Jaguar F-Pace: Jaguar's first SUV is a good one
Resistance is futile - even Jaguar is now building SUVs
RESISTANCE is futile. Even Jaguar, for so long synonymous with graceful sports cars and elegant saloons, has thrown in the towel and joined the ranks of the purveyors of sports utility vehicles, writes William Scholes.
As we have often reported on these pages, SUVs of all shapes and sizes are zeroing in on a third of the new car market in Europe.
It is an enormous surge in popularity for a style of car which was essentially a specialist niche a little over 10 years ago.
But the fact that just about one in three of every new car is something like a Nissan Qashqai, Renault Captur, Mazda CX-5, Land Rover Discovery or Audi Q7 makes for compelling automotive economics; if punters want raised driving positions, pseudo off-road styling and the practicality of an SUV, then that is what the car-makers will give them.
Even marques like Rolls-Royce, Lamborghini and Ferrari realise they need to offer a SUV, and are readying their own versions as you read this.
Other car-makers who used also to find such a style of car inimical to their long-established brand values - that's you, Maserati, Alfa Romeo and Bentley - have already got there.
Which brings us to Jaguar.
Today, of course, Jaguar is sister company to Land Rover. They share engines, gearboxes, electronics and other components.
And while no other nameplate has the bona fide off-road credentials to match those of Land Rover, that still hasn't stopped Jaguar - the creator of paragons like the E-Type and XJ saloon - pursuing the SUV trail.
Jaguar's first SUV is the car on these pages, the F-Pace. It debuted in 2016, promising an authentically sporty take on the SUV.
Since then, Jaguar has shown us a smaller SUV, the E-Pace - a confusing name which people assume denotes an electric vehicle.
Instead, the company's upcoming electric car is called the I-Pace, presumably to align it in the minds of customers with Apple's smartphones and tablets; people can decide for themselves if this is a smart move or otherwise.
The F-Pace shares much of its underpinnings with Jaguar's XE and XF saloons. It gets the same engines, of which the oddly lacklustre 2.0-litre diesel unit is the biggest seller.
Size-wise, the F-Pace is pitched most obviously against a wide range of talented competitors such as the BMW X3, Audi Q5, Volvo XC60, Alfa Romeo Stelvio and, from in-house, the Land Rover Discovery Sport.
With a mid-£30k starting price, it also closely matches those cars on money. At the £50,000-plus upper reaches of the F-Pace price list, cars like the Porsche Macan and BMW X5 are also within reach.
The F-Pace shoots straight towards the top of posh SUV class, and is at ease against longer-established rivals like the Audi Q5 and BMW X3
The 2.0-litre four-cylinder diesel is available in three tunes - 161bhp, 178bhp and 237bhp. It's a perfectly adequate unit, though without the polish, refinement and smoothness of competitors from BMW, Audi and Volvo.
The one you really want, though, is the creamy 3.0-litre V6 diesel with 296bhp - though it is only fitted to the £50k-plus versions.
Petrol duties are catered for by a 2.0-litre four-cylinder with either 247bhp or 296bhp. They are brisk enough, but to put genuine pace into your F-Pace you will need the supercharged 3.0-litre V6 - good for 375bhp and a 0-62mph time of just 5.5 seconds.
Versions with the 161bhp and 178bhp diesels have six-speed manual gearboxes and rear-wheel-drive as standard, though you can opt for all-wheel-drive and an eight-speed automatic gearbox on the 178bhp.
All other engines come with automatic gearboxes and four-wheel-drive.
Trim levels start at Prestige, move up to either luxo-leaning Portfolio or sporty-themed R-Sport, and top out at S, which comes only with the most potent engines.
Prestige models are well equipped - heated and electrically adjustable leather front seats, dual-zone climate control, parking sensors and a powered tailgate are all standard.
R-Sport cars gain sports seats with perforated leather, larger 19-inch alloy wheels, xenon headlamps and lots of cosmetic sporty trim.
Portfolio models get more luxurious seats, heated windscreen and a panoramic glass roof and a beefy 380w sound system.
S trim brings the desirable adaptive suspension and 20-inch alloys.
A feature of the F-Pace, as with most premium cars these days, is the wide range of options - never mind metallic paint and jazzy interior colour schemes, what about a TV and 'activity key', a rubberised wristband that allows you to lock and unlock the car without a proper key or remote, and is apparently ideal for F-Pace owners who are keen surfers.
Adaptive suspension, at £1,185, is worth specifying, for it transforms the F-Pace's ride comfort and consistency.
Other than that, the Jaguar is a big, comfortable car - though the rear door apertures are on the small side - with a large 650 litre boot and enough power sockets and USB connections to help make it ideal family transport.
It is a strict five-seater though. In this respect it's the same as most rivals, so families who want an SUV with seven-seat capability will need to look at a Discovery Sport or something like a Kia Sorento.
More tech-savvy children and teenagers probably won't be thrilled with the in-car infotainment, though. It might be greatly improved over previous Jaguar Land Rover efforts, but it still lags behind what you will find in a BMW or Audi in terms of responsiveness, clarity and ease of operation.
On the move, the F-Pace is one of the most satisfying SUVs to drive.
Handling is sufficiently car-like to mean you don't really miss the dynamics of a low-slung saloon or estate in everyday driving.
The F-Pace's chassis seems to be blessed with an enormous amount of grip, thanks chiefly to its big, wide tyres. The Jaguar is set-up in such a way that it is effectively rear-wheel-drive all of the time, though it can funnel half of its torque to the front axle should it lose traction.
And while it isn't as telepathic as something like a Mazda MX-5, the steering is better than most of the numb helms you will find in SUVs.
The 3.0-litre F-Paces go, to use a phrase, like stink. The 2.0-litre diesels are perfectly fine, but have the same sort of dead throttle response and noisy-under-acceleration characteristics we've noted in other Jaguar Land Rover applications of the same drivetrain.
To put genuine pace into your F-Pace you will need the supercharged 3.0-litre V6 - good for 375bhp and a 0-62mph time of just 5.5 seconds
It spoils the Jaguar's otherwise suave and composed disposition, though not disastrously so.
The F-Pace still shoots straight towards the top of posh SUV class, and is at ease against longer-established rivals like the Q5 and X3.
You could buy one and be very happy with your decision, and have no reason for regret - though one wonders if the near-identically priced XF Sportbrake, an exemplar of how a low, long-roofed and sleek estate should look, might not prove an even more satisfying proposition.
It's a nice problem to have - and for now Jaguar seem to have all the bases covered.
AT A GLANCE
Jaguar F-Pace R-Sport 2.0D 180PS AWD
Engine and transmission: 2.0-litre four-cylinder diesel turbo, eight-speed automatic gearbox, four-wheel-drive; 178bhp, 317lb.ft
Performance: Top speed 129mph, 0-62mph in 8.7 seconds
Fuel consumption and CO2: 53.3mpg (EU combined), 36.7 (real world), 139g/km
Car tax: £200 in first year, then £450 annually
Benefit in kind: 29 per cent
Euro Ncap safety rating: Not yet tested