Jumping on the SUV bandwagon, can Jaguar, famous for making luxury cars, cut it in the world of 4x4s? Geoff Ashcroft reports.
22-inch wheels suit the F-Pace’s proportions, but spoil the ride.
There is a lot riding on Jaguar’s new F-Pace. It is, after all, quite a departure from the firm’s more usual rides.
Will it steal sales from sister brand Range Rover? Quite possibly, but after a week behind the wheel of the new Jaaaaag, it soon becomes clear the F-Pace is not in the same league.
That is because the F-Pace is very much a tall car which combines a degree of off-road capability with seriously good on-road driving dynamics. It is a sporty 4x4 which once again muddies the SUV waters - just like BMW did when it first launched the X5.
Is the F-Pace up to the job? Well, there is lots of aluminium to keep weight down, and low.
The seating position also feels low, as you sit in a wrap-around interior, rather than on a lofty perch, which helps to disguise its bulky size.
It is not a wafting cruiser, and those on a tight budget can have an F-Pace with a four-pot diesel. We tried the silky-smooth 3.0d S model - a powertrain found in the Range Rover Sport SDV6. So you do get the hugely impressive ZF eight-speed auto-box combined with a 300hp, 700Nm V6. And it does compliment the F-Pace’s sporting credentials, propelling the car to 62mph in 5.8 seconds.
The combined cycle teases with the potential of 47.1mpg - nowhere near my 33mpg from a mix of motorway, A-road, farm track and field driving.
Interior is a nice place to sit, and is well finished.
Ground clearance does inspire confidence away from the road, and flicking through the touchscreen lets you see which axle gets the most torque, and also which way the front wheels are pointing.
There is no low range, but clever electronic trickery does its best to keep all four wheels clawing at the surface.
Our test model came shod on 22-inch wheels - a £1,600 option - which did spoil the ride on anything less than perfect road surfaces. Though its glacier white paintwork with gloss trim and big black wheels made the F-Pace look meaner than a scrap yard dog.
Try as we did to tweak the modes in the Jaguar Drive Control system to find a happy medium for suspension, the ride was either too hard and fidgety or simply too soft. We could not find the Goldilocks button which made things just right.
Load space is not the most accessible, though rear seats do fold flat.
Ride quality aside, the F-Pace is superbly built, with an interior which upholds Jaguar’s credence. An intuitive 8in touchscreen system is quicker and easier to use for nav and controls, though you can up-spec to InControl Touch Pro - a 10.2in central touchscreen plus a customisable LCD dashboard to replace the standard analogue dials.
A week behind the F-Pace’s wheel revealed it to be a competent rival to many a road-biased 4x4, though at times it felt a little under-whelming. As waiting lists grow longer, the level of demand suggests the F-Pace is just what the market has been waiting for. Just steer clear of those 22-inch wheels.