By Martin O’Neil
The 2017 Jaguar F-Pace is nothing short of a proper Jaguar, despite its SUV guise.
At first, the F-Pace may confuse most car enthusiasts and buyers alike. After all, Jaguar is a sports car company at heart and SUVs have always been left to their sister brand Land Rover. But it’s at that point when one takes a deeper look at what makes an F-Pace a Jaguar; both inside and out, that it starts to make more sense.
Styled by world-renowned car designer, Ian Callum, the F-Pace is unmistakably a Jaguar with its signature front grille and the F-Type-inspired rear taillights. It’s somewhere between an SUV and a coupe, though it does tend to exude the best of both worlds.
The design mission was to create a great looking Jaguar that just happens to be an SUV, rather than a great looking SUV that happens to be a Jaguar. In that regard, it has been a success.
On the inside, the F-Pace presents a clean and simple cabin with an elegant use of materials that feel as good as they look. A massive 12.3-inch HD virtual instrument display is optional on all models (although standard on the First Edition), which, in combination with the new 10-inch InControl Touch Pro satnav system, really adds a layer of technological sophistication to the car that most of its German rivals seem to lack.
The first F-Pace models that were delivered to our shores and all other African markets, lacked the connectivity component of the infotainment system to start with, so things like Google street view and wifi hotspot were not available at launch. This shall however change with the arrival of model-year 2018 cars towards the end of the year.
The infotainment system is finally on par with the best in the business, BMW’s iDrive, and in some ways it’s even better considering the speed at which it responds to inputs.
It’s a highly innovative car, in that regard. There are some exemplary features, such as the ability to unlock the car using your Apple Watch, or optioning up what Jaguar calls an activity key wrist band; which is roughly an extra US $350, which allows you to leave the keys in the car at all times and simply touch the J of the Jaguar badge on the boot to unlock the car.
It’s simply genius, as its waterproof and looks like quite durable, meaning you’ll never have to worry about keys again, whether you’re going for an excursion or running late to a meeting.
The rear seats are incredibly spacious as the car tends to sit somewhere between a BMW X3 and an X5 in size, and certainly provides significantly more knee and head room than its direct rival the Porsche Macan. The boot is also enormous at 650 litres, well ahead of the 500 litres of the Macan and X4; the 540 litres of the Audi Q5 and the 550 litres of the new GLC from Mercedes Benz.
Prices start from around US $51,300 for the base model diesel and go all the way up to US $84,500 for the limited First Edition model. These prices are all before taxes.
The F-Pace comes in the following variants:
- The entry-level 2.0-litre four-cylinder diesel engine that produces 132kW of power and 430Nm of Torque;
- A 3.0-litre 30d diesel engine that produces 220kW of power and 700Nm of torque;
- A 3.0 litre 35t petrol engine that produces 250kW of power and 450Nm of torque; and
- The range topping 3.0 litre supercharged petrol engine that produces a whopping 280kW of power and 450Nm of torque.
The British company says that the F-Pace is here to go up against most medium-sized luxury SUVs, but it does focus its attention on the Porsche Macan and the BMW X4, as they present a more dynamically-oriented challenge that the Jaguar claims to better in all regards.
On the road, the F-Pace proved a few things.
Firstly, even in the First Edition model, where 22-inch wheels all around are standard, the ride quality is superb. Despite driving on roads that are riddled with potholes and uneven surfaces, the F-Pace felt composed, compliant and not at all jittery. It must be said that both the First Edition and 3.0-litre diesel we drove had adaptive dampers that aided the suspension immensely and provided a comfort mode.
Secondly, as good as the new F-Pace is – and it’s very good – the Porsche Macan is still a more capable car. In our view, where the F-Pace wins on practicality, standard features, value for money, and potentially even for styling; the Macan remains the dynamic king of the SUV segment. But it’s important to know why and whether that’s even relevant in this segment.
From the offset the F-Pace is certainly not your standard SUV. It’s an all-wheel-drive offering a rear-wheel-drive bias that makes its dynamic characteristics more in line with a BMW X5 than any Range Rover product to date. As such, it demands to be driven in a certain way.
In normal driving conditions, it pushes more than 90 per cent of its might to the rear wheels, only powering the front wheels when the situation requires. But, its engine and power-plant are still capable of pushing 90 per cent of the engines torque to whichever end requires it.
Strangely enough; and a bit unfortunate, we found that it tends to understeer when pushed hard and, where the Macan’s torque vectoring system would assist by applying torque to the outer wheels in a tight corner to bring the car around, the F-Pace feels as though it does very little to help.
We experienced the same levels of understeer in cars fitted with 22- and 19-inch wheels, though the character of the diesel tended to suit the F-Pace’s chassis and capability a bit better.
The other notable disappointment is the steering, which is vague and relatively uncommunicative. On one hand it’s sharp and very sensitive, but on the other there’s no tangible connection between the front wheels and the driver. Where the Jaguar XE is superb in this department, the F-Pace is lacking. This is, in part, the cause of some of the understeer issues.
Yet gain, is any of this relevant? For the average mid-size luxury SUV buyer, the answer is a resounding no. Most trips will be to the office, school runs or to the supermarket. Rarely will one of these cars find their way to some all-weather back roads or signing up for a Rhino Charge event.
On the other hand it should be, as Jaguar claims that the F-Pace is the perfect balance between ride comfort and dynamic capability. While there is no doubt that the first Jaguar SUV rides almost as good as the best from Range Rover, it doesn’t have the dynamic edge that it seeks. For a pioneering car and Jaguar’s first foray into the SUV market, it can be forgiven a bit. After all, we can all remember how the very first variants of the BMW X5 and Mercedes ML-Class were far from dynamic.
The F-Pace uses a near 80 per cent lightweight aluminium body structure, and the lateral stiffness for the front and rear is 50 and 30 percent stiffer than a Macan, respectively. Yet, there is something missing. The F-Pace is a superb choice for a sporty city SUV with plenty of room inside and a big boot, but it falls short of the high dynamic bar that has been set by Porsche. Yet gain, is any of this relevant to the F-Pace’s target market? I think not.
From an engine perspective, we sampled the top-of-the-line 280kW supercharged petrol and the 220kW turbodiesel. The six-cylinder petrol is straight out of the F-Type and it sounds as such (though Jaguar has removed the F-Type’s active exhaust). In normal mode the top-of-the-line petrol is smooth and full of pull, but switch it to dynamic mode and it becomes very edgy, with the throttle response almost too sensitive. Jaguar claims it can do 0-100km/h in 5.5 seconds, but it’s more the in-gear acceleration that will impress you.
The diesel is a more liveable engine choice. It’s smooth, effortless and, while its 0.7 seconds slower to 100km/h, it provides its power in a more linear fashion that suits the F-Pace’s characteristics. It has slight turbo lag off the line, but once the 700Nm of torque kicks in, there’s no stopping it.
All models make use of a ZF eight-speed transmission, which we found best left alone in automatic mode, as it occasionally tends to ignore manual paddle-shifter inputs.
On the plus side the F-Pace is a force to be reckoned with when it comes to more open-road cruising. It’s a solid performer that will feel just as at home on a trip to the supermarket as it does around a winding country road. It has enormous grip and it’s unrelenting in that it begs you to drive it faster.
If the Jaguar F-Pace is measured on its own, as a sporty SUV, it is brilliant. Most owners, of which there will be more of than any other Jaguar in history, will find its aesthetics highly appealing and its road manner and ride comfort hard to beat. It will present a fantastic choice to those that seek something more unique and characterful than just another German SUV or Range Rover. I can bet you that here in Kenya, you could go a week without seeing one on the roads; talk about exclusivity.
This is not a purchase decision that requires you to forget logic in favour of pure emotion, the F-Pace does so many things right you can forgive its small character flaws.
In terms of value for money and performance, the pick of the range; which includes 12 models and an extensive options list, is the top-spec diesel in prestige or R-Sport guise.
However, at the optioned up price of just over US $56,000 (before taxes) for the entry model 2.0-litre diesel Prestige, the Jaguar F-Pace is about to open the door for the brand to a whole new set of buyers, and none of them will be disappointed.
- RMA is the official and sole distributor of all new and approved Jaguar vehicles in Kenya. They are located at Delta Corner off Chiromo Road.
- The company offers after sales service as well as comprehensive warranties for all their vehicles. Check out their official website or visit their showroom for more information.