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First drive: Jaguar F-Pace (pre-production). Image by Jaguar.

First drive: Jaguar F-Pace (pre-production)
Look out, Porsche Macan - the Jaguar F-Pace is phenomenal.

 



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Jaguar F-Pace (pre-production)

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We've avoided giving the Jaguar F-Pace more than four stars overall, purely because we haven't yet driven it on real roads and also because this example was a pre-production machine. However, there are some hugely encouraging signs here that the Big Cat's decision to weigh into the SUV market looks like it is going to pay massive dividends, because the F-Pace is exceptionally good.

Test Car Specifications

Model tested: Jaguar F-Pace V6 Diesel
Pricing: F-Pace from 34,170; 3.0 V6 from 51,450
Engine: 3.0-litre twin-turbocharged V6 diesel
Transmission: eight-speed automatic, all-wheel drive
Body style: five-door, five-seat SUV
CO2 emissions: 159g/km (VED Band G, 180 annually)
Combined economy: 47.1mpg
Top speed: 151mph
0-62mph: 6.2 seconds
Power: 300hp at 4,000rpm
Torque: 700Nm at 2,000rpm

What's this?

The new Jaguar F-Pace, the company's somewhat controversial foray into SUV territory. It's only a questionable decision if you factor in Land Rover, the 'other half' of JLR, which of course has something of a history of making 4x4s. But if Jaguar is going to take on the likes of Audi, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Volvo and Lexus, it needs to have an SUV. The F-Pace is it.

With the car still at pre-production phase, Jaguar felt the need to clothe the F-Pace's lower body in that distracting swirly camouflage, but published literature shows the SUV fully unmasked, as it were. We won't talk too much about exterior and interior finishing for now, because Jaguar wanted to be clear these pre-production examples were at the 'polishing' stage, but even a blind man on a galloping horse could see it's an extremely handsome thing, with its XE/XF face, F-Type rear lights and lithe bodywork. The cabin is a beauty too, nicely designed, well-equipped and even practical, what with a boot that stands at 650 litres with the rear seats up or 1,740 litres with them all folded down.

Still, we're here to drive this 'practical sports car' (Jaguar's terminology for the F-Pace) and so it's time to get behind the wheel. The venue is a place in which Jaguar spends 1,800 engineering hours each year, located in South Wales. And it's very, very wet...

How does it drive?

On the day we drove the F-Pace around a quarry called Walters Arena, near Neath, the weather was being so ludicrously Welsh that if a Hollywood film set in the principality depicted such incredible precipitation, most locals watching it would laugh and go: "It doesn't rain like that around here." However, despite it being miserable to be out in horizontal water being lashed into your face by 60mph winds, in terms of putting the Jaguar through its paces it could not have been more perfect.

Despite it being an SUV that's much more 'S' than 'U', the Jaguar has a fearsome repertoire of traction aids and mechanicals designed to ensure it can keep moving through the trickiest of terrains. It's equipped with torque-on-demand four-wheel drive, biased to the rear axle unless extra grip is needed, and on top of that the F-Pace features Adaptive Surface Response (AdSR), All-Surface Progress Control (ASPC), Intelligent Driveline Dynamics (IDD) and Low-Friction Launch (LFL), as well as a front differential with a 1,400Nm capacity - making it the largest such item ever fitted to a Jaguar.

If all the above sounds like a jumbled array of meaningless initials, allow us to clarify the issue: the Jaguar F-Pace is remarkably able off-tarmac. Way beyond what it needs to be, in all honesty, because the most owners are going to subject them to is possibly the occasional muddy car park at a gymkhana or a festival. They're certainly not, for instance, going to climb a rubble-strewn, 1-in-4 gradient with water streaming down it with ridiculous ease. Nor perform tight, controlled doughnuts around a set of cones on a bleak plateau of mud and rocks. Or even batter along narrow, tree-lined, boggy tracks at 50mph and more, occasionally using opposite lock; tracks, we might add, that are also used by World Rally Championship machines.

We did all of the above and the Jaguar was utterly unfazed by the whole lot. Part of the test was that the coefficient of traction, or mu, was constantly changing throughout the day, but it was going from 'this is bloody dangerously slippery' to 'oh my God, we're going to crash and die horribly' levels. More accurately, if dry tarmac has a mu of 1.0, the F-Pace was often on surfaces with a mu of 0.1 - equivalent to polished ice, or conditions with the least amount of grip possible.

Yet it never felt like crashing or veering wildly out of control, even at speed. The clever on-board electronics kept a check on every move the F-Pace made. Furthermore, there were some gems that we didn't dare dream we'd discover in such a situation: like a ride that remained utterly composed and comfortable, even with lots of axle articulation as the Jaguar picked its way through potholes; levels of noise suppression that were eerily high, given we were on loose gravel tracks doing upwards of 50mph; and steering with feel, the most astonishing aspect of the lot considering that lowly mu figure.

We also know that the F-Pace will start from a near-bargain 34,170 as a Prestige model, rising to 65,275 for the 200-off First Edition limited edition. This 3.0-litre V6 version will cost at least 51,450, quite a bit more than the 46,000 for a Porsche Macan S Diesel, but then the Jaguar is far better equipped - so, spec-for-spec, the Porsche will probably be more expensive. The Jaguar is much more capable off-road than the Macan; if it can match it or (shock horror!) beat the German on the tarmac, the F-Pace will become the new benchmark for others to aspire to. We have high hopes.

Verdict

Bizarre name aside, the Jaguar F-Pace already looks like an incredible debut in a market the brand has never dared enter before. We don't know precisely what it will be like on road yet but even in the most treacherous, inhospitable conditions off-road, the F-Pace gives enough pointers to suggest it is going to be a supreme all-rounder that puts a firm emphasis on entertaining its driver. The leader in this particular sector, irrespective of size, is currently the Porsche Macan. We already know the Jag has the Macan's measure off-road but we think it will be monumentally good on-tarmac too, so are we looking at the new SUV champion? It's eminently possible; and we can't wait to find out for sure in a few months' time.

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Exterior Design

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Interior Ambience

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Passenger Space

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Luggage Space

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Safety

5 5 5 5 5 Comfort

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Driving Dynamics

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Powertrain


Matt Robinson - 28 Jan 2016









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2016 Jaguar F-Pace in pre-production guise. Image by Jaguar.2016 Jaguar F-Pace in pre-production guise. Image by Jaguar.2016 Jaguar F-Pace in pre-production guise. Image by Jaguar.2016 Jaguar F-Pace in pre-production guise. Image by Jaguar.2016 Jaguar F-Pace in pre-production guise. Image by Jaguar.

2016 Jaguar F-Pace in pre-production guise. Image by Jaguar.2016 Jaguar F-Pace in pre-production guise. Image by Jaguar.2016 Jaguar F-Pace in pre-production guise. Image by Jaguar.2016 Jaguar F-Pace in pre-production guise. Image by Jaguar.2016 Jaguar F-Pace in pre-production guise. Image by Jaguar.



2016 Jaguar F-Pace in pre-production guise. Image by Jaguar.
 

2016 Jaguar F-Pace in pre-production guise. Image by Jaguar.
 

2016 Jaguar F-Pace in pre-production guise. Image by Jaguar.
 

2016 Jaguar F-Pace in pre-production guise. Image by Jaguar.
 

2016 Jaguar F-Pace in pre-production guise. Image by Jaguar.
 

2016 Jaguar F-Pace in pre-production guise. Image by Jaguar.
 






 

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