Jaguar is on a steep growing curve and their first Sport Utility Vehicle is an important stepping-stone in the process. The F-Pace is finally here to challenge the Germans.
The Jaguar F-Pace has a huge weight on its shoulders. Yes, Jaguar has two new great saloons in the XE and XF and one of the most beautiful cars on sale today in the F-Type, but if sales are to shoot through the roof on a global level, it needs to have SUVs on its catalogue. The F-Pace is the first.
It seems a bit pointless for me to go on and on about the reasons why I am not an SUV fan, because every week there is a new one coming out and I better just shut up and live with it.
However, it’s not every week we see an SUV like the F-Pace. First of all, it’s big. Quite. Size-wise, it sits between Porsche’s Macan and Panamera (not a coincidence at all, of course, as those are two of the models Jaguar wishes to steal sales from).
Second, it’s really rather pretty. Not beautiful like the Volvo XC90, but pretty, it definitely is. The proportions are spot on, while the traditional Jaguar family face and sleek rear light clusters work really well in such a big car. It’s imposing too and I would say even kind of ostentatious – but then, in a car of this price and prestige that is not a bad thing necessarily.
Jaguar is keen to point out it builds their cars in aluminium and this one is no exception: 80% of the body is made from the stuff. There’s also magnesium in the cross chassis rail, which helps reducing even further the centre of gravity, offering better dynamics and performance.
Inside, the F-Pace is everything you would expect of a Jaguar and then some. Some more space especially. I still love the sweeping arc of the dashboard and that actual jaguar on the steering wheel feels more special than a three-pointed star or something like that. The press car I drove was, obviously, lavished with everything you can imagine and it felt a quality, appealing item for every minute I spent in it. And there were a lot of minutes.
Sometimes I have to make up road trips or weird places to go just to be able to drive a car and understand it. In the F-Pace that was not necessary. Circumstances dictated I drove it around for 800km in all kinds of roads for five days because I needed to do it and that is always the best way to see how a car fits into your life.
The F-Pace, as it turns out, would fit just fine, thank you very much. I got a 2 litre diesel, Prestige version – that’s the middle one – with all wheel drive, an automatic eight-speed gearbox and 180 horse power. At first I thought this engine would be too small for such a car, but after five days I changed my mind.
Of course, the 3 litre diesel would be faster and more enjoyable in certain circumstances, but for real life everyday driving, the smaller unit is enough. It’s fast when you need it and always, always frugal. At one point, doing 200km of motorway without stopping, I was averaging 5.2 litres. In a 1800kg car! At the end of my test the board computer showed 6.8 litres. That is truly remarkable for a car like this, it really is.
The F-Pace corners with great composure and invites the driver to push a little harder at every bend. It strikes a good balance between sportiness and comfort and can use its S in SUV with pride. The ride is only slightly compromised by the exceptional ability the Jag has around corners but I liked it more, not less, because of that.
In fact, the only thing I didn’t like about the F-Pace was the strange lid that hid a full-size spare tyre in the boot. That was just plainly weird. It robbed me of much needed capacity for all the stuff my kids carry around. Apart from that, I see this as a winner from Jag. And that 2 litre engine opens up a major gap in price to the Macan, which is only available as a 3 litre. Something like €20.000 to be precise. To the Cayenne the difference is even more pronounced: €30,000.
Logically, Porsche is not the only name Jaguar is trying to upset with the F-Pace. There’s BMW and their X5 and X3, Mercedes and their GLC and GLE and Audi and their Q5 and Q7.
The Germans sell close to two million cars a year each and Jaguar sells fewer than 100.000 units. Or did in 2015. In 2016 the F-Pace is meant to change that, or at least to begin something that will – sales wise – bring Jaguar closer to the guys from Munich, Stuttgart and Ingolstadt.
It cannot, however, do it alone and Jaguar knows it. Two days ago they showed the F-Pace’s wing man: it’s called the I-Pace, it’s the first electric car ever in the history of Jaguar Land Rover and it’s, obviously, an SUV.
The I-Pace will be a breakthrough model for Jaguar and, if it can offer the same driving experience as the F-Pace with all the advantages that come from an electric powertrain, well, Jaguar is onto something truly spectacular.
By Guilherme Marques