Jaguar F-PACE 2020 25t r-sport awd (184kw)

2020 Jaguar F-Pace review: 25t R-Sport AWD

Rating: 7.9
$80,167 Mrlp
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Jaguar's most affordable petrol AWD F-Pace, the 25t R-Sport, certainly looks on the money. But does it really inject enough 'sport' into the term sport utility vehicle?
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The 2020 Jaguar F-Pace 25t R-Sport AWD, to give our example its full name, is a sporty spin on the sporty marque’s family-hauler range that many consider to be sportier out of the box than your average premium mid-sized, erm, sport utility vehicle.

But at $80,167 list, this particular variant in the F-Pace’s almost dizzying choice of (at best count) 18 different versions sits as a relatively hip pocket-friendly take, if wanting petrol-AWD motivation and as many sporty layers as a budget-conscious approach permits.

There are many faster and more furious F-Pace choices, no doubt, than this turbo-four iteration. But this is ostensibly the entry point to the range if you’re dodging diesel and rear-wheel drive.

Further, it’s not a small step down to the mid-$77K mark for a rear-drive 25t R-Sport, the range’s ground floor, but a fair leap over a small army of more powerful four- and six-cylinder versions to reach the V8 heights of the mighty circa-$140K SVR (see our review here).

This does make you wonder how sporty this supposedly multi-sporty Jag could be.

Key R-Sport features include a specific bodykit and front and rear ends, adaptive LED headlights, 19-inch wheels and black highlights outside, with perforated leather trim, sports seating and other sporty accoutrements inside.

In short, the overall presentation and vibe fit the brief, even if the ‘sensible’ rolling stock and its chunky 55-series rubber expose the budget leanings. Wheels up to 22 inches in size, plus a meaner Chequered Flag appearance bundle, can be optioned at further cost.

A mid-2019 update bolstered the features list with an upgraded 10.0-inch Touch Pro infotainment system with InControl apps and smartphone mirroring, and a general spruce-up with the headlining, controls, cabin trim and switchgear. Some nice and properly premium goodies abound, from the 10-way electric seat adjustment (with four-way lumber adjustment), auto-dimming rear-view mirror, faux-leather ‘Luxtec’ door and dash trimming, Jaguar emblem puddle lights, a powered tailgate, power-folding/heated wing mirrors, and 380 watts of 11-speaker Meridian audio.

However, our test car bumps up to $94,712 before on-roads with a number of options, many of which perhaps oughtn’t be. A Driver Assist Pack ($4795) adds blind-spot assist, a 360 camera, adaptive cruise control with all-speed AEB, and rear traffic monitor – because the standard-fit low-speed AEB/lane-keeping/reversing camera combination is a little on the slim side for safety and assistance.

Other assorted upgrades fitted are metallic paint ($1890), expanded Black Pack ($1430), a panoramic roof ($3570) plus stuff such as DAB+ ($950), privacy glass ($950), front seat heating ($840) and rear seat remote levers ($120) that should otherwise come standard on an $80K medium SUV.

The cabin is quite decent: a smart design that still looks fresh despite its advancing age, adventurous and fetching in its two-toned Ebony and Light Oyster scheme, but falls somewhat short in touch and in some of its details.

The leather appears more sumptuous than it feels, the seats flatter and stiffer than is ideally comfortable, and despite the 2019 updates it's still a bit plasticky in some of the controls and switchgear. Still, that signature rotary transmission controller and the funky wraparound ‘horizon line’ add nice flamboyance to the general ambience.

It fully embraces the old design trick of investing most effort in the conspicuous line of sight and keeping cost-consciousness hidden just outside of it, so the cabin sparkle becomes duller the closer (and lower) you inspect it. The suede-like headlining is fantastic, the stitched faux-leather trimmings are welcoming, but the cheap-o plastic on the lower door cards is really below a premium par.

The newish 10.0-inch infotainment is a mixed bag – fine camera work, acceptable sat-nav, clumsy audio interface – and while there are ample connectivity outlets – four USBs and two 12V outlets in the console alone – some inductive phone charging would be nice.

Row-two accommodation is tight, average by mid-sized SUV measures, and a squeeze for three across its narrow confines. The boot space measures a respectable if hardly class-leading 508L with the 40:20:40 split-fold rears in play and 1740L with the rear seats stowed. An impressively humongous ‘space-saver’ spare wheel sits under the flat boot floor.

It’s perhaps unfair to hit the F-Pace too hard for not being the most comfort-focused and generously spacious choice in the segment, if only because it pitches the sportiness angle quite assertively. It wants to balance practicality with a sense of athleticism, and in areas reviewed thus far, it strikes that intended balance quite well. But what about on-road?

The F-Pace’s ‘25t’ designation means 184kW and 365Nm from two litres of turbocharged petrol four plied through a conventional eight-speed automatic and all four wheels.

Unlike, say, the more luxury-leaning Portfolio versions, the R-Sport adds Configurable Dynamics control, though it’s not a more comprehensive ‘active’ system as used in the high-spec V6-powered S versions. Handling credentials are bolstered with torque vectoring via wheel braking.

Those are not unhealthy outputs, and on the march the turbo four musters up enough herbs to thrust 1840kg-odd confidently, even if the 100km/h mark takes just under seven seconds to arrive from the standstill. And at cruising velocity, the powertrain lolls away smoothly and quietly without annoyance.

But what catches the ‘25t’ powertrain flat-footed is urban work. On-command response is a bit tardy and inconsistent unless you activate Sport mode, which is a little too assertive and highly strung in calibration to remain switched on around town.

And while the auto is no slacker, its action can get a bit unruly when it tends to want to hold onto ratios at length when it’s unwarranted.

To be fair, these are common symptoms of small capacity, high-boosted engines tasked with propelling hefty SUVs. Further, this so-called Ingenium engine punches significantly harder than the typical power units found in most mainstream medium-sized SUVs. As a base engine, the Jag’s ‘25t’ powertrain ultimately had to trade some drivability for sheer stonk.

And with a ‘sports’ brief to fulfil, engineers opted for more of the latter, which also bears out in consumption. Hovering around the 10.0L/100km mark for mixed driving throughout our week of testing, it’s neither overly thirsty nor anywhere near its maker’s 7.4L/100km claim.

It’s unsurprising, all things considered, that the suspension tune errs on the firmer side. This pays dividends behind the wheel, with satisfying steering, a cheerful dynamic demeanour, and quite ironclad grip from those 255mm-wide Goodyear Eagle F1s. And its 325mm front anchors feel powerful and trustworthy.

It’s just a shame the ride and bump control isn’t quite as resolved as it could be. Despite those chunky 55-series sidewalls, the F-Pace picks up a lot of small road imperfections and there’s a little too much tyre roar penetrating the cabin space. The chassis also pitches excessively over speed bumps, and isn’t terribly interested in settling down quickly over speed bumps, either.

The warranty is Jaguar’s typical three-year/100,000km surety, while there’s an upfront servicing plan of $1950 that covers you for the first five years (102,000km) and includes access to five years of roadside assistance.

Jaguar’s F-Pace remains a handsome and charismatic choice in the premium medium-sized SUV landscape, but is the R-Sport 25t our pick of the buck-banging end of the range? Well, not necessarily in our test car’s roughly $95K optioned guise.

We’d ideally sneak up to ‘30t’ engine spec, liberating 221kW from the 2.0-litre turbo four and knocking almost a full second off the 0–100km/h sprint.

In R-Sport AWD guise, that’s $86,457 list, or a bit over a six-grand upcharge, to which we add the sole option of larger 20-inch wheels at an extra $1790. It’d ‘flaunt the sport’ a bit harder – and deservingly so – while maintaining a thrifty $90K cap before on-roads.

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