Under the svelte skin, the new Jaguar F-Pace R Design is based on the same aluminiuim architecture as the XF, while the four wheel drive system is derived from that used on the F-Type.
On paper, the F-Pace is as new as they come. Rumours of Jaguar building an SUV started in the 1990s, but it’s taken until now for one to arrive. It’s designed to offer the space and practicality that SUV buyers demand while still looking, and crucially, also driving, like a real Jaguar should.
Under the svelte skin, the F-Pace is based on the same aluminium architecture as the XF, while the four-wheel-drive system is derived from that used on the F-Type. It also gets some off-road technology as well as some neat tricks of its own.
Finished in the striking caesium blue of the special first edition model and riding on the vast 22in alloy wheels, the F-Pace is a superb looking machine in the flesh. It is a coherent design too, not just a Jaguar grille applied to a tall car, with obvious nods to other Jaguar models and a sense of style and speed. The lower-specification models still look good too, although it’s likely that the 22in wheels will become something of an essential choice.
There’s no doubt Jaguar’s image has been on the up for the best part of a decade now and it’s certainly ready to carry an SUV in its range. With the reputation of its other models well cemented, it may just become the driver’s pick in the segment.
There’s no escaping the fact that buyers move into SUVs from other models because they want the space, whether they use it or not, but Jaguar has clearly done its homework. It’s a mid-sized machine but inside it feels big, front and rear. From the driver’s seat you get the better view out, but still with a saloon-like driving position, with plenty of leg and elbow room.
There’s excellent legroom in the back too and sufficient width for three adults, though headroom is fine up to average heights with the optional sunroof. The boot is huge at 650 litres with the seats in place and it’s well sized; long and tall as well as wide with no irritating intrusions, with plenty of useful storage in the cabin too.
It’s a complement to the F-Pace and the team behind it that sometimes it’s easy to think you’re behind the wheel of a Jaguar saloon. Regardless of engine choice there is a sweetness and a directness to the response from the controls, in particular the steering, that demonstrates a commitment to driving pleasure. Whether you’re just ambling around town or destroying a B-road, the F-Pace flows along as well as its saloon siblings.
The 375bhp 3.0-litre supercharged V6 petrol is likely to be the least popular option, but it’s definitely the most fun. It rasps and crackles when extended and makes the F-Pace a real sporting car. During a long drive on some challenging country roads, it made fantastic progress, being quick, controlled and composed.
The 2.0-litre diesel with 178bhp will be the best seller in and, while it can’t compete with the V6 petrol on performance, it has a strong set of figures; 318lb.ft of torque, 0-62mph in 8.7 seconds, 53.3mpg combined and 139g/km of CO2. The eight-speed automatic shifts quickly and smoothly to make the most of the engine torque and noise levels are kept in check.
Even though it will almost never be used this way, the F-Pace still has genuine off-road ability too. All surface progress control allows the driver to set a desired speed below 19mph and the F-Pace will trickle along, managing the brakes and accelerator up or down hill as you steer.
The entry-model in the F-Pace range is the two-wheel-drive Prestige 2.0- litre diesel manual costing €42,926, which comes with cruise control, torque vectoring, front and rear parking sensors, traffic sign recognition, 18in alloy wheels and the InControl Touch infotainment system with DAB and satellite navigation, which for many buyers will be all the kit they’ll ever need.
There’s even a clever gadget called the activity key, which is a rubberised waterproof wrist strap that allows you to lock the actual keys in the car during sports or activities, and is unlocked by simply touching the boot badge with the strap. It’s a smart idea.
The F-Pace is a car with exceptionally broad appeal. It has the SUV presence and heft that buyers are keen on, but it’s better to look at than any of its rivals.
It’s also great fun to drive as well as relaxing, which will make it more appealing to buyers who need to trade up for more space. And those who do need space should find the F-Pace has as much as they need, with the reassurance of off-road security. The F-Pace could be the car that blows the competition out of the water.
This car summed up in a single word: Complete
If this car was an...: indicator of Jaguar’s future. It’s looking exceptionally rosy.
Jaguar F-Pace R Sport 2.0D AWD Auto, £40,360 (price not available for Ireland)
Engine: 2.0-litre diesel unit producing 178bhp and 318lbft of torque
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic driving all four wheels
Performance: Top speed 129mph, 0-62mph in 8.7 seconds
Economy: 53.3mpg combined
Emissions: 139g/km of CO2
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