- Published: Thursday, 28 April 2016 01:33
The Jaguar F-Pace may be a latecomer to the SUV dance, but it is bringing some nifty moves to the party
SVETI STEFAN, MONTENEGRO — Never heard of a Jaguar F-Pace? That’s because it’s the brand’s first ever SUV (Sports Utility Vehicle). But don’t worry, you can get acquainted with it soon enough. The Singapore launch for the F-Pace is slated for July this year, possibly June.
Until then, here’s what you need to know about the Jaguar F-Pace.
Yet another SUV? The market is full of them. Why, Jaguar, why?
Because the market for them is still booming. Jag reckons that the premium SUV segment will grow 50 percent in just four years, to 1.4 million units around the world.
Matt Bevan, the F-Pace’s designer, thinks it will be the fastest-selling car in the history of Jaguar.
It looks good, for one thing. There are classic Jaguar proportions, like the short front overhang and long rear overhang. Bevan says that sort of imbalance really gives a car a sense of speed. Anyway, the car’s engineering is pretty enticing.
Enticing? Explain, please.
Like the XE and XF (and like all Ferraris, for that matter), the F-Pace is mostly (like 80 percent) made of aluminium. That’s done to save weight — the piece that makes up one whole side of the car weighs just 6kg, for instance. And like the XE and XF, the F-Pace has a fancy double-wishbone front suspension and multi-link rear setup. They’ve really used quality ingredients, in other words.
So it’s just a rebodied and jacked-up XE or XF, then?
Not really, no. 81 percent of the car’s parts are unique to the F-Pace. And the car doesn’t share any key dimensions (wheelbase, front and rear track) with other Jaguars. It’s very much its own cat, and a big cat, at that. Here’s how it compares with two rivals, the Audi Q5 (the middle car) and the Mercedes GLC-Class (bottom):
What engines are we getting?
Singapore’s range kicks off with a 2.0D Prestige model (that comes with a 2.0-litre Ingenium diesel engine good for 180hp). Above that are two 3.0-litre supercharged V6s, one producing 340hp and the other, a spicy 380hp. It’s this hot S AWD model we’re most excited about. Fun fact: the engine comes from the F-Type.
I bet it’s fast.
It is. In the F-Pace 3.0 S you can whizz past 100km/h in 5.5 seconds. But to be honest, behind the wheel it doesn’t feel especially quick. Some of it is down to the transmission, which occasionally takes its time to choose a gear. Mind you, it does have eight of them to pick from. Anyway, the V6 has a nice, heavy metal jangle at high revs so you’ll visit the redline every chance you get.
But does it handle?
Brilliantly, in fact. In spite of its alloy skeleton and skin, the Jaguar is still quite heavy at 1.8 tonnes, but it masks that heft really well. The steering is quick and accurate, while the weight distribution is nearly 50:50, so the Jaguar feels very balanced, poised and agile.
Surely the SUV format is a problem? They all sit about one storey off the ground, after all.
Wrong. In spite of the Jaguar’s ride height, there’s very little body roll. It just thunders through bends without the slightest hint of drunken lurching. In fact when you’re in attack mode, you easily forget that you’re driving a biggish, heavy SUV. There's a fluidity through corners that's just astonishing at times. Never mind other 4x4 rivals, the Jaguar is good enough to shame any number of sedans.
Any flaws in its game?
Well, the brakes have bite but there’s little feedback at the pedal. And on our test car the optional 22-inch wheels ruined things somewhat. It didn’t ride harshly, but a 20-inch car we tried later took bumps much more in its stride, and showed just how serene the F-Pace can be. It gave better steering feel, too, mostly likely due to slightly skinnier tyres. Skip the 22-inchers, if you ask us.
Duly noted. Did you drive it off-road?
Actually, yes, but just a little bit. The F-Pace doesn’t have a huge amount of ground clearance, but it can apparently wade through water up to 60cm deep. Handy for the next major ponding episode.
It also has full-time all wheel-drive, though it’s rear-biased to make the car less understeery on the road. Most times, 90 percent of the engine’s power goes to the rear axle. That can switch to 90 percent front if need be.
There are off-road assistance systems, like hill descent control and another feature that keeps a constant speed for you over rough terrain. It's no Camel Trophy contender, but it's a bit of a jungle cat, surprisingly.
But how will it do in the most savage conditions of all: rush-hour traffic in Singapore?
Quite nicely, we suspect. The car is quiet on the move, and the cabin is Jaguar’s best. The touchscreen entertainment system works smoothly and keeps button-clutter down on the dashboard, and it has bright, clear graphics.
Cabin stowage is abundant and the front seats give terrific support. We spent five solid hours behind the wheel, but still ended the day fresh enough to bang this report out.
I suppose you want a cigar. How are things in the back?
Jaguar says the F-Pace is a class-leader in terms of room, and the little time we spent in the back affirms the claim. Legroom and headroom back there are more than decent, but the car feels especially generous in terms of width.
The boot can swallow 650 litres worth of stuff with the rear seats up and 1,740 litres when they’re down, so it’s a properly useful car. The Audi Q5’s figures, for comparison, are 540 to 1,560 litres.
Ouch! Take that, Audi!
Well, to be fair, the Q5 does have a nicer interior. One of the F-Pace’s weaknesses is that some of the cabin plastics feel like they belong in a much cheaper car. By our reckoning the 3.0 S First Edition model could cost $320,000 with COE by the time the taxman is done with it.
That is serious, serious money.
It is, but don’t forget there will be a cheaper 2.0D. But think of it like this: the F-Pace is big, useful, great to drive and easy on the eye. Some rivals have some of those attributes, but it’s arguable whether any have all four at once. The Jaguar F-Pace may be be late to the SUV market, but it does manage to be something we haven’t had before.
NEED-TO-KNOW Jaguar F-Pace 3.0 S
Engine 2,995cc, 24V, V6, supercharged
Power 380hp at 6500rpm
Torque 450Nm at 4400rpm
Gearbox 8-speed auto
Top Speed 250km/h
0-100km/h 5.5 seconds
Fuel efficiency 8.9L/100km
Availability July 2016
Also consider Porsche Macan S, Lexus RX 400h
You've read the review, now here's a gallery of pictures of the new Jaguar F-Pace. Pretty, innit?
Download spec sheets for the three models of Jaguar F-Pace set for launch in Singapore here
Got an iWatch? Check out the connectivity features that are on the way in the F-Pace