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Car reviews - Jaguar - F-Pace - range

Our Opinion

We like
Design, cargo and cabin space, performance of supercharged petrol and 3.0L turbo-diesel engines, steering, ride quality
Room for improvement
Uninspiring interior design, slightly lacklustre performance from 2.0L diesel, noisy cabin

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Jaguar logo14 Jul 2016

By TIM NICHOLSON

BRINGING an entirely new model to market is a big risk, particularly when it is a model that you have never attempted before.

But the boffins at Jaguar are pretty confident that their first ever SUV – the just-launched F-Pace – is strong enough to tempt more than a few buyers over from the usual German suspects.

They include Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz, but this time the competitor set extends to Porsche as the F-Pace is being marketed as something of a sportscar on stilts, putting it in the cross hairs of the Macan.

The dimensions of the F-Pace place it somewhere between the mid-size set – BMW X3, Audi Q5, Mercedes GLC, Porsche Macan – and their larger stablemates – BMW X5, Audi Q7, Mercedes GLE, Porsche Cayenne.

Given the sporty looks, you can throw in the swoopy BMW X4/X6 and Mercedes GLE Coupe and forthcoming GLC Coupe for good measure.

Those looks alone are likely to sell more than a few cars before anyone has even driven the F-Pace.

Heavily influenced by the design of the C-X17 concept from the 2013 Frankfurt motor show, the F-Pace is one striking SUV.

It looks tall in the metal but the sharply raked tailgate, modern front-end design, F-Type inspired rear end, massive wheels and beautifully shaped glasshouse make for a dynamic look that is absolutely arresting.

There are some attractive sporty/premium SUVs on the market – the Macan is an obvious pick – but there is genuinely nothing on the road that looks like an F-Pace. And we reckon that is a good thing.

According to Jaguar design director Ian Callum, who was on hand at the Australian launch to talk about his latest creation, the F-Pace design takes elements from Jaguar’s past, including the bulging bonnet that was influenced by the first XJ, and the tail-lights which are pure F-Type, via the iconic E-Type from the 1960s.

It hints at the past while being thoroughly modern and remaining faithful to Jag’s current design language as seen on the XE and XF sedans.

Inside, the F-Pace’s relationship to the XE and XF is even clearer, with the centre stack controls, steering wheel and dashboard carrying a familiar look.

In terms of practicality, the F-Pace has an impressive 508 litres of boot space (international models fitted with a tyre repair kit have a larger capacity but Australian models are offered with a space-saver spare as standard), which rises to 1688 litres with the second row folded.

It’s an impressive cargo space and it appears capable of swallowing an entire family’s luggage. There are various options like switches to lower the rear seat backrests and cargo nets that might also come in handy.

Despite the sleek shape, there is plenty of headroom in the second row, as well as ample legroom. It is much roomier than its exterior dimensions suggest. Call it a sportscar all you want Jaguar, but this is a solid family SUV.

Our first taste behind the wheel is in the F-Pace First Edition S 35t that retails for $120,412 plus on-roads, making it the range flagship. First Editions are only available in the first year of production, according to Jag.

This variant is fitted with the InControl Touch Pro connectivity system that includes a 10-inch capacitive touchscreen, a 60GB solid-state hard drive and a 12.3-inch high-definition virtual instrument display.

The whole system is impressive and the massive screen is clear, with Jag’s system proving a cinch to navigate. We were impressed by Jag’s infotainment setup in the XE and the XF and the F-Pace takes it a step further.

The TFT digital instrument cluster is similar to Audi’s Virtual Cockpit and it is impressive. Having the sat-nav instructions displayed to the left of the screen means you don’t need to divert your eyes far from the road to know when the next turn is coming.

Being the top-spec model, the S 35t has high-end materials and interesting colour choices for the upholstery and dash with appealing stitching.

The cabin in general, however, feels slightly generic. It just doesn’t feel that special. Compared to the flawless Audi Q7 interior, or the wonderful Porsche Macan cabin, it falls behind.

The uninspiring interior is soon forgotten once the F-Pace is up and running.

We only had a brief taste of the S 35t, but we are familiar with the 280kW/450Nm supercharged V6 engine from the XE and the gorgeous F-Type.

With this powertrain, the all-wheel drive (standard across the range) F-Pace can race from 0-100km/h in 5.5 seconds.

Taking off from a standing start is a joy as the F-Pace reaches speed in to time at all and does so without fuss. The eight-speed auto – in all variants we sampled – is a smooth shifter, so much so that gear changes barely registered.

Unfortunately the terrific engine/exhaust note of the big V6 can only be enjoyed if you are outside the car. Much like the XE S, it is muted in the F-Pace.

In fact, we wonder if enough has been done to ensure adequate noise, vibration and harshness levels in the F-Pace. A lot of noise gets into the cabin, mainly through the floor and at times it is a little too noisy.

After a brief stint on the roads around Byron Bay, we got the chance to take the F-Pace where not many buyers will ever take their premium SUV – off road.

Jag wanted to show off its All Surface Progress Control system, which assists the F-Pace when pulling away on surfaces such as ice, snow and wet grass. It’s sort of like an autonomous off-road system. You set it and take your foot off the pedals and it wades, climbs or traverses for you. It’s a rather clever system and could avert an awkward bogging situation.

Next up was the entry-level F-Pace – the 20d Prestige that starts the range off at $74,340.

Without the fancy flourishes of the top-end variant, the cabin – bathed in a very dark grey – feels quite drab. In fact we were left wondering whether it felt any more premium than a top-spec Kia Sorento.

There are of course lovely Jag touches – we will never get tired of the pop-up gear selector – but the hard leather on the seats drags it down.

The smaller screen with the InControl Touch system is, again, easy to use, but the larger screen from higher-end versions fitted with InControl Touch Pro helps lift the overall feel of the cabin.

Under the bonnet is the only Ingenium engine in the range – that’s Jag’s name for its new-generation lightweight, fuel-efficient powertrains.

The 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel unit pumps out 132kW/430Nm. It’s 8.3s 0-100km/h feels optimistic and when attempting to overtake on a flat road, the F-Pace struggles to pick up the required pace with a foot planted to the floor with only average response.

There is no mistaking the fact you are in a diesel. It lacks the smoothness of some of its German rivals – again the Macan, Benz’s latest diesels and BMW.

We have sampled – and loved – this engine when paired with the impressive XE, which is why we found it odd that the 20d Prestige left us a little cold. It is only about 100kg heavier than the sedan so it wasn’t extra weight holding it back.

Oddly, later in the day we sampled a 20d R-Sport ($80,090) and it felt more responsive, quicker and had less diesel engine noise. We are still unsure why there was such a difference between the two given they have the same powertrain.

The surprise package, and the sweet spot of the F-Pace range, however, is the 30d.

Like most of the engines, it is available in different spec grades but we were in the $90,350 R-Sport that was dressed up in a stunning British Racing Green and the $1360 R-Sport Black Pack that includes gloss black radiator grille and surround, body-coloured door claddings with gloss blackfinishers, gloss black side window surround and side power vents with an R-Sport badge.

The Ford-sourced 3.0-litre turbo-diesel V6 delivers a meaty 221kW at 4000rpm and 700Nm at 2000rpm and is deliciously quick from a standing start (0-100km/h in 6.2s) but hits its stride higher up the rev range.

It loses the diesel rattle of the 2.0-litre unit and pairs magically with the eight-speed auto.

In all variants, the F-Pace steering – it is the same electric-assisted power steering system from the XE/XF – is peerless, offering sharp but smooth turn-ins, while being weighted perfectly in either dynamic or comfort settings.

The way this SUV steers is a true highlight, and follows on from the praise heaped on the XE and XF.

The double-wishbone front and Integral Link rear suspension configuration is also taken from its sedan siblings makes for a dynamically superior SUV.

The height of the F-Pace means it is never going to feel as flat as the XE through corners – there is the slightest hint of bodyroll – but that does not mean it can’t carve through sweeping bends or take corners like a smaller car.

Jag’s damper settings ensure the F-Pace rides beautifully as well, soaking up potholes and other corrugations without fuss and doing it better than a number of its rivals. Take note stiff-riding Germans.

Fuel efficiency generally needs to be taken with a grain of salt when it is recorded on a car launch given how enthusiastically motoring journalists drive, but we saw figures ranging from 8.2 litres per 100km in the R-Sport 20d (official figure is 5.3L) and 9.1L/100km in the 30d (official figure is 6.0L).

Jaguar is expecting big things from the F-Pace and it is anticipating a lot of buyers coming across from other brands.

From a purely design perspective, we don’t think they will have any trouble there. But thankfully there is more to the F-Pace than its handsome looks.

There is genuine practicality and flexibility to the cabin, meaning the F-Pace can easily handle family holidays as well as school runs, and it will look fabulous in the process.

In the past, Jaguar’s reputation for reliability and quality has been questioned and has led to some consumers staying away from the brand.

Improvements to quality standards in production and a five-year servicing plan in Australia will likely give more buyers peace of mind than they may have had 10-20 years ago.

There are aspects of the F-Pace package that we see as perhaps needing attention – the uninspiring cabin for one – but overall there is a lot to like, and the fact that it is different to the German offerings will also win it many fans.

If the XE announced Jaguar’s intentions to the world as a serious contender in the premium segment, the F-Pace shows that the British marque means business.

The Germans have been warned.

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