Here it is, our initial impressions of the most important version of Jaguar's first ever SUV, the sporty new F-Pace. Virtually all examples of the five-door car sold in Ireland will be powered by the 180hp 2.0-litre 'Ingenium' diesel unit and though emissions can be as low as 129g/km in manual, rear-wheel drive format, we suspect that most will opt for the automatic transmission and all-wheel drive, as reviewed here.
In the Metal:
Back when Jaguar revealed the C-X17 concept SUV at the 2013 Frankfurt Motor Show we went to talk about it to Ian Callum, Director of Design at Jaguar. He was adamant then that Jaguar had yet to decide on producing an SUV, but it transpires that Callum and his design team were already working on the production model and though he's proud of the F-Pace's design, he admits that it was initially one of the most difficult projects to work on, seeing as he was responsible for shaping the company's first ever SUV.
We reckon he's done a fine job. Much of the C-X17 concept design has been carried over to the showroom model and it's well-proportioned, with oodles of on-the-road presence. The face with its distinctive headlights and large grille opening could only be a Jaguar's, while the rear lights are more than a nod to the F-Type sports car. It looks at its most impressive on large alloys (Jaguar offers loads of wheel designs, up to 22 inches in diameter) and carries off strong colours well.
At first the interior looks relatively plain, with a wide expanse of dashboard, depending on how you specify it, but spend more time in the car and you appreciate the attention to detail, such as the shape of the inner door panels that sweep into the dash and house the electric window switches. Trim panels on the door themselves come in a variety of colours and materials, including real metal. The simple round steering wheel is good to hold and there are lovely metal gearchange paddles behind in the automatic models. Depending on variant, there are either regular analogue instruments or a superb new 12.3-inch HD cluster with different view options - including full-screen 3D satnav. That's complemented in higher spec cars by the new InControl Touch Pro infotainment system in the centre of the car, accessed via a 10.2-inch touchscreen. This responds quickly to touch and is easy to use, but because it's wide, it sometimes feels like there's not enough vertical screen space.
Up front there's plenty of room in all directions and the electrically adjusted seating lets drivers choose between a low-set position or a much higher setting for maximum visibility. Jaguar is just as proud of the rear compartment and even went so far as using magnetic fasteners for the headlining to maximise headroom. It's spacious in the outer two seats, but the middle passenger's comfort is compromised by the large raised floor section in the centre. The rear seat back splits and folds 40:20:40 and can be specified with an electric recline. Buyers can also splash out on four-zone climate control with extra vents in the B-pillars for the rear seat occupants.
In terms of practicalities, the door pockets and centre console storage are a good size, the glovebox less so and there can be up to two USB ports up front and another two in the back. The boot is huge as well, holding 650 litres with all seats used or up to 1,740 litres with the rear seat backs folded down. The boot floor is double-sided too, with carpet on one side and rubber on the other and there's a huge space under the floor, big enough to store a full-size spare wheel. That hatchback itself is made of a composite material to keep weight down, though electric opening is optional - with gesture control.
I don't think I'm doing the F-Pace a disservice to liken its dynamics to that of the Jaguar XF saloon, though the raised driving position gives it a unique feel and Jaguar likes to reference the F-Type when talking about the SUV's handling characteristics. In fairness, the F-Pace does feature a similar double wishbone front and 'Integral Link' rear suspension system and it offers a great blend of body and individual wheel control with refined cruising manners and comfort. It undoubtedly has been tipped towards the dynamic end of the ride and handling spectrum, though we found that the 22-inch wheels help neither the comfort nor feedback.
On 20-inch rims the F-Pace worked well, though it should be noted that all cars we tested were fitted with the optional Adaptive Dynamics system. That can be altered between Sport and Normal using the Configurable Dynamics menu, where drivers can also alter the throttle and transmission response, plus the power steering assistance. The latter is an electric system and offers plenty of communication so the driver knows precisely how much grip is available, but it's also a variable ratio system, giving the F-Pace stability at speed coupled with a more agile feel the more the wheel is turned. It's effective, helping make the F-Pace one of the few premium SUVs you might take up a twisty road just for the sake of it.
Only then is the 2.0-litre diesel engine found wanting. Those that like higher performance would do well to consider the 3.0 diesel instead. For the majority of buyers, the 2.0-litre's 180hp and 430Nm of torque will be more than ample. Only when it's extended to the redline does it become a little loud, though it's always smooth. Let the excellent eight-speed automatic change up earlier and the engine is rarely very audible.
What you get for your Money:
Pricing for the F-Pace starts at €44,100. There are Pure, Prestige, Portfolio, R-Sport, S and 'First Edition' grades. The 2.0-litre turbodiesel engine is offered in 180hp guise, with a manual or automatic gearbox in rear- or all-wheel drive formats. The only other rear-wheel drive model is powered by a 240hp 2.0-litre petrol unit, but we don't expect there to be demand in Ireland for that. Those that want a little more performance can upgrade to a 3.0-litre V6 diesel (from €69,700), with 300hp, or one of the supercharged 3.0-litre V6 petrol engines, producing either 340- or 380hp. Actually, only the latter is listed in Ireland, starting at €78,000. All the V6 engines are mated to an automatic gearbox and all-wheel drive as standard. In terms of emissions, the rear-drive 2.0-litre diesel car is the champ of the range, with a figure of 129g/km in manual guise.
The F-Pace Pure features 18-inch alloys, cruise control, one-touch electric windows all-round, auto wipers, dual-zone climate control, Bluetooth, rear parking sensors, Autonomous Emergency Braking and keyless start. Next up is the Prestige, adding bi-Xenon headlights with LED daytime running lamps, leather upholstery and interior mood lighting. The R-Sport is a similar specification to the Prestige, but adds a sportier look to proceedings, including 19-inch alloy wheels and a body kit. Above those two is the Portfolio variant, featuring upgraded leather, electric front seats and more.
It almost doesn't matter how the Jaguar F-Pace drives, as its design and image are strong enough for it to attract a flock of new buyers to Jaguar showrooms. Thankfully it lives up to its sporty promise with a good balance of comfort and body control. The 2.0-litre diesel engine has ample performance and even in all-wheel drive and automatic guise the running costs and acceptable. Given the likely resale value of this specification, we'd suggest it's the choice of the whole line-up for most buyers.