what engine is chosen, will perform well around a corner with its quick and precise steering, expertly controlled body roll, as well as its responsive and communicative chassis. It does all these things like also doing a well enough job of remaining fairly comfortable, if firm. Buyers of the more expensive F-Pace R will get adaptive dampers that broaden its on-road talents, but on its standard suspension some have noted its tendency not be as relaxing to drive as you might expect.
One shudders to think of how differently the F-Pace would be if Jaguar Land Rover had - either due to cost or convenience or both - chosen use an existing Land Rover as its basis. Jag, thankfully insisted on using their own platform. Sure, it perhaps would have ended up as a more comfortable car and no less potent in a straight line, but a certain base dynamism would have been lost.
While the driving position is spot on, there’s only a vague somewhat sense of where the wheels are that might take more confidence to thread it in dense urban areas. Forward visibility is good and the extra height over Jaguar sedan does mean more of the road ahead can be seen, the narrow rear window means you’ll definitely need electronic aids (parking sensors, rear view camera - both standard) really are needed for more tedious manoeuvres.
Safety and Technology
"If you can afford it, we’d recommend upgrading to the range-topping InControl Touch Pro system....It’s much more powerful and snappier to respond to screen presses." - WhatCar
The F-Pace comes with a generous amount of both safety and technology features. Impressively, all models come with Autonomous Emergency Braking (which automatically brakes if it senses an imminent collision), lane departure warning, and even tyre pressure monitoring as standard.
The F-Pace relies on their standard InControl Touch infotainment system. It’s interfaced through a centrally located wide 8-inch display that, as the name implies, operates via touch. The panel has a decent resolution but responsiveness can be hit or miss. Jaguar pairs this with another 5-inch panel that’s sandwiched between the speedometer and tachometer. Audio is piped through an excellent Meridian audio system with 11 speakers.
Buyers can also opt for the more expensive InControl Touch Pro infotainment setup that upgrades the main screen to a 10.2-inch unit that supports smartphone-like multi-touch gestures while a 12.3-inch digital display takes the place of an analogue instrument cluster, with virtual dials and a selectable full screen 3D Map View. The Meridian speaker array now has 17 speakers and outputs 825W instead of the 380W in the standard version.
The F-Pace is an inflection point for Jaguar, an manufacturer we do not associate with the SUVs. Sure there’s Land Rover to which they are closely related, but the F-Pace is quite far removed from anything wearing that green oval badge.
It’s a very impressive first effort, coming out the gates with a desirable and well considered offering in competitive corner of the automotive landscape. At this level, it wouldn't need to contend with as many rivals as, say, the Honda HR-V, but the Porsche Macan and Audi SQ5 are both formidable opponents.
In the areas that matter to those looking for this particular flavour of vehicle, the Jaguar F-Pace is a very tempting proposition. Subjectively, it might have the best looking. And objectively, its just as much a nimble handler and can be chosen with a powerful, exciting engine that will make it a riot to play with. It’s shockingly practical too.
Where it falls short, though, is that with such competition, some interior inconsistencies might show it in unfavourable light when put against the excellently crafted interiors of the Porsche and Audi, which is something that Jaguar is improving upon with each new car, and are closer than ever to matching with the F-Pace.
Motor Trend - 4.5/5 - “We fully expect the F-Pace to do for Jaguar what the Cayenne has done for Porsche.”
CarsGuide - 3/5 - “It is impressive, though, and great if you want strangers to stare at and admire you. Overall, it’s a decent first crack at one of these, but it lacks the all-round sophistication of its rivals.”
Autocar UK - 4/5 - “…it has enough SUV convenience, utility, ruggedness and refinement, combined with outstanding handling, to earn a fulsome recommendation.”
CarAdvice - 8/10 - It’s by no means the best all-round SUV, but it’s got style and panache to burn and for many, those attributes alone are all that matter. But for those with a more enthusiastic bent, Jaguar’s new F-Pace (at least in 3.0d guise) delivers a more exciting drive than most of its rivals.”
Edmunds - 4.5/5 - “It’s more than just a pretty face as it's also great to drive, surprisingly practical, competitively priced and can even venture off road. It's a new SUV you don't want to overlook."
Car And Driver - 4.2/5 - “While the F-Pace S may not quite be the sharpest knife in the compact-crossover drawer, it’s a versatile blade that’s anything but dull."
WhatCar - 4/5 - "The F-Pace is very much a road-focused SUV, even though four-wheel-drive versions have some clever off-roading technology; cheaper models actually make do with rear-wheel drive."