In short, this car was well worth the wait.
Jaguar wants this F-PACE to be a class leader when it comes to driving dynamics in this segment, an objective helped enormously by its lightweight aluminium architecture. Further aids in this regard include torque vectoring to maximise cornering traction and a defiantly rear-biased AWD system that never diverts more than 50% of its power up-front, a process that happens in milliseconds as soon as the first signs of wheel slip are detected. You don’t have to have AWD on this car – rear-driven variants are available with all the main trim derivations – but 4x4 traction is a necessity if you want the automatic transmission most potential owners will probably be looking for. Change ratios for the auto ‘box are one of the things that can be tweaked via the settings of the ‘Jaguar Drive Control’ system, a set-up that also adjusts steering feel and throttle response to suit the way you want to drive.
We should talk about engines. From launch, virtually the whole of the F-PACE line-up was built around a single powerplant, the 2. 0-litre Ingenium diesel used in the Jaguar XE and XF models that share this car’s basic architecture, a unit provided here in a single 180PS state of tune. It’s a frugal thing, capable in a 2WD F-PACE of returning 57. 7mpg on the combined cycle and 129g/km of CO2. With 2. 0-litre variants, you can also add in ‘Adaptive Dynamics’ configurable damping for sharper tarmac handling. And an ‘Adaptive Surface Response’ system which works off road to constantly set up the car to suit the terrain you’re travelling over. That’s one of the things that makes this car a surprisingly capable tool in the rough. If the only terrain you care about is asphalt, you want a bit more power and you’ve more in your budget, you’ll want one of the top 3. 0-litre V6 ‘F-PACE S’ variants, either the 300PS diesel we’re trying here or the potent supercharged 380PS petrol version.
It says much that Jaguar markets this F-PACE as a ‘sportscar’, albeit a very practical one. The stylish shape is pretty much exactly what we saw from the Coventry company’s C-X17 prototype, a car unveiled back in 2013 at the Frankfurt Motorshow. In production form, the lines are just as eye-catching, Chief Stylist Ian Callum refusing to be constrained by the SUV sector’s usual aesthetic design cues, instead delivering a much more dynamic silhouette, with a roofline lower and closer to the road than anything else in the segment.
Time to take a seat inside and check out the so-called ‘Sports Command’ driving position. This delivers the kind of high-set authoritative seating placement that SUV drivers like so much, without perching you so far up that you lose the feel of being an integral part of the whole experience. The whole cabin ambience is designed to make anyone coming to this car fresh from one of Jaguar’s saloons feel instantly at home, with the dials, the switchgear and the rising circular gear selector you get on automatic models all familiar fare.
As usual in executive segment models, the centre of the fascia is dominated by a colour infotainment screen, this 8-inch ‘InControl Touch’ display being the same as that used across Jaguar and Land Rover’s other more recent models.
Time to take a seat in the rear. Once installed, two tall adults get more headroom than you might expect the raked-back roofline to be able to provide and there’s reasonable standards of kneeroom too.
Now let’s have a look at the boot, accessed on all models via this powered tailgate. It rises to reveal one of the largest luggage compartments in the mid-sized SUV segment, offering a 650-litre capacity that’s 100-litres bigger than you’d get in, say, a rival Mercedes GLC, a total bettered in the sector only by Land Rover’s Discovery Sport.
With all three rear seat segment portions dropped down, the floor isn’t quite flat, but the 1,740-litre cargo capacity provided is impressively big for this class of car.
All of which leaves this Jaguar as a very tough act to fault. It’s one of the stand-out contenders in this corner of the SUV market, no small achievement when you look at the quality of the competition. True, it might not be as rough road-ready as a Land Rover product. Or as track-tailored as a Porsche
Macan. Most buyers in this segment though, don’t want a mid-sized luxury SUV at either of those two extremes. They want a car like this. A sporting SUV to savour.