This Jaguar newborn represents the carmaker's first foray into the crossover/SUV segment. Jaguar is a late entrant in this space but that’s probably because this has always been sister concern Land Rover's territory. When conceptualised, the brief was to have a Jaguar that would compete against the BMW X3 and Audi Q5. But then, along came the Porsche Macan and it got Jaguar thinking, hey, why aren’t we doing that? And thus, we have on hand, the first SUV from the carmaker. So, does the F-Pace make it all work? To find out, we made our way to a tiny Balkan country on the coast of the Adriatic Sea.
The rain gods in Montenegro are playing games but that isn't going to stop me from getting a full taste of the new Jag. The winding roads around Podoriga provide the perfect playground and I get my hands on the 3.0-litre diesel V6.
As I set off, the car feels big and I notice the high bonnet line. But this feeling doesn't last long. After quite a bit of sprinting down hilly roads, I realise, the F-Pace feels more sports car than an SUV.
From the word go, the V6 that churns out 300hp and a whopping 700Nm of torque puts a smile on my face. The engine is butter-smooth and wherever in the rev range I extend my foot, it belches out a massive wave of torque that I can ride endlessly on. Thing is, it delivers all this power in such a refined manner that I often don’t realise how quick I’m going till the corner comes up. Hard on the brakes, the eight-speed automatic gearbox shifts down seamlessly, the nose dives into the corner, the steering offers just the right measure of feedback, the perfectly balanced body follows through and bang, I'm on the power again. It climbs up the hillside like a mountain goat, changing directions with utmost ease. The roads are a little wet and grimy from the rain but that doesn’t deter the F-Pace; it holds on to the road tight, the four-wheel-drive system ensuring power is transferred to the front wheels whenever necessary.
The electric steering offers just the right amount of assist, keeping you feeling very connected to the road at all times and even small deflections of the wheel draw quick reactions.
The eight-speed automatic gearbox is familiar and dare I say, one of the best even. In Normal mode, it swaps cogs efficiently, but punch the paddles on a more spirited drive and the shifts are instantaneous. You can adjust the driving modes to change the steering, performance, suspension and gearbox characteristics. Although the F-Pace will keep you happy in Normal mode, put it into Dynamic and it definitely engages to a point where this sportiest of modes becomes the default setting during my time with the F-Pace.
The beautiful thing about the F-Pace is that even with all the dynamic capability, the engineers have kept practicality in mind and even in Dynamic mode, the ride is impressive. We go over quite a bit of rough stuff without even realising it. It smothers all manners of undulations and never gets unsettled. At the end of the first day behind the wheel of the new Jaguar SUV, I’m thoroughly impressed.
On day two, luck is on our side and the sun comes out in Montenegro to kick off a beautiful day. It's time to take the 2.0-litre diesel out but as I set off, I can't but help think that I may view the smallest diesel in the F-Pace range with a bit of prejudice after sampling the 3.0-litre first. It’s a feeling that gets obvious with the difference in power between both these motors, which is yawningly wide. It's not to say the 2.0-litre feels underpowered, it’s just that in comparison, it feels laboured, especially when you press on and you can hear how hard it's working at full chat. This motor is best used a notch down and as long as you drive it in a leisurely manner, it will do the job just fine. The 2.0-litre diesel is a good highway cruiser and holds speed pretty well. It’s just that it doesn’t like to be rushed.
The 2.0-litre F-Pace also has a stiffer suspension and you can feel a firm edge over road joints and sharper bumps. The steering is heavier too. Clearly, it's not as effortless to drive as the V6 and you can tell that the F-Pace with the smaller motor has been engineered more for practicality rather than thrills.
In the back seat, the F-Pace does pretty well. It's spacious and offers more room than an X3 or a Q5. The panoramic sunroof and rectangular window areas make it feel very open and it has a large 650 litre boot, so it scores on practicality too. The interiors are luxurious and well-appointed and the large 12.3 inch touchscreen is pretty advanced, offering a smartphone-like experience.
So, the F-Pace ticks all the right boxes. It has the arsenal to take the fight to the competition – it offers space and practicality hand-in-hand with traditional Jaguar strengths of good looks and driving thrills. If you ask me whether you should buy one, my answer would be an emphatic yes.