With the ever faster, more powerful and more expensive evolution of performance SUVs, it’s no wonder that manufacturers have created a subset of high-riding, still fast, yet more attainable product to bask in the halo of their upper-crust family members.
Be it the clever people over in Affalterbach with their AMG-dividing 43 range, or those over the fence in Munich who are now sticking M in front of two or more numbers, instead of just one, the desire to leverage a brand’s performance arm is still as hot and relevant as it’s ever been. Even more so in performance-car-mad Australia.
Jaguar, purveyor of sports cars and sports sedans for many, many years, jumped on board initially with the F-Pace S, then later again with the outrageous SVR.
To some, the thought of combining 'performance' with 'SUV' is a wild juxtaposition that need not exist. However, to those naysayers, the market deems otherwise. For this reviewer, it’s an example of how the market is spurring the evolution of product to make things seemingly not achievable come to life in a great fashion. Having your cake and eating it, I guess? Space and speed. It’s an awesome thing.
Jaguar’s F-Pace S is not a newcomer in the sports SUV realm. Now in its fourth year on sale in Australia, it continues to somewhat elude the curse of aging thanks to grand proportioning and good manners on the road. It is certainly not immune to all facets that the ticking clock affects, however.
Entering the force-fed six-cylinder domain of this 2020 Jaguar F-Pace 35t S will set you back $108,437 (MLP) in base form, which by all means is not insane given the dimensions and powertrain. One thing that is insane is the myriad choices, configurations and options that seem to forever burden the Jaguar Land Rover portfolio. Let’s park that sentiment for a moment.
Addressing the glaringly obvious things first, gee it’s good to look at. The simple matter of fact that the wheels sit so far out on each corner, creating small overhangs, results in a grand first impression. It has a relatively high-placed datum that sets the scene for its lengthy appearance and helps pull the overall height and large 22-inch wheels into order.
It’s not a new design, nor is this new news given the multiple awards it has won, but it’s fair to give some time to revisit and acknowledge some of the points that created such kerb appeal. Specific to the 35t S variant is the 'S' bodykit that introduces unique front and rear bumpers, plus body-coloured lower door cladding and satin chrome finishing.
Once inside, a single press of the awfully tactile start button brings to life the proven three-litre six-cylinder engine nabbed from the first-generation F-Type coupe. Upon commencement, you instantly notice the ring from its pipes. Not the full-fat experience you get from other Jaguar vehicles that have used this engine before; however, it remains plentiful in tone and in keeping with the F-Pace’s character. A suave, burly person need not bellow.
It’s willing and, in a good way, slightly elastic in its power delivery. Keep the jandal firmly pressed and the progressive nature of supercharging becomes apparent. With 450Nm located under said jandal, from 4500rpm, it enjoys being worked.
The engine’s instant response linking to a wonderfully smooth eight-speed torque converter auto is refreshing compared to some of the F-Pace’s inherently laggy foes. Sure, an SVR brings more fanfare and performance. Considering the upfront cost-concession and ongoing savings to be had with the 280kW 35t S variant, it remains a wise choice. A performance SUV that makes its case very clear.
Despite occasionally leaning on it, as well as coasting through peak-hour Sydney traffic from its outskirts to the CBD, it averaged 11.5L/100km compared to an official combined claim of 8.9L/100km. Surprising given the 1932kg mass it’s shifting around.
On the topic of moving its weight, the F-Pace is graced with a suspension package that is still holding its own within the segment. Even with this test vehicle’s optional 22-inch wheels, the ride comfort is excellent. Starting with the dampers on firm, then dialling everything back, really accentuates how supple the ride can be.
The other parts of the chassis have been well selected, which is signified by its smoothness over roads peppered with barely visible defects on a consecutive, high frequency. Not what you would presume from something with a very large wheel/very thin tyre package. The F-Pace S offers a firm sporty edge to the way it gets around without becoming skittish or nervous.
Pushed on smoother, more flowing roads, the big Jag can show its weight. Pitching under heavy braking and the re-centralisation of its mass do take a little time, but it is acceptable given the height and overall sizing of the vehicle. It’s enjoyable around town, as well as at pace. Comfortable through tattier well-worn roads, as well as nice to flow through the smoother sweeping stuff. It’s a great balance, and a sign that getting it right the first time can pay dividends later into a car’s life cycle, as it is doing here. The all-wheel-drive system’s method of commencing with power at the rear, then sending it forward, further bolsters how lively it feels.
Sportiness is also taken quite seriously by Jaguar on the inside, too, it seems. The optional performance seats are a noteworthy choice, despite their hefty price tag of $6250. It isn’t just excellent performance that you get for the dollars. It’s more the sense of occasion they provide that makes the bill a little easier to digest. A sporty SUV requires sporty thrones, and these are just that. Their skinny profile, complete with stitched-back shells, duly informs all onlookers or passengers that this thing is serious. Or at least is packing some heat.
Despite the fancy seats, ingress and egress are not compromised. The hip point of the first row is great and well suited to those who have ease of access top-of-mind. You will find the whole F-Pace family excellent in this regard. The rear door apertures are sound when fully extended, which makes for easy fitment of larger convertible baby seats, alongside using them for loading and unloading children. The front passenger has a decent amount of flexibility with regard to positioning their seat without intruding on the child behind.
Once placed in the back, there is adequate room for a grown adult behind a 6ft 1in driver. Unlike different, stylistic, swoopy-roofed neo-SUVs, there is a sense or airiness and brightness when residing in the back. It does show that you can get away with good looks without sacrificing glasshouse or second-row habitability. An odd design nuance is an overly large overhang on the rear doors aside the handles – this may cause issues accessing the second row in tighter spots.
The totality of the cabin is beginning to show some age. The central infotainment screen, or InControl Touch Pro system, is large and clear; however, the lack of any tactile interaction or haptic feedback feels a little dated. As expected, it is equipped with everything you need from a connectivity point of view – Apple CarPlay plus Android Auto, JLR group’s proprietary app system 'InControl', and onboard weather and news. It also grants access to vehicle systems such as Jaguar’s Configurable Dynamics. A nice feature is a dedicated menu section that you can customise to display what you want, where you want – after all, personalisation is at the heart of luxury.
Dig a bit deeper and other details become apparent. The central digital display, which is criminally on the options list, isn’t as widely configurable or as nicely presented as other European alternatives. It also costs $845. On the flipside to options that should be standard features, a noteworthy piece of kit that comes with the entry price is a 380-watt Meridian 11-speaker sound system.
There is a mixture of materials throughout the cabin, some coming across as premium in nature, others a little less so. It’s this blend of not bad materials with quite nice elements that highlights the age of the cabin. Ambient lighting, loved by some, loathed by others, is also not standard, which could’ve injected a bit of life into the ageing cabin.
A small detail, but worth noting, is that the process used to create the door plastics has left small bits of excess material still attached that are begging to be scraped off with a fingernail. Arguably not worth a mention, but on a $100K+ premium SUV that employs plenty of fine details to lift its perceived craftsmanship, such as JAGUAR inscriptions in tiny fonts throughout the cabin, such little quality issues are of equal importance.
Storage is fair around the cabin. The door pockets are nicely flocked, but do not run the length of the door trim. A visually large central armrest houses USB charging points, but isn’t as cavernous as an initial first inspection suggests. It’s actually quite small, so you’ll find it satisfactory for knick-knacks. The central console is dedicated to the ornate summon-when-started gear shifter to arise from its surroundings, but a nice cubby or two in that area wouldn’t have gone astray. There are two storage pockets either side of the transmission tunnel, but they’re only good for a set of keys.
More importantly, where storage is critical, the F-Pace falls a little short. Out back, the rear cargo area is decent at 508L up to the shelf. Comparing that to the slightly smaller proposition that is the Mercedes-Benz GLC with 550L of cargo space, it demonstrates that the big Jag is actually a little small in areas. however, It’s wide, yet tall, so the space is quite very useable. Combining a larger stroller with a moderate mid-week shop was a breeze. Another nice point is the flat floor that meets nicely with the boot sill.
On the technology front, most important features are there out of the box. Lane-keeping assistance, a driver-condition monitor as well as city-speed emergency braking come with the base price. However, the Driver Assist Pack brings across extra equipment that should be mandatory. Opting for this package also introduces active blind-spot monitoring (can correct steering), 360-degree parking camera, adaptive cruise control, full-speed autonomous braking, as well as a rear cross-traffic alert system.
Which leads me to the aforementioned point about options and specification. The F-Pace 35t S kicks off from $108,437, but in tested spec the price is a different ball game. The previously mentioned, in an ideal world mandatory, Driver Assist Pack is $4795, those wonderful leather performance seats with heating, cooling and electric adjustment are $6250, and a fixed glass roof is $3570.
The 22-inch wheels are $3160, Yulong White duco at $1890, the black exterior package adds another $1650 to the scoreboard, rounding out with privacy glass at $950, crazily priced DAB audio for another $950, and the digital driver display at $845. Gloss-black roof rails, strangely not part of the black pack, are $640, and boot-located second-row seat folding levers for $120. Final price? $133,257 before on-road costs.
A glass roof, fancy wheels and even the seat package, at an eye-watering $6250, seem like nice-to-haves in a premium family SUV. Understandably, they live in the options list where the user can decide what to spend their pennies on. Contrastingly, asking over $2000 for tinted windows, DAB (that you can access via smartphone connectivity anyway), a digital display and rear-seat folding levers seems a little obtuse. Further to that, warranty coverage of 3 years/100,000km is inadequate, given Mercedes-Benz's recent step-up to 5 years/unlimited km.
It’s a sore point that brings the experience down a little. The dizzying array of choices has all the makings of something confusing. I wonder how many vehicles are bought from already landed stock versus special orders that people patiently wait for. I’m sure that if this isn’t your first rodeo, you probably know more about your ideal configuration than the person in the dealership. Therefore, this concern poses no issue. But for a fresh walk-in, there is a lot to take in.
Thankfully, the aftersales side of Jaguar ownership is a little easier to understand, and not bad value, either. Maintaining the F-Pace S via Jaguar's servicing plan will cost $2250 over five years, averaging out to $450 per year. However, if the service plan doesn't suit your requirements, costs can vary depending on your location, so we'd recommend calling a few retailers to discover pricing.
A facelift is due for the F-Pace range in 2020, which does mean the outgoing product makes for good buying at the time of this review. As for what the midlife update will bring, we know that visual changes to the front face and rear will occur. Internally, it is possible that the infotainment system may be updated to feature the JLR family’s latest Touch Pro Duo system as seen in the Range Rover Velar and Jaguar I-Pace. Time will tell.
Deep into the end of the first-series F-Pace, the 35t S model still provides the hallmarks of a solid, premium SUV. Its visual clout, clever dynamics and strong powertrain still make sense in today’s marketplace. Throwing in the decent-sized boot and healthy second row means the more fundamental attributes as to why you’d purchase one would continue to serve your family well long into the future.
Aside from the small quality qualms and a specification maze with no real guide, finding the ideal outgoing example quite close to a new iteration may pose a slight challenge.
Does the price concession against a hi-po SVR, and its ageing genes, still result in a balanced middle ground of performance and street appeal versus the rest? I’d say so, and if you’re in the market for a premium, fast SUV, the F-Pace S is definitely worthy of strong consideration.