What is it?
The SUVs of the olden days were required to offer a product that was comfortable, practical, rugged and with an ability to go anywhere. But in modern times, this definition has changed and manufacturers have started to give sportiness more priority while utility and ruggedness take a backseat. Now, there is a new breed of SUVs that are designed to be sports cars on stilts, but without compromising on the practicality aspect.
One such high rider is the brand-new Jaguar F-Pace, which from its conception was designed to surpass the incredible Porsche Macan; a product that rewrote the SUV handbook with its physics bending dynamics. So, has Jaguar got the new SUV product brief spot on? We got behind the wheel of the 3.0 V6 diesel version to find out.
Firstly though, the looks. The new F-Pace is a collection of different design elements from current range of Jaguar’s cars. Upfront, the large bumper with massive air intakes gives it presence and makes the F-Pace look intimidating, like an SUV should. The large gaping grille and the slim headlamps, meanwhile, are typical Jaguar. The chrome ornament on the front fenders and the tastefully designed tail lamps are inspired from the F-Type coupe; in fact, the F-Pace actually looks like an F-type on stilts from the rear.
How is it on the inside?
The cabin design is typical Jaguar as well, with the dashboard, steering wheel, infotainment screen placement, controls and even the trims that seem of have off the same parts bin as the XE sedan. The F-Pace though is the first Jaguar to get the new generation digital instrumentation; much in line with Audi’s virtual cockpit theme. Though it works well, the graphics are not as high-end or pleasing to the eye as the Audi’s system. Overall material quality meanwhile is good and the F-pace’s cabin is a welcoming place to be.
The high driving position is spot-on and visibility all round is quite decent. But, like with all aluminium chassis’ the A-pillars are quite thick and the large mirrors obstruct vision, especially at junctions. The well-bolstered front seats offer great lateral support and there is more than enough space at the rear too. Except for the low set rear bench, there is not much to complain as far as comfort is concerned. There is good overall support and headroom is in abundance too. The rear seats split 40/20/40 to give you maximum possible flexibility and there are sizeable door pockets, a large glovebox and even the centre console offers plenty of storage.
Jaguar has given the F-Pace a brand-new touchscreen Infotainment system that has been an Achilles heel of older Jags. Christened the InControl Touch Pro the display now is much larger at 10.2-inches and is powered by a powerful quad-core processor. The user interface and graphics are more modern too, but the touchscreen isn’t as responsive as some other modern systems.
How is it to drive?
The Jaguar F-Pace gets the new generation Ingenium 2.0-litre diesel engine. It’s a high-tech motor and will replace the old 2.2-litre motor from all existing Jaguar Land Rover models. But, we got the familiar 3.0-litre V6, which also does duty on the XJ. As soon as you start the motor you realise that this 2993cc engine is a refined and smooth unit with it settling down at a quiet idle. This common-rail diesel churns out a very impressive 296bhp and a massive 700Nm of max pulling power.
Be it acceleration from a standstill or through the gears, the V6 motor feels right on the money. Throttle response is good for an engine with a big turbo and there is a strong linear surge even when you mash the throttle. The motor is remarkably refined too and even with pedal to the metal driving, the decibel levels in the cabin don’t really go beyond a distant hum.
On an open road, once past 2000rpm, the engine comes into its own and the rush continues to multiply all the way to 4000rpm. As a result, zero to 100kmph takes just 7.45 seconds. But, considering the near 300 horsepower figure and relatively light weight of the F-Pace, we expected a sub-seven second time; especially given that some SUVs with lesser power and more weight have achieved that.
The 8-speed automatic gearbox feels well matched to the characteristics of this V6 motor. It feels laidback and shifts are smooth in normal D-mode. Switch to Sport and it turns into a quick swapping ‘box as it stays in a lower gear for maximum acceleration. You can also use the steering mounted paddle shifters and the gearbox feels obedient and alert in manual mode. However, the downshifts are a wee bit slower in Eco setting.
With the Porsche Macan in its sight, the British marque has gone to great lengths and has thrown the best of technologies it possess to walk the talk. The F-Pace shares its basic architecture with the very impressive XE sedan. Like the sedan more than 80 per cent of the body structure is made up of recycled aluminium. So, the core body weighs in at just 300kg.
Also, to get the weight distribution a near perfect 50:50 front to rear, Jaguar has played with different materials. The bonnet is aluminium, front carrier is magnesium, doors are made up of steel and the entire tailgate is made from plastic composites. Jaguar has also employed integral link independent rear suspension that it claims offers major benefits over conventional multi-link designs by optimising both lateral and longitudinal stiffness.
This results in a car that defies its weight and size. The F-Pace loves corners and it even handles quick directional changes confidently. Plus, the beautifully weighted steering and tight body control further enhance the driving experience. With 90 per cent of the power going to the rear wheels under normal circumstances, the F-Pace can be controlled on throttle as well to alter or correct lines mid corner.
But, before you park the car backwards on top of the mountain bank (with too much throttle a bit too early) the quick acting 4WD system jumps in and gets the orientation back in line. As a result, the F-Pace is both fun and exploitable, at the hands of drivers of varying driving skills. It’s only around the tighter stuff that one can feel the weight of the SUV, say around a tight hairpin for instance, where one does experience some understeer. So, while the F-Pace feels great around sweeping bends, it just can’t match the agility of the Macan around tighter corners.
In most cases, a SUV with sporting pretentions always suffers when you drive over rough road. It is true for the F-Pace too, but it never goes to the point of it feeling uncomfortable. The F-Pace’s ride has an underlying firmness to it, especially over sharp edged bumps, but up the speed and the Jaguar SUV manages to dispatch the occasional rutted surface with authority. But, the ride, even at high speeds, is never flat or plush, not with its rear inclined towards bouncing over undulations. Our test car is the R-Sport variant that doesn’t get adjustable dampers. So, the top of the line First Edition with the fancy dampers might fare better in this regard.
Should I buy one?
The Jaguar F-Pace is expensive, especially if you are planning to buy the V6 variant. If you can live with a F-Pace, which has, less but adequate power and a noisier engine then go for the 2.0-litre Prestige. It retails at a reasonable Rs 74.50 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi). But, in the 3.0 version the F-Pace is properly quick and is much more fun and refined too. The F-Pace feels great from behind the wheel and the quiet high-speed ride makes it a great long distance machine. Apart from driving dynamics you also get a car that has a well-appointed and comfortable cabin, and SUV practicality. So, is Jaguar’s first attempt at making an SUV a job well done? Yes. Despite the height, size and weight, the F-Pace feels like a genuine Jag that just has the finest driving manners.
Where does it fit in?
There are three SUVs that one might consider competition to the Jaguar F-Pace. There’s the more affordable and spacious Mercedes GLE. But, the GLE clearly doesn’t have the same emotion draw as the Jaguar. There’s also the BMW X5, which is closer to the Jag in terms of pricing, but is nowhere near the F-Pace in dynamic terms. That leaves us with the Porsche Macan, an SUV the F-Pace was benchmarked against all throughout its development stage. And there’s a ‘but’ here to. The Macan is just too expensive, apples for apples to actually be considered as an alternative. But, that’s about to change with the cheaper Macan R4. Till then, the F-Pace is in a nice niche.
Pictures by Kapil Angane
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