The Jaguar F-Pace seems to be selling well within weeks of going on sale. You see them everywhere, a clear indicator that Jaguar is building cars that buyers want. Question is, as it’s an all-new proposition, is it good enough to tear buyers away from their Audi Q5s and BMW X3s?
For our first test, we’ve spent a week behind the wheel of the mid-range 2.0d Portfolio, powered by what is likely to be – in the UK – the most popular engine option. Should the opposition from Germany, Japan and Sweden be worried?
The Jaguar of the 2010s is a very different to the one of 10 years ago. Back then, it was selling a small range of luxury saloons and two-seaters, with much of its styling rooted in the past. Today, it’s confident and forward looking and, if the latest JD Power results are to be believed, the product is reliable, and customers love them. Would the Jaguar of the 1990s have built anything like the F-Pace? That’s unlikely…
Indeed, if nothing else, that tells you all you need to know about today’s Jaguar: it’s building cars that buyers actually want. Based on the X760-generation XE platform, the F-Pace dives into a congested crossover market dominated by the Audi Q5 and BMW X3. Given the latter part of the Jaguar Land Rover group has been building very roadworthy off-roaders for years, why should it start building a Jaguar to fulfil largely the same job?
Why indeed? Well, let’s get this out of the way straight away – although the F-Pace might well boast four-wheel drive and be powered by the same Ingenium engine as the Discovery Sport and Evoque, their relative merits are so diverse, there’s little actual crossover between the two – we doubt F-Pace sales will cannibalise Land Rover sales, and vice versa. However, we can see the F-Pace eating into the opposition, as on paper, it’s advanced, appealing and slap bang in the middle of one of the fastest-growing market sector in terms of global sales.
It’s technically up there. Like the Jaguar XE and XF, it’s based on an 80 per cent aluminium architecture, although the F-Pace is uniquely sized within the group. It’s a large car at 4.7m in length, and is bulkier than its immediate rivals – although sinuous styling disguises the fact until you’re on top of it. Suspension is double wishbones up front and an integral link set-up at the rear while, as we’ll see, it’s very much set up as a road car.
Sitting behind the wheel offers up no surprises for those who speak modern JLR. The driving position is very car-like and the bulky A- and B-pillars are cleverly configured not to interfere too much with forward vision. The dashboard is familiar to anyone who has driven any Jaguar, post-F-Type, with the same instrument packs, switchgear, rotary gear selector and infotainment set-up. Good looking, yes. Innovative, not so. Considering it’s almost a decade since the original XF hit the scene – and was lauded for its progressiveness – this doesn’t move things on at all. Again, does this matter, as it all works? You be the judge.
It’s big inside, as you’d expect. The load-floor is high, but it’s also flat, and lines a roomy boot. There’s a commendable amount of head- and leg-room front and rear, and there’s more than enough space for one six-footer to comfortably sit behind another. Before you say ‘so it should be’, you try the same in a Porsche Macan. Finish is good, although it suffers from cheap-feeling stalks, which we’d like to see upgraded.
On the road, the 177bhp Ingenium engine isn’t lacking much in terms of punch. It’s very quiet and refined – much more so than the 2.0-litre Jaguar XE we recently sampled. Perhaps it’s better installed here but, whereas in the saloon, it sometimes feels agricultural, in the F-Pace, it’s near-silent at idle. Get moving, and it’s more good news. The eight-speed ZF automatic is brilliant at swapping cogs and generally being in the right gear at the right time, and it helps haul this bulky vehicle along with agreeable liveliness.
We timed the 0-60mph time at 8.1 seconds, and Jaguar claims it’ll hit 132mph. That’s not bad for a 2.0-litre vehicle of this size and weight (1775kg) which averaged 40mpg in the week we had it. Despite it being pacy enough to go with the flow, it’s steady-speed cruising where the F-Pace impresses most – at 70mph it’s turning over less than 2000rpm, you can barely hear the turbodiesel upfront and there’s instant punch should you need it. A shame that it sounds so dull when you do extend it…
Dynamically, it’s well-sorted, and is clearly a car that’s been tuned for more sporting drivers’ tastes. The front-end feels light, and it’ll happily dive into corners without much in the way of body roll. The old cliche about shrinking around you applies here, although there’s a pay-off. In standard damping mode, it’s bouncy and a tad lacking in control, but in Sport, it’s firmer and much more tied down, even if you get a little too intimate with road surface irregularities. Really, ‘Sport’ should be the default setting.
Will it be reliable and painless in service? The signs are very good, with fleet managers reporting that the XE and XF are admirably fault-free in service. Dealers, too, come in for plenty of praise for their customer service. Although fuel consumption won’t be a huge factor for this car’s first owner, we were more than happy with what we returned while on test.
As the entry-level F-Pace, the 2.0d should leave us cold. The XE and XF are hugely impressive in larger-engined form, but the 2.0-litre versions feel anti-climactic. Here, the entry-level car is far from disappointing. It’s quick, refined and reasonably fuel efficient. It also drives well, is roomy, comfortable and is brimming with feel and agility. If it’s lacking in anything, it’s a feeling of deep-seated interior quality – and design flair – but we know there are no long-term issues to worry about on this score.
It’s an impressive car, and proof that Jaguar Land Rover is becoming rather adept at giving buyers what they want. It’s no step-change, and by no means perfect, but it feels effortlessly comfortable in its own skin – which makes it easy to forget that this is Jaguar’s first ever crossover. The boys in the Midlands have done well – the success coming their way is richly deserved.
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