Only the first ever SUV Jaguar has ever produced. The F-Pace might arrive over a decade later than the Germans entered the SUV party, but frankly, who cares – SUV sales continue to go through the roof and Jaguar has already taken a good amount of pre-orders from customers before anyones actually driven it.
Arent SUVs Land Rovers turf?
Absolutely, which is why the F-Pace toes a very different line. A part-time four-wheel-drive system means its rear-drive in normal situations, only sending up to 50 per cent of the power to the front tyres when theyre scrabbling around for grip.
It has 213mm ground clearance (the same as a Discovery Sport) and a wading depth of 525mm (175mm less than the Disco), so itll get you safely to your farm house in bad weather, but the focus here is on an SUV thats fun to drive and seductive to look at, not the first choice for Himalayan expeditions.
More sportscar on stilts than full-blown SUV, then?
Thats one way of looking at it, except the F-Pace is still a big lump of metal. At 4.7m long, it sits somewhere between the XE and XF saloons, with whom it shares its flexible Lightweight Aluminium Architecture. But at 1.9m and 1.7m respectively, its significantly wider and taller than both.
Whichever way you measure it, its bigger than the Porsche Macan and smaller than the Cayenne. But thanks to an 80 per cent aluminium structure, the 3.0-litre supercharged V6 model we drove weighs 1,861kg - 80kg less than the equivalent Macan.
The advantages of its relatively long wheelbase and short overhangs – besides what designer-types would call nice proportions - is lots of space inside. All that width means you can easily sit three adults in the back, and there are 650 litres of boot space with the rear seats up, or 1,740 litres with them forward, versus 500/1,500 for the Macan.
What about the bits you cant see?
The suspension is double wishbone front, multi-link rear. Just like the F-Type, as Jaguar is extremely fond of reminding us, but with a fair bit more travel. Variable ratio electromechanical steering (the ratio increases as you increase the lock) is your only option and two stage adaptive dampers can be added, along with wheels ranging from 18 inch to the full-blown 22 inch on the First Edition weve driven here, loaded with every possible extra.
A dynamic mode brings sharper throttle response, more weight to the steering, firmer two-stage dampers and more aggressive mapping for the eight-speed auto, while a torque vectoring system tweaks the inside rear brake to help get the car turned in.
I assume it has engines, too?
Why of course, and youll be familiar with this lot. For company car buyers and anyone with a fondness for their bank account theres the 178bhp four-cylinder 2.0 diesel, available with a six-speed manual or eight-speed auto, and rear- or four-wheel drive. But if your pockets can handle it wed recommend a bit more oomph. The auto and 4WD-only, 296bhp, six-cylinder 3.0d will do 0-100kph in 6.2 seconds, but still return 16.7kpl, for example.
We drove the 375bhp 3.0-litre supercharged V6 thats a snarling animal in the F-Type, but far tamer here. A 0-100kph time of 5.5 seconds isnt slow for something this size, but when youre familiar with its bark and bite in an F-Type, it feels wrapped in cotton wool.
Throttle response is sharp, but could be crisper. Take hold of the paddles, meanwhile, and gear shifts are smart enough, but rounded off at the edges. Unless you really cling onto a cog and let it build to a gnashing crescendo, it sounds gagged.
But that doesnt matter a jot; its how an SUV should be, and well judged by Jaguar. The problem is the engine itself isnt a great fit for the car. We suspect the six-pot diesel is the pick of the bunch.
Enough posturing, does it put the sport in SUV?
Yes and no. As mentioned before, despite its aluminium construction its still a big lump and in sharp corners theres no hiding it. Body control is tighter than any Land Rover model, thats for sure, but theres still more body roll than were used to in modern Jags – thats just physics.
So, you wont be chucking this thing about like a hot-hatch, but then thats the wrong criteria to be judging it against. Ultimately its not as pointy as a Macan, but Jaguar knows that engineering the F-Pace to out-handle the Porsche on a racetrack is a futile exercise. What customers want here is comfort, space and something sexy to pick Hugo up from fives practice in.
The steering is faster than most SUVs, but stops short of feeling twitchy. I wouldnt say theres any meaningful feedback, but the way it weights up is certainly consistent, allowing you to pick a line early and confidently stick to it. Lurch the wheel around and youll soon be aware of the cars size and weight, but dial back your binary inputs and drive briskly, not manically, and it responds with slick, balanced movements. Ultimately, its safe zone is fast, open B-roads and A-roads where it gobbles up big mileages in supreme comfort.
Anything else thats new?
Yep, the infotainment system is a triumph. Entry-level versions come with an eight-inch InControl Touch system, but wed go straight for the InControl Touch Pro system that adds a wonderful 10.2-inch touchscreen with razor-sharp graphics, does away with buttons all together and operates as intuitively as an iPad. Why Jag doesnt just charge a thousand pounds more across the board and fit this to every model in the range is beyond us.
And theres more, because behind the wheel is a digital 12.3-inch instrument cluster that can be configured with a variety of themes or set to full widescreen navigation (a bit like in the Audi TT). Theres also an app that lets you remotely start the engine, precool the car and check its vital statistics, plus a waterproof bracelet key that lets you do outdoorsy things while your actual key fob is locked safely in the car.
A success, then?
Absolutely. What the F-Pace smacks of is a company thats studied the market, listened to its customers and delivered a product that people are screaming out for. Its fast, but not backbreaking, tall enough to peer over traffic and just about tough enough to deal with some light excursions off-road.
Its spacious, too, and – something I havent mentioned yet, but perhaps the most important point of all – it looks fantastic. For me, its the best-looking SUV out there. If this doesnt become Jaguars best-selling model ever, Ill be stunned.
F-Pace 2.0DPrice\: From Rs 65 lakh (estimated)Engine\: 1999cc turbo-diesel 4cyl, 178bhp, 430NmPerformance\: 0-100kph in 8.9 seconds, 210kph Transmission\: 6-speed manual, RWDEconomy\: 20kplWeight\: 1665kg
F-Pace 2.0D AWDPrice\: From Rs 70 lakh (estimated)Engine\: 1999cc turbo-diesel 4cyl, 178bhp, 430NmPerformance\: 0-100kph in 8.7 seconds, 210kph Transmission\: 6-speed manual (8-speed auto), 4WDEconomy\: 19kpl (18.8kpl)Weight\: 1767kg (1775kg)
F-Pace 3.0D AWDPrice\: From Rs 98 lakh (estimated)Engine\: 2993cc turbodiesel V6, 296bhp, 700NmPerformance\: 0-100kph in 6.2 seconds, 240kph Transmission\: 8-speed auto, 4WDEconomy\: 16.6kplWeight\: 1884kg
F-Pace 3.0 S/C AWDPrice\: Rs 98 lakh (estimated)Engine\: 2995cc supercharged V6, 375bhp, 450NmPerformance\: 0-100kph in 5.5 seconds, 250kph Transmission\: 8-speed auto, 4WDEconomy\: 11kplWeight\: 1861kg