The Big Cat
Be it the F-Pace S 3.0d twin-turbo 300ps or R Sport 2.0d 180ps, both models will firmly put Jaguar on the SUV map – and more
Review by Marc Stickley
One of Jaguar‘s newest models is set to give it a shot in the arm like a performance enhancing drug. The F-Pace is definitely late to the SUV party, but all the signs are that it will make up for lost time, boosting sales, particularly in the US. I’ve reviewed the S model and R Sport. The S is Top of the Tree for this big cat, especially with the 300ps twin turbo diesel. And it is a big cat. No bigger than the competition, but you won’t be fooled into thinking you’re in a regular car. You can purchase your F-Pace in 4 trim levels – Prestige, Portfolio, R-Sport and S. In the S you can opt to stick the 3.0 V6 twin-turbo diesel with 300PS (continental horses – pferdestrand – have a slightly different output to our regular Braked variety) under the bonnet like mine had, or the 380PS petrol supercharged V6. Lesser models can be optioned with a 163, 200 or 240PS 2.0d turbo, a 250PS 2.0 petrol 4 or the lower powered 300PS V6 petrol. Rear or All wheel drive are available on all models, with various engine options and there is all manner of trickery to keep you in a straight line – torque vectoring and differentials, as well as ABS and ESP.
Out on the road the F-Pace feels much like any other big SUV – big, high-output engines, lazy automatic gearbox, minimal effort (or feedback) through the steering. The 3 litre twin turbo diesel woofles along effortlessly, the 2 litre makes itself heard a bit more -it’s evidently expending far more effort in moving the F-Pace’s bulk. It’s not harsh, but more noticeable. You can select drive modes using left or right arrow buttons found behind the rotary gear selector; Dynamic, Normal, Eco and Rain/Snow/Ice modes are available, each affecting the traction and stability control, the shift speed of the 8 Speed gearbox and the throttle mapping. A graphic flashes up in the instrument display to confirm your choice and some backlighting changes. I found that normal gave a good mix of comfort and response, with (as you’d expect) Dynamic sharpening things up. Eco made the stop-start more obvious and R/S/I makes things fuzzier – to give a gentler interface where grip is at a premium. On the move and once in Dynamic, with the auto ‘box in Sport mode, you can certainly hustle the F-Pace. Then, dynamically, it really does begin to drive and feel like a car, but these moments were over all too soon – other traffic doesn’t expect a rampaging Jaguar to appear in their rear view mirror! This was especially rewarding in the 3.0 S, but still good fun with the smaller engine. Once at pace, you’re hard pushed to know the difference between the 4 and the 6, but getting there, the 2.0 gets a bit shouty. So, you can press on in the F-Pace, or easily cruise around. As you would expect, it’s an incredibly competent motorway machine, the extra height over a standard car welcome, but the F-Pace feels solid and secure at speed. Around town, you feel the car’s bulk – not in an ungainly way, but purely the size of the car.
Things did get a bit weird a few times in the 3.0 S…there were moments when the car seemed to not know what to do – like a slackness in the drive train, or a hesitancy. It was especially obvious at low speeds – car park manoeuvring or reversing. I would press the accelerator and nothing would happen (and yes, the electric parking brake was off and it was in gear…). So you press some more. A few seconds later, the car would begin to creep (literally creeping) forward. But then that extra throttle input would catch up with the electronic brain and there’d be a lunge. Not good in a tight parking space… On two occasions, while reversing, I was pressing the accelerator, but nothing happened. Disturbing. It felt a little like the car was stuck. To overcome this I took to driving in dynamic, as this took most of the fuzziness away. I was cautious at parking speeds to not over compensate for any hesitation. I didn’t feel the same issue in the smaller engined R-Sport, so wonder whether this is an issue seen just with this particular press car – I even chatted to Jaguar developers at Goodwood and they agreed it was odd. To my mind, there is always a delay in an automatic compared to a manual gearbox (even twin clutch, flappy paddle automated manuals), but for the most part, the F-Pace’s character suited an auto.
Inside, the S model is certainly well equipped: Meridian surround sound, excellent navigation, full leather, full length panoramic tilt/slide roof, 18 way electrically adjustable seats (but strangely, not heated…). The R Sport was equipped to a lower spec, but still had most of what you need – I couldn’t find lumbar support on the R Sport’s electrically adjusted seats though. Of questionable taste on both cars was the apparently standard JLR press fleet black and red trim, but you don’t have to spec that. To my eyes it looked slightly loud, on both cars (the S was a pearlescent white, the R-Sport metallic silver). There’s plenty of room in the front, with a high central console giving a sporty feel for the driver and passenger. There are interesting design features, like the storage notches in that central tunnel and the aluminium mesh trim in the S looks special. In the back, there’s loads of space for passengers and a generous boot. Four or five adults laden with suitcases will fit with ease. I did take the F-Pace for a family trip, with weekend bags and my two children and there was plenty of space left in the back. The luggage cover has a number of positions, depending on how you configure it and the rear seats fold 40:20:40, giving you yet more loading options if you only have one rear passenger.
Outside, the S model comes with 20″ as standard, but this one was on 22″ wheels. Gangsta. The corresponding low profile tyres made a bit of a racket, but probably delivered slightly better handling, but I reckon that smaller wheels would give a slightly better ride and reduce the effect of the larger wheels making the brakes look quite so anaemic. The R-Sport had gloss black 20″ wheels and felt a good compromise. The F-Pace is definitely a good looking car in general, let alone vying for the plaudits for best looking SUV on the market. The S trim gets a subtle body kit that adds to the sense of sporting purpose, without shouting about it. The S model also gets a black grill, and trim accents around the car, which contrasted well with the white of the review car, but might not stand out as much with darker hues. The R-Sport, dressed in metallic silver, was slightly more anonymous, but still with visual presence. I think I’d be tempted to look at a more dynamic shade, maybe the Caesium Blue or Firenze Red.
So, to sum up, the F-Pace is an SUV, with an emphasis on the Sport sector. With regards to Utility, there’s plenty of space and practicality, the AWD option and a hill descent speed limiter, however, unless you’re regularly towing (a possibility in the target market), you probably won’t need either, but AWD is standard on all but the lowest powered F-Paces, where you can opt for RWD. Whether you opt for the 2.0 or 3.0 diesel power will depend on your personal preference for silky smooth thrust versus better economy for not a lot less – the S returned about 30mpg on my test, the R Sport closer to 40. I would opt for a panoramic roof, either fixed (as per the R Sport) or tilt slide (like the S had). The 8 speed auto gearbox is clever enough (low speed S niggles an exception), the plastic paddles in the R-Sport were a bit pointless (I only used them once to try them for feel), the metal variants in the S are much nicer, but barely used more often – I rarely found I wanted to out think the gearbox. Given the car’s size (and where most will end up living), the parking sensors work well, but the higher spec cameras add another dimension to manoeuvring. For me, I’d like to see heated seats and a heated wheel to match the power adjustment found in both cars and definitely a lumbar support (but maybe I lost the button?). The F-Pace is a fine looking, sport orientated SUV. Prices start at £35,000 for a 163bhp, rwd diesel Prestige with no bling. The R-Sport I tested was £40,000 as standard and £44,700 as tested (the bulk of that being £1,200 each for the panoramic roof and the 20″ Venom wheels). The twin turbo S is £52,665 as standard and “my” car was a little over £55,000 – those 22″ wheels weighing in at £1,600. If you started at the lowest powered, base model, it’s pretty good value, but you’d likely want a bit more poke. And if you want a six silky cylinders, you’ll be paying extra, but getting way more equipment to boot. If you want a more competent off roader, you’ll look to stablemate cousins from Land Rover, similarly if you want seven seats (at the moment), but for something a bit higher than an estate and still new (and stylish) enough to turn heads, the F-Pace is a good bet. And Jaguar will be selling them like hot cakes.