Jaguar are entering unknown territory with their new F-PACE SUV, having never made anything approaching a 4x4. Although a necessity in the modern marketplace, can such a vehicle ever be a true Jaguar?
The F-PACE SUV is quite a risk for Jaguar and not just for the obvious reason. Sure, it's a new type of car for the British brand but it could also tread on the toes of sister brands Land Rover and Range Rover too. Time to find out if that jump into the unknown has paid off.
If you ask someone to think of a Jaguar, they will invariably name either a sports car - probably an E-Type - or a luxury saloon, an XJ maybe. One thing you'd never associate with the brand is a high-riding SUV - for one simple reason; in its entire history, Jaguar has never produced one. Still, times are a-changing; we've already seen estates and four wheel drive-equipped road cars from the brand for instance. With SUVs and crossovers becoming ever more popular, it was only a matter of time before Jaguar joined that party. Like it or not, the new F-PACE is a critical car for Jaguar, one that is set to outsell the XE saloon and push total output to over 200,000 cars sold per year. It shouldn't be too much of a surprise anyway - the C-X17 concept of 2013 turned out to be very close to what we can now buy for around £35,000 upwards.
Answering how the F-PACE gets down the road depends a lot on which box you ticked when placing your order. The entry level motor is the familiar 2.0-litre 'Ingenium' four cylinder turbodiesel as found in the XE and XF, with rear wheel drive (AWD is optional). The 180PS unit is good for 0-62mph in a reasonable 8.9 seconds and 130mph flat out. Moving up the range, there's an AWD 3.0 litre V6 turbodiesel with 300PS which allows 62mph to pass in a brisk 6.2 seconds. If you want to go faster, there's always the supercharged 3.0-litre petrol unit that's also found in the F-TYPE. 0-62mph takes just 5.5 seconds while it's limited to 155mph. The smaller diesel is the only engine that can be had with a manual transmission - a six-speed unit - with an eight-speed ZF auto an option if you spec AWD. The V6s are only available with the auto. Suspension is the same as you'd find on the XE and XF saloons, meaning double wishbones up front and Jaguar's 'Integral Link' independent setup at the rear. Extensive use of aluminium reduces unsprung weight improving both ride quality and handling too, both things Jaguar are renowned for.
It isn't just the suspension that's shared with the XE and XF saloons; there's also a version of Jaguar's 'Lightweight Aluminium Architecture' that's scalable to a variety of sizes. This, along with a composite tailgate and selective use of magnesium, allows for a weight of under 1700kgs for the entry-level rear wheel drive F-PACE. To put that into perspective, it's nearly 100kg less than a similar BMW X3 that has 30 fewer horsepower. Not only is this Jaguar light, it also has a perfect fifty/fifty weight distribution to help handing too. Style wise, the F-PACE stays surprisingly close to 2013's C-X17 prototype, including plenty of F-TYPE-inspired touches. There are some differences but you can even get 22" wheels for the full concept car look. Incidentally these are not only an inch larger than competitor's wheels but they are better protected against curb damage too thanks to chunky sidewalls for the tyres. You may sit higher than any other Jaguar but it still feels more sports car than SUV and there's no seven-seat option either. At least there are plenty of premium interior touches including real metal and proper wooden veneers. While 'All Surface Progress Control' is an option, don't mistake this for a proper off-roader. Jaguar have cleverly distanced themselves from Land Rover in that respect.
There are four key models within the F-PACE range, 'Prestige', 'R-Sport', 'Portfolio' and 'S'. 'Prestige' may be the starting point at around £35,000 but you still get heated leather seats, a powered tailgate, parking sensors at both ends, 18" alloys, a Bluetooth infotainment system with sat-nav and daytime running lights. Starting at about £37,000, 'R-Sport' adds more aggressive body styling, 19" wheels and sports seats, while for around £52,000 'S' models get one of the V6s, 20" wheels, a rear view camera, a 380w stereo and even sportier styling. 'Portfolio' is the luxury option but can be had with the 2.0-litre diesel for just shy of £40,000. Over 'Prestige', it adds a panoramic roof, heated front screen and headlight washers as well as a leather-effect dashboard top. Options include a 12.3" virtual instrument cluster similar to that offered by Audi, an uprated infotainment system and four-zone climate control. The F-PACE should be commended for offering autonomous emergency braking as standard on all models, along with a lane departure warning system and traffic sign recognition on top of airbags and all the electronic nannies we take for granted these days. Those that tow will also appreciate the trailer stability assist.
The F-PACE possesses a set of economy and emissions figures that many a smaller, slower vehicle would be proud of. The greenest vehicle in the range is the 2.0-litre rear wheel drive diesel which is capable of 57.7mpg on the combined cycle with just 129g of CO2 emitted per kilometre. Should you opt for AWD, economy drops by just 3.4mpg with CO2 up by a lowly 5g/km. Add an automatic to that and economy drops by a single mpg. However, CO2 increases by another 5g/km. If you plan on getting one of the V6s, the diesel manages 47.1mpg and 159g/km, with the petrol only returning 31.7mpg and 209g/km. The former may be pretty appealing but we can't see the latter finding many homes in the UK. A three year unlimited mileage warranty is standard with the F-PACE, although this can be extended with a number a couple of different plans that include a cover for an MOT test failure up to £750, as well as the normal cover for most electrical and mechanical systems. Service intervals are every two years/21,000 miles.
There will almost certainly be purists out there spitting feathers at the thought of a jacked-up Jag. The truth of the matter is that the brand would be mad not to produce an SUV considering BMW, Mercedes, Audi and even Porsche have been making them for years. If Jaguar are to grow and remain profitable, they must listen to a market that's clamouring for crossovers and anything SUV-like. Now we've got that out of the way, we can focus on the F-PACE itself. What you find is a well styled, competitively priced and efficient vehicle that is still most definitely a Jaguar at heart. Equipment levels are generous too and some other manufacturers should take note of the F-PACE and include auto braking as standard on their models too. Overall, this may not be the most accomplished off roader but then, there's always Land Rover for that. We can see the F-PACE selling like hot cakes.
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