The rising global demand for SUVs has made Jaguar finally introduce its first SUV called the F-Pace. Built on the same platform as the XE and XF, this SUV by Jaguar uses an aluminium-intensive construction comprising nearly 80 percent of stiff yet lightweight material. Dimensionally, the F-Pace is actually half a size larger than rivals like the BMW X3 and the Audi Q5, but half a size smaller than the likes of the BMW X5 and the Audi Q7.
One look at the F-Pace and you know it’s a Jag; it has the familiar J-shaped DRLs and LED headlamps, and the grill has the signature chrome mesh too. Because it’s an SUV however, it’s all beefed up now. The bonnet sports an aggressive bulge in the centre, the high shoulder line flows nicely to the back, the 19-inch wheels very beautifully integrated into the design, making this one a handsome-looking SUV. Even the tail-lamps are similar to the F-Type and look extremely sporty along with the steeply sloping rear windscreen and spoiler. The twin muffler tips at the back aren’t to everyone’s taste and seem like an after-thought on an otherwise good-looking car.
There are two diesel engine options to choose from for India – a 2.0-litre Ingenium four-cylinder engine churning out 177hp and 430Nm of torque available with the Pure and Prestige variants; and a 3.0-litre V6 with 296hp and 700Nm of torque; available with the R-Sport and First Edition variants. Both these engines come mated to an eight-speed automatic gearbox transmitting power to all four wheels.
What’s it like inside?
The interiors of the F-Pace are well-crafted and are similar to the XE and XF due to the high percentage of parts shared between them. The dashboard is near identical to the XE sedan in terms of design and layout. It also features the signature ‘Riva Loop’ which is a single piece of trim that connects the door pads, running along the farther edge of the dashboard. While the overall quality of materials is good, there are still some areas on the dashboard and door pads that have hard plastics. The front seats are nice, supportive are comfy for even those with larger frames. They do a good job of holding the passengers in place. Even the steering wheel is great to hold, but feels cluttered with too many buttons for the 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster and the simply superb Meridian sound system which sounds great.
Thanks to the expansive glass area and the massive panoramic sunroof, the cabin is flooded with light and feels bright and airy. Rearward visibility is decent and the driver also has the vehicle’s reversing aids – sensors and camera. The R-Sport variant is equipped with a frontal camera which is handy while driving off-road, especially when obstacles like big stones or logs are hidden away from the driver’s field of vision. What’s awkward are the window controls located on the window sill like in the Land Rover’s, rather than near the door armrest. These take some time to get used to.
The rear seats can be reclined electrically and this adds an extra dimension to rear-seat comfort, but there’s no fore-aft seat adjustment. Still, there’s plenty of kneeroom, much more than in a Porsche Macan and ample under-thigh support on offer. Add to that, rear passengers can individually set their preferred air-con temperature.
The F-Pace comes loaded with a lot of standard equipment including all-wheel drive and a host of safety features. What’s unique is that the F-Pace is one of the rare premium SUVs currently in the market to be equipped with a full-size spare wheel. It also gets the very fancy park-assist feature which not only lets the driver steer the car into a parallel or perpendicular parking spot, it also steers the driver out of a parallel parked slot.
What’s it like to drive?
We drove the 3.0-litre diesel and to summarise this engine in one word is – impressive. It is fairly silent at idle and there aren’t noticeable vibrations to speak of. As the revs begin to climb, this motor gets vocal but not in a clattery, diesel-like manner. It’s more of a deep, bassy growl which gives this engine a very sporty note.
Driving around in city traffic, this SUV does the job without throwing a tantrum. With a light foot, the engine upshifts early and there’s ample torque lower down the rev range to potter around. It will build speeds in a relaxed manner while the passengers are cocooned from the outside world, inside the F-Pace’s cabin. Demand for aggressive acceleration in Sport and there’s a lusty gush of torque that makes it lunge forward riding a wave of boost. Once past 2,000rpm power delivery is smooth yet punchy all the way till 4,500rpm, after which progress is slow. The meat of the engine is its mid-range performance. Due to the 700Nm of torque available from 2,000rpm, overtaking fast-moving vehicles out on the open road is simply effortless and the engine doesn’t warrant a downshift too often either. For most scenarios the eight-speed gearbox does the job really well without the need for a manual intervention. However, use the paddles and the shifts aren’t as quick as the double clutch units or even the BMW’s ZF transmission. But in manual mode, you can hold on to a gear.
There are four driving modes to choose from – Dynamic, Normal, Eco and Rain Ice Snow which change the throttle response, steering weight and gearshift pattern to suit different conditions. In versions equipped with adaptive dampers (First Edition), their stiffness is electrically controlled too. To extract the best out of the engine and gearbox, engage the Dynamic driving mode and the gearbox in Sport mode and watch the performance liven up even more with the speedo needle going past high speeds with a blink of an eye.
Another outstanding feature is this SUV’s ride and handling. It’s a performance SUV but there’s no hint of underlying stiffness to the suspension and it irons out the rough stuff in a very mature manner and the faster you go, it gets better. This is also the ideal SUV in which you’d attack a good set of corners and you are assured of a wide grin at the end of it. Out on a twisty section of road is where this SUV shines. Grip levels are great thanks to the stiff springs, all-wheel drive system and the fat 255 section tyres, which encourage the driver to drive fast around corners. The car is capable of carrying incredibly high speeds through bends. If the speed of the vehicle is too high while tackling curves, the torque vectoring system will independently apply the brakes to either or both the inside wheels to reduce understeer and hold the line better. There is some body roll but for an SUV this tall, but it’s actually very well controlled and the sharp and precise steering only adds to the brilliant driving dynamics of this car.
Should I buy one?
The answer to this question would have been a resounding ‘yes’ had Jaguar not decided to price itself out of the equation. The 2.0-litre Pure and Prestige variants start at Rs 68.40 lakh and 74.50 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi respectively). A four-cylinder for the price a six-cylinder from the other German manufacturers. Jaguar has directly targeted the Porsche Macan (Rs 1.06 crore) with the 3.0-litre R-Sport and First Edition variants priced at Rs 1.02 crore and 1.12 crore respectively. While the Macan is an SUV focused on sporting performance, the F-Pace is a bit more rounded and usable SUV that will feel at home in the urban jungle and on a winding road section alike.
The F-Pace offers excellent driving dynamics, a good balance between ride comfort and enthusiastic driving and a very punchy and enjoyable engine. So, in a nutshell, it’s extremely capable and alluring and it works well as a luxury car; but you have to be willing to pay a big premium for the privilege.