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Driven: Jaguar F-Pace. Image by Jaguar.

Driven: Jaguar F-Pace
Driving the F-Pace SUV in big-selling 2.0d trim. But we’d prefer a 3.0-litre if we’re honest…

 



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Jaguar F-Pace

4 4 4 4 4

Good points: Stunning exterior, classy interior, spacious, sharp chassis

Not so good: Ride on fixed-rate dampers surprisingly poor, 2.0-litre diesel can be noisy

Key Facts

Model tested: Jaguar F-Pace 2.0d Portfolio 180 AWD
Price: F-Pace from £34,170; 2.0d Portfolio 180 AWD from £42,860, car as tested £45,985
Engine: 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder diesel
Transmission: all-wheel drive, eight-speed automatic
Body style: five-door SUV
CO2 emissions: 139g/km (£200 first 12 months, £450 per annum next five years, then £140 per annum thereafter)
Combined economy: 53.3mpg
Top speed: 129mph
0-62mph: 8.7 seconds
Power: 180hp at 4,000rpm
Torque: 430Nm at 1,500- to 2,500rpm

Our view:

The last time your correspondent drove a Jaguar F-Pace, it was a 3.0-litre turbodiesel model that had to pick its way around a completely sodden Welsh quarry that was being lashed by ramrod rain. Dressed in light camouflage and forbidden from going on public roads, it nevertheless shone with extraordinary dynamic promise and an air of prestige desirability.

And then The Boss drove the whole range on the international launch and pretty much confirmed that view. Although there was the nagging suspicion that the Jaguar was at its absolute best in range-topping S guise, packing either the colossal 380hp/450Nm V6 petrol or the 300hp twin-turbo V6 diesel with 300hp but an even more gigantic 700Nm. So does the big-selling 2.0-litre Ingenium diesel version in upmarket Portfolio finish manage to convince us the F-Pace line-up makes sense from entry-point to range-topper?

Picking rivals for the Jaguar SUV is tricky, because it's a physically large, premium product but it also has an emphasis on the sporty driving that the marque is traditionally renowned for. There's one clear competitor that's easy to identify, mainly because Jag admitted it was in the F-Pace's crosshairs from the start - and that's the Porsche Macan. Coventry actually benchmarked the Macan as the vehicle the F-Pace had to beat in the chassis department, and if you look at the bumf both manufacturers spouted ahead of each car's launch, you can see their near-identical intent: Porsche calls the Macan the 'world's first sports car SUV'; Jaguar asserts the F-Pace is the 'most practical sports car ever'. Whatever the jargon, you have to say fair play to Jag for setting its sights so high by targeting the awesome Macan.

Beyond that, the lines get blurred. For example, up against products from the closely-related Land Rover/Range Rover portfolio, you could make a good case for the F-Pace being an alternative to four models: the Land Rovers Discovery Sport and Discovery; and the Range Rovers Evoque and Sport. But it's also easy to hole most of those arguments below the waterline with a few observations: neither the Disco Sport nor Evoque have the V6 powerplant options of the Jaguar, they're both cheaper to buy and the Landie has the option of a 5+2 seating arrangement, which the F-Pace doesn't; the new Discovery 5 is clearly a full seven-seat SUV that's designed to have even more off-road prowess than it has on-road; and the Range Rover Sport starts at nearly 60 grand, when the Jaguar is priced from just £34,000. Furthermore, of the German rivals, it's only compromised models like the BMW X4 and Mercedes-Benz GLC Coupe - both of which have limited rear headroom and smallish boots - that get close to offering the Jaguar's blend of great road-holding and classy ambience.

So the F-Pace could be said to sit in a class of two with the Macan, which means it has to be right on top of its game to win that particular battle. Tested here is a 2.0-litre diesel Portfolio model with an eight-speed gearbox, all-wheel drive and non-adjustable damping. It'll be a big seller but it's not exactly cheap at £42,860 without options. However, it does have a simply massive equipment roster for that sort of money - which we won't list here, because you'll be reading all day if we do - as witnessed by our test car's mere £3,125 of options, made up of metallic paint (£675), 20-inch alloys (£800), heated rear seats (£420), automated perpendicular parking system (£450) and a 360-degree parking camera (£780). On this score, the F-Pace Portfolio is well ahead of the Macan, which needs any number of costly extras added to it, quickly jacking the price up to near £60,000. One-nil to the F-Pace.

Two-nil swiftly follows, because - as handsome as the Macan is - the F-Pace is another step on again. Of all the SUVs on sale today, be they small, two-wheel-drive crossovers or the equivalent of mountains-on-wheels churned out by Bentley, the Jaguar has to be in the top three for looks. It is a beautiful machine, not something you can easily say of these larger 4x4s. Even in lowlier specification and on smaller alloys, it looks wonderful but start stepping up the range and it takes on truly feline purpose. The scowling face, the deep-yet-not-heavy flanks, the slender glasshouse, that sloping roof, the rear lights that are straight off the back of an F-Type... it's a stunner.

And it quickly becomes 3-0 to the Jag when rating practicality, as it has masses more rear-seat space than the Porsche and a gigantic 650-litre boot, versus the Teuton's 500-litre affair. As the 2.0-litre Macan is a special order in the UK, the F-Pace wins more plaudits for making the economical four-cylinder version more accessible, although we saw 34.7mpg across 200 miles of A-roads driving, rather than anything like 53.3mpg as claimed by Jaguar; more worryingly, 450 miles in a 3.0-litre Macan S Diesel in spring 2015 saw a 40.4mpg return.

The German does get a goal back here, though, because - while we like the current Jag dash architecture of the InControl screen up high and then the two neat rows of buttons beneath it - there's less visual interest in the F-Pace cockpit than there is in the Macan's cabin. There's nothing wrong with the Jaguar's ergonomics nor fit and finish, but apart from the rotary gearlever rising out of the dashboard upon start-up, it lacks anything really dazzling.

Soon, the Porsche comeback looks like it is on. While we've never been the biggest critics of the Ingenium 2.0-litre engine, in this application it sounds needlessly vocal at higher revs. Larger throttle openings on the F-Pace 2.0d Portfolio are therefore not hugely pleasant experiences, whereas of course the Macan is almost exclusively a six-cylinder car for similar cash, so it always sounds brilliant. Perhaps the Jag's bigger failing in this guise is that, fitted with the 20-inch wheels and without recourse to adaptive dampers (they're only standard equipment on the S variants, being a cost option elsewhere in the F-Pace family), the ride quality is strangely mediocre. Too often it feels over-damped and under-sprung, picking up more surface imperfections than it should and yet rolling too much in corners. So when it comes to ride and refinement, the Porsche gets the second goal.

However, we still think the F-Pace has a blinding chassis. It's not the most comfortable Jaguar we've been in recently, but the 2.0d was great fun to chuck about in the bends, thanks to crisp steering, an abundance of grip from the four-wheel-drive system and a feeling that it could be adjusted slightly on the throttle. Sure, the Porsche also has its merits, with what could be described as exquisite steering, and even the ability to oversteer should you need it, but we'll call this category as one-each, leaving the final verdict at 4-3 in favour of the Jaguar.

So, incredibly when stacked up against the Macan (one of our very favourite machines), it's a win for the Jaguar, and there's no doubt how superb an effort the F-Pace is as Jaguar's first-ever SUV. Yet, like the 2.0-litre diesel XF we've driven, we think the F-Pace is very spec-dependent. As good as the 2.0d was, it would have monstered the Porsche if it was in S trim with the 3.0-litre diesel; admittedly, it would also have been more expensive, but we think the Jaguar is worth it.

Therefore, while it's not the most frugal advice for buyers, our thoughts on the brilliant F-Pace SUV are these: if you want to get the best possible experience from the British car, avoid four cylinders and base grades, and aim straight at the top of the tree. The V6 petrol would be punitive to run but the 3.0-litre turbodiesel? Now that's a lot more like it - and thus equipped, it could possibly be one of the best SUVs you could buy for any amount of cash. What higher praise is there for the Jaguar than that?

Alternatives:

Land Rover Discovery Sport: Difficult to say precisely which Land Rover/Range Rover the F-Pace squares up to directly, so we'll go for the Disco Sport; Landie has seven-seat option but no V6.

Lexus NX: If you want to avoid the German SUV norm, then the angular Lexus is a good bet. It's a smooth operator as a 200t but not exciting to drive, despite supposedly being the 'dynamic' version.

Porsche Macan: As we've not driven a 2.0-litre Macan, we're not sure how it would stack up against this F-Pace but the 3.0-litre model is as near to compact, sporty SUV perfection as you're likely to get.


Matt Robinson - 16 Dec 2016









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2016 Jaguar F-Pace 20d drive. Image by Jaguar.2016 Jaguar F-Pace 20d drive. Image by Jaguar.2016 Jaguar F-Pace 20d drive. Image by Jaguar.2016 Jaguar F-Pace 20d drive. Image by Jaguar.2016 Jaguar F-Pace 20d drive. Image by Jaguar.

2016 Jaguar F-Pace 20d drive. Image by Jaguar.2016 Jaguar F-Pace 20d drive. Image by Jaguar.2016 Jaguar F-Pace 20d drive. Image by Jaguar.2016 Jaguar F-Pace 20d drive. Image by Jaguar.2016 Jaguar F-Pace 20d drive. Image by Jaguar.








 

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