The first ever Jaguar SUV is a looker, but is it more than just skin deep?
The 2017 Jaguar F-Pace is perhaps one of the most energetic and refreshing SUVs on the market today, but can the British brand truly extend itself to such a vehicle?
On its own, Jaguar’s first ever SUV is a stunner. Every angle and detail comes from the continuing genius of designer Ian Callum and his team, who have created dozens of timelessly beautiful cars such as the Aston Martin DB9.
If you think back to other luxury sports car manufacturers that made the plunge into the SUV world years ago, notably Porsche and BMW, Jaguar’s entry is a far more stylistically sound approach that resonates the brand’s DNA without selling the farm in the process.
Jaguar Australia is offering the new F-Pace in 12 different variants and with four different engine options. Prices start from $74,340 plus on-road costs for the base model Prestige 20d 2.0-litre diesel all the way up to the $120,415 First Edition S 35t supercharged petrol V6. Full details, specifications and equipment level information on the new F-Pace can be found here.
There’s a reason why Jaguar has made the F-Pace. The market demands it. So much so that Jaguar Australia expects it to become its best-selling model very quickly. But while we may think of it as the best-looking SUV on the market today, is there substance to its good looks?
We first drove the F-Pace in Montenegro earlier this year and found it to be a very competent dynamic package that offers similar levels of performance to the Porsche Macan, but with some limitations. Having driven it on local roads now, we can say the experience has only improved.
It may appear from the outside to be a whole class larger than German rivals such as Macan, Audi Q5 and BMW X3, but in fact it’s more the clever design work of Callum that gives it those strong proportions rather than sheer bulk. In essence, it sits somewhere between an X3 and an X5, or a Macan and Cayenne.
That in itself has a great amount of appeal for families with two kids that can’t survive with the small rear seat space of a Macan but want to have elements of its dynamic ability without having to go up a whole size.
Jump inside and the F-Pace is an immediately familiar place to any recent Jaguar Land Rover owner. From the well-established rotary dial for gear selection to the placement of buttons and switchgear, the F-Pace doesn’t move the dial with its interior design language, but it also doesn’t fall short of where it needs to be. It’s perhaps not as eloquently appointed as a Porsche (nor is it priced as such), but it’s on par with its other German rivals (though an argument can be made in favour of the Mercedes-Benz GLC).
The front seats are comfortable and well supported, with generous storage space around the cabin for wallets, phones and the usual necessities of life. The USB port in the glovebox also fast-charged our iPhone which was a huge bonus, though all F-Pace models lack Apple CarPlay or Android Auto which is a bummer as the company’s own infotainment system (either via the standard 8.0-inch touchscreen or the $4000 option-able 10.2-inch screen) can be a little frustrating to use at times.
The second row is relatively spacious and can comfortably sit two big adults for long drives, or accommodate two bulky child seats (ISOFIX standard) with enough room for a five or 10 year old in the middle. Despite its sweeping coupe-like appearance, we didn’t really find headroom to be an issue in any seat (tester measures 179cm tall). The 508L boot is perhaps not as big as some may require, but will easily still fit a large pram and a whole load of groceries without a hitch.
Something else you’ll notice while inside is just how quiet it is. Whether you go for the standard 19-inch wheels or option up to the larger 20-, or even 22-inch numbers, road noise intrusion into the cabin during our test drive around Byron Bay was better than we had expected.
The first and perhaps more important thing about the F-Pace is that it needs a few options to make it work. While the entry pricing is rather reasonable against its competitors, Jaguar has taken a giant leaf out of the Germans' book of options and applied it liberally to the F-Pace.
Features such as keyless entry are not standard on the Prestige, R-Sport, S or even the top-spec First Edition (only on Portfolio), instead requiring a $1800 box that is basically a mandatory tick if one intends to actually use the F-Pace.
There are too many other examples to list ($800 for heated front seats on every single variant), but this is one worth noting, as there are cars that cost less than $20,000 drive-away with these features standard.
Then again, buying an F-Pace is not a logical decision. Buying a Jaguar is not a logical decision. Those that find themselves drawn to the F-Pace already know that beauty comes at a cost. Thankfully then, in the F-Pace’s case at least, it’s well and truly worth it.
Behind the wheel the F-Pace is nothing like the similarly sized Land Rover Discovery Sport or the dynamically-challenged and ageing Audi Q5 or BMW X3. It’s much sportier in its feel and road-going manner. Jaguar claims it's on par with the Porsche Macan dynamically and while that may be true on a racetrack, it doesn’t necessarily translate to the road.
The steering can feel relatively light and almost a little too sensitive, which is ideal for parking and getting in and out of tight spaces, but may take some getting used to when driven at speed. Meanwhile, those that opt for the First Edition or option up the massive 22-inch wheels will feel the bumpy roads through the cabin as the F-Pace tends to bounce around a little bit when looking its best.
On the plus side, the F-Pace turns into corners with almost as much confidence as the Macan, in fact, it tends to bite better and settle itself quicker than its German rival. It’s undeniably fun to drive fast, yet behaves like a mundane soccer-mum SUV when asked to.
We were expecting its ride to be far less comfortable on the standard 19- or even the optional 20-inch wheels without the adaptive dynamic pack ($2530) but we can report that it’s easy to live with day in day out.
Certainly, its dual-purpose character as a dynamically capable yet very city-friendly SUV puts it alongside Porsche’s efforts and ahead of its more mainstream German rivals.
On the safety side, autonomous emergency braking and lane departure warning are standard, but you’ll need to tick a few more boxes to get more advanced safety features that rivals such as Mercedes-Benz now offer as standard on the higher-spec models. Thankfully though, front and rear parking sensors are standard (and needed) and while forward visibility is great, you will make a lot of use from the high resolution reversing camera (standard) as it’s not easy to see out the back.
In terms of the sweet spot in the range, the R-Sport trim in a gorgeous Italian racing red would be our pick for its sporty look and presence, and one can certainly make an argument to go for the highpower 280kW 3.0-litre V6 supercharged petrol (as found in the F-Type) as an engine choice.
As fun as that would be, in reality even the base model 2.0-litre diesel with its 132kW and 430Nm does a very respectable job of a city-friendly SUV. If you intend to do long distance drives on the highway and have a habit of constantly overtaking other cars, certainly the 3.0-litre diesel option is the pick of the bunch with a very hefty 221kW of power and 700Nm of torque.
Overall, we are well and truly enamoured with the new Jaguar F-Pace, not just for being the best looking SUV on the market, but also for its completeness as a very dynamically capable package that still offers all the practical requirements that it should. So much so, that we traded in our Land Rover Discovery Sport for one.