– Sharp styling inside and out
– Cabin tech and features
– Reasonably smooth ride
– Pricey with options
– Some ergonomics issues
– No low-range gearing
There was a time when Jaguar built only cars and Land Rover built only 4x4s. And then Land Rover started dipping their feet in the soft-roading crossover market. That slippery slope has now led to Jaguar’s first SUV. While we weren’t initially fans of that idea, the final product turned out to be rather attractive.
The Jaguar F-Pace is based on the all-new aluminium platform that the latest Jaguar sedans are based on, and completely unrelated to the Range Rover Evoque which is still riding on the ancient Land Rover LR2 platform. Decidedly compact, the oddly-named F-Pace translates Jaguar’s current design language rather beautifully into an SUV. It is a swoopy design complemented by the optional 22-inch alloys as seen on our F-Pace S tester. It’s probably the only vehicle we like the looks of, among compact luxury crossovers.
Step-in height is fine without side-steps, and once inside, you are greeted with a cabin reminiscent of its platform-mate, the XF, but the newer F-Pace features a bit nicer design and technology. The dash, armrests and centre-console sides are leather-lined, there are even fewer buttons as the touchscreen is wider, and there is blue mood-lighting emanating from the door panels. A few metallic bits and pieces round off the cleanly-styled interior. But while some trim materials are truly premium, the door inserts are overly firm and the lower panels are hard plastics.
Cabin space is about adequate both front and rear, although a middle-rear passenger will have to spread his legs to accommodate the protruding rear a/c console. As an option, the rear seatbacks can recline slightly or fold flat electrically, although the slow motors takes ages to do so. Under the swoopy power-operated tailgate, the decent-sized boot is fine for daily activities and carrying prams, but volume is still cut down by the full-size spare wheel underneath raising up the floor height. Covered cup-holders, pockets and storage cubbies are plentiful, including a shelf underneath the gear-shifter console. But in an odd move, the UAE-regulation fire-extinguisher is stuffed inside the glovebox, effectively making the latter useless.
Jaguar’s cabin tech finally gets an upgrade, with a new wider 10.2-inch multi-touch capacitive touchscreen featuring a nicer interface and SSD-stored 3D navigation, useable like a smartphone. Other features include a strong stereo with Bluetooth support and 2 USB ports, a panoramic glass roof, a good a/c with rear controls and vents, a full-LCD gauge cluster, heads-up display, front and rear LED lighting with adaptive headlights, smart keyless entry and start, and a “leisure activity key” which is a waterproof wristband that can be used as an alternative key when you go to the beach and leave your actual key (and clothes) inside the car.
Powered by Jaguar’s usual 3.0-litre supercharged V6, in the F-Pace S this motor makes 375 hp at 6500 rpm and 450 Nm of torque from 3300 to 4500 rpm, fed to all four wheels. It’s the same engine that does duty in the wild F-Type S, but here it feels and sounds a whole lot subdued, with an uninspiring exhaust note. It still offers a decent bit of initial kick in this nearly 2-ton crossover, followed by a gradual build-up of power rather than a deluge of acceleration, as it did the 0-100 kph run in a reasonably-quick 6.3 seconds during our desert-winter afternoon test.
Fuel consumption came in at a decent 14 litres/100 km for us, although it’ll likely do better with a bit more casual driving. With a smooth-shifting 8-speed automatic on call, there are enough overdrive gears to aid in economy. There are also responsive paddle-shifters should you wish to play with gears manually.
On the highway, the F-Pace rides fairly well on Dubai roads, even with the fancy 22-inch alloys, with jitters becoming evident only on broken pavement or sizeable imperfections. However, while it’s fairly quiet under 100 kph, wind and road noises reach moderate levels at higher speeds. It’s definitely not among the quietest of luxury cars.
The F-Pace is being branded the sports car of crossovers, but it’s not quite there. The S version comes with the optional adaptive suspension as standard. The handling is great, with high grip limits from the 265/40 tyres and neutral cornering behaviour, but the mild body roll makes it feel slightly less-planted than, say, BMW’s X3 around tighter curves. Also, while the steering is weighted nicely, albeit slightly on the firm side, feedback is minimal. The brakes are also good, with decent pedal feel too, but it’s not neck-snapping stopping power by any means. The F-Pace S can be driven fast, but not sports-car fast like some of its rivals.
Interestingly, the F-Pace has pretty good ground clearance, so a bit of mild offroading is theoretically possible. There’s no low-range gearing though, while the low-profile tyres will make it tougher, but at least it clears tall curbs in parking lots. It matches the Range Rover Sport’s ground clearance at standard height.
Make no mistake, the compact F-Pace is a very desirable entry in this rather dull segment. Its main problem though, is its sky-high price when loaded up with the right options, especially in S trim. That’s nudging into midsize Porsche Cayenne territory. There’s a new turbo-4 base model on the way which might be a more enticing proposition for typical crossover buyers.
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