The Jaguar F-Pace might be the most eagerly anticipated SUV of 2016, and with good reason; if it can combine the off-road ability of a Land-Rover with the on-road poise and looks of a Jaguar saloon it might just be a lot of people’s idea of the perfect car.
But it’s up against stiff competition; the Porsche Macan is incredibly agile, settings the standard by which all modern sporting SUVs must be judged, and the Range Rover Evoque is as competent and comfortable as any driver could realistically ask for. It’s fair to say that the F-Pace has its work cut out if it’s to steal market share from its rivals.
A sleek estate that’s lovely in looks
If we’re judging it by look, few SUVs are as lovely as the F-Pace. Its Jaguar-corporate nose is a function of its underpinnings, and all the better for it: the F-Pace is based on the Jaguar XE/XF platform rather than anything from its sister company; it might have been easier to bolt a Jaguar body atop a Land-Rover chassis but the company was keen to keep the two identities completely separate.
I also love the F-Type-esque rear, which works far better than it has any right too on this style of car. Add in a nigh-on perfect stance and you’ve got a sleek, purposeful estate (with a huge boot, by the way) that few could criticise.
A beautiful interior with plenty of room
The good news continues inside, with an ergonomically flawless and beautifully simple interior whose aesthetic credentials will ultimately depend on your good taste; vulgarity is freely available but if you stick with a traditional palette you will draw nothing but appreciative murmurs.
Rear-seat passengers will have no concerns about either the F-Pace’s ride or its legroom. The F-Pace’s rear headroom might be slightly compromised by the panoramic sliding glass roof – although, given that it is a £1,500 optional extra, it is something that could be dodged with a clear conscience - but few will have any real cause for concern, which is good news for those who regularly drive four-up.
A sonorous engine and endless performance
Nor does the driver have anything to complain about. The V6 three-litre turbo-diesel engine is a wonderful thing, being torquey and powerful and surprisingly sonorous for an oil-burner. I wafted my way down to Heathrow in it and enjoyed almost every minute, traffic included. True, it took me a while to figure out the ‘alternative routes’ function on the sat-nav but the drive was effortless and cosseting and as much fun as any drive that includes the M25 could ever be.
But the F-Pace trumpets its B-road credentials, so I took the long way home, heading west before turning north along the Welsh Marches. With the eight-speed automatic transmission set in ‘Drive’ it rides a fat wad of torque to give effortless performance along the motorway, while ‘Sport’ tautens things up nicely and encourages you to wring it out where conditions allow on the smaller roads, something the ‘Dynamic’ chassis setting further encourages; driven thus, it does a very good job of weaving itself around the laws of physics, turning an SUV into a credible sports car.
The cheap models can be had as a pure rear-wheel-drive but everything else has a proper four-wheel-drive system, albeit one that is biased to the rear under normal conditions. The good news is that it is undetectable and just gets on with the job of transmitting large amounts of power to the road without fuss.
This is, I think, the key to the F-Pace’s appeal; despite having to heave around quite a significant weight, it demands almost no compromises of its owner - providing he or she has deep pockets; my test car cost just north of £50,000 before extras. Sprinkle on a few goodies – metallic paint, 22-inch alloys wheels, privacy glass, an ‘activity key’, sunroof, self-parking, LED headlights, some black trim and electric seats and mirrors – sees that rise to within a whisker of £60,000. That’s an awful lot of money and places the F-Pace against some very good cars indeed.
Of course, cheaper models are available. The range starts at £35,000 but it’s very easy to get carried away and start walking your way up the range. Nor are there many deals to be had; Jaguar can sell all the cars they can build at full price so don’t go in there demanding big discounts. Frankly, you’ll be lucky to get a car at full price unless you’re prepared to wait a few months.
Is it worth it then? Well, yes. If you’ve got your heart set on one then nothing else will do and you can rest assured that it’s worth the cost and the not-inconsiderable investment.
Power – 296bhp
Torque – 516lb ft
0-62mph – 6.2 seconds
Top speed – 150mph
Kerb weight – 1,884kgs
Official average fuel consumption – 47.1mpg
CO2 emissions – 159g/km
VED class – Band G
Towing capacity (braked) – 2,400kgs
Towing capacity (unbraked) – 750kgs
Warranty – 3 yrs/60,000 miles
Price – £51,450
Price as tested - £59,665
The Audi A6 allroad is still the finest way to move five people at high speed and in complete comfort under any weather conditions.
The best of the rest
The Jaguar F-Pace really does live up to the hype. If you’ve lusted after one, you have my permission to indulge yourself.
I know you’re probably tired of me saying it, but if you’re spending £50,000 on a family car then the Volvo XC90 must be on your shortlist.
Enjoyed this article? Why not sign up for our Technology and Motoring newsletter?