The concept of the sports SUV doesn't resonate with everyone, despite buyers wanting them more than ever. The F-Pace S might just be the most attractive of the lot too.
The 2018 Jaguar F-Pace S is two things – first, it’s a beautifully designed SUV that stands out from the same/same pack it competes with, and second, it’s genuinely fast with an obnoxious exhaust note. The first point will attract buyers in droves, while the second is pure folly, but do they go hand in hand in 2018?
The whole concept of the ‘performance SUV’ is an interesting one. You could argue that Range Rover first defined the concept with the Sport, or that Porsche made significant inroads with the first Cayenne. Now everyone is piling in, and doing it with gusto.
Range Rover Sport SVR, Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk, Maserati Levante, Audi SQ7 and SQ5, Porsche Macan Turbo and Cayenne Turbo S, BMW X5M and X6M, Mercedes-AMG GLC and GLE, and the soon to be released Lamborghini Urus. Even Ferrari is heading into the fray. The list is growing by the day.
If you’re like me, though, you don’t really ‘get’ or love the idea of a performance SUV. It’s funny driving at warp speed on a track in a ridiculously heavy off-roader – for about five minutes. After that, it all starts to get a bit silly. If you want to go fast, buy a sports car. If you need to carry the family around, buy a conventional SUV and save some money.
However, despite that opinion, there are two irrefutable facts. Performance SUVs bolster sales for manufacturers, and buyers want them. It’s that simple. The old ‘don’t hate the player, hate the game’ mantra works here. Don’t take issue with the SUV itself, take issue with the fact people buy them in the first place and create a market for them. One thing is for certain, though, the F-Pace sits atop the pile in a styling sense – its dimensions, short overhangs and body lines are as good as it gets in this segment.
Jaguar also gets a leave pass from some buyers thanks to its heritage and sense of British pomp and pageantry. In 2018, though, that won’t be enough to convince the buying public – certainly not if Jaguar has designs on becoming something of a volume player. There needs to be many strings to its British bow. Fortunately, the F-Pace S, while hardly cheap, is well-armed to head into battle.
The price is one thing – but we’ll get to that in a minute. The real centrepiece of the F-Pace’s portfolio is the snarling, bellowing, supercharged V6 petrol engine under the high-set bonnet. It pumps out 280kW and 450Nm – and sounds incredible doing so – while propelling the F-Pace from 0–100km/h in 5.5 seconds and on to a top speed of 250km/h. Not bad for an SUV that weighs close to 1900kg, which is in fact a lot lighter than some. The ADR fuel claim is, shall we say, optimistic at 8.9L/100km. On test, we used an indicated 13.1L/100km. There’s an exceptional eight-speed automatic backing the V6 and AWD, both of which are needed to extract the best out of the ballistic engine.
So, on to price then… The F-Pace S starts from a not completely ridiculous $104,827 before the usual raft of on-road costs. I write ‘not completely ridiculous’ because, compared to the competition, that’s about on the money really. The problem, as we confront often with JLR product, arrives when you get to the options, and if you want to drive the exact F-Pace as tested here, you’re going to need to access more than $105K. A lot more in fact…
Our test F-Pace S has – in addition to the standard equipment we’ll get to in a minute – the following optional extras: Touch Pro Navigation and Virtual Instrument Display ($5280), sliding panoramic sunroof ($4420), Practicality Pack (including powered gesture tailgate, air quality sensors, lockable cooled glovebox, loadspace partition net, rear seat remote release levers, and Jaguar smart key system – $3850), adaptive cruise control ($3370), 22-inch alloy wheels ($3160), head-up display ($2650), perforated grained leather sports seats ($2640), Cold Climate Pack ($2540), metallic paint ($1890), four-zone climate control ($1890), Connect Pro Pack ($1790), Memory Pack for 18-way sport seats ($1470), 360-degree parking aid ($1280), blind spot monitor and reverse traffic detection ($1180), lane keep assist and driver condition monitor ($1120), illuminated metal tread plates ($1060), interior mood lighting ($990), DAB+ radio ($950), InControl Protect ($690), gloss-black roof rails ($640), and a Luxtec wrapped instrument panel top ($570).
And exhale… That’s right, almost $45K in options, for a whopping $148,257 total price before on-road costs. There’s plenty in the list above that you could rightly expect to be standard in a luxury SUV, but then the starting price would probably be higher too. That’s the way JLR does things, though – start the price low and then charge for all the options on top. It’s a confusing way to set the purchase decision out for the buyer, and plenty of buyers have expressed a desire for JLR to make things simpler.
Standard equipment highlights include: DSC, TCS, torque vectoring, configurable dynamics, AEB, hill start assist, JaguarDrive Control, cruise control and speed limiter, electric power-assisted steering and speed-proportional steering, All Surface Progress Control, trailer stability assist, lane departure warning, front and rear parking aid, rear-view camera, auto-dimming heated door mirrors and heated rear window, rain-sensing wipers, adaptive LED headlights with power wash, front and rear fog lights, dual-zone climate control, Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, grained leather and Suedecloth sports seats, leather steering wheel, red brake calipers with 350mm front rotors, reduced section steel spare wheel, ebony suede cloth headlining and meshed aluminium trim finisher.
As ever, though, the Jaguar experience is about a lot more than the price of entry or the length of the options list. For me, the Jaguar experience is about the sense of luxury and the driving. Climb into the cabin and there’s the premium feel you’re looking for, but it can’t quite match the segment leaders – or stablemate Range Rover for that matter. It’s hard to pinpoint why too – there’s something about the materials, the switchgear, the screens, that just doesn’t feel like it matches the rest of the F-Pace package.
The seating position itself is excellent, visibility broad, and the leather trim high quality. The heated front seats, especially, are beautiful places to be, even for a long country drive. They feel sporty, which suits the F-Pace brief in this specification down to a tee.
The ergonomics are excellent too, the way the switchgear is laid out, and the positioning of it. We like the steering wheel controls, and the driver display is clever and easy to customise to suit your style too. The graphics, however, do look a little old tech. On the other hand, the LED cabin lighting is a functional, premium touch and the central infotainment screen is clear and easy to navigate.
On the subject of navigation, the mapping works well and the system is fast and intuitive. There’s no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, which is an inclusion the segment demands now, but the Bluetooth connection is solid and reliable for both phone and audio streaming. Storage is adequate up front, but not capacious, with a smallish console bin yet large door pockets. We don’t love the mesh cover under the sunroof, which won’t keep enough harsh sunlight and heat out in an Australian summer. Front seat occupants get a HDMI input as well as USB and 12V.
Into the second row, there’s plenty of room for two adults or three children, temperature and fan controls for the air-conditioning, heated seats and two 12V sockets for iPads and other entertainment screens.
The electric tailgate makes accessing the luggage space easy. It’s not too slow like some, and it’s tall enough for six-footers to stand easily beneath it without whacking their head. There’s a sturdy, quality luggage cover, remote seat releases (optional as you would have read above), LED lighting and a 12V socket, plastic bag hooks and a low load height. We easily stowed a full-size bicycle in the back (wheels attached) with the second row folded down.
All those details won’t amount to much, though, if the F-Pace doesn’t feel sporty to drive. The good news is it does, in both soundtrack and performance. The cabin itself is quiet and insulated, with only the raucous exhaust note entering if you open it up and let the windows down.
The steering is sharp and direct, very sports car-like, and the F-Pace feels way more nimble than you expect going in – especially when you consider that you are driving an SUV. You can direct it into corners with precision that most larger SUVs can’t match, and really hustle it along if the mood takes you.
We love the weight of the steering system, which is light at parking speeds but progressively meatier as speed increases. In fact, it’s near perfect for this type of SUV. All round, there’s no doubt the ’S’ in the name is well-earned. This is a properly executed sports SUV. The F-Pace’s weight is actually quite low for an SUV and the handling is assisted significantly by that lack of weight.
Crucially, around town, the brakes and the ride are both excellent. Rolling on 265/40/22 rubber, you’d expect the ride to be jarring and yet it isn’t. The F-Pace steals a bit of Range Rover compliance and soaks up the worst Sydney can throw at it with ease. It feels solid and doesn’t wallow, but the nastiness of the road surface doesn’t crash through into the cabin.
The engine note is quiet enough around town and low down, making progressively more theatrical noise as the revs increase. It’s no bad thing either – you don’t want to be attracting the attention of all and sundry every time you get behind the wheel. Choosing your moments is far more befitting of a luxury SUV – especially a genteel British example.
The F-Pace S isn’t perfect, but in many ways it perfectly nails the somewhat narrow sports SUV brief. It offers a level of exclusivity and brand prestige that some of the more widely available European competitors can’t match by sheer volume of sales. It’s beautiful too, and there’s currency in that.