Good: exterior styling, interior space, economy.
Not so good: really needs larger wheels and a bright colour, engine could be quieter.
Tell me, what do the SUVs and crossovers on the following list all have in common?
I'll tell you. You could buy any of them if you had a wheelbarrow full of Euros adding up to the asking price of the Jaguar F-Pace 20d AWD Prestige Auto tested here. So while Jaguar's dealers must be rejoicing at finally having an SUV to sell, the F-Pace needs to be better than just good if it's to capture the imaginations of car buyers that aren't already in the Jaguar fold. And our initial taste of the Jaguar F-Pace at its international launch suggested it was up to the job. Back on Irish roads, in a realistic Irish specification, can the F-Pace take the fight to the established premium SUVs?
The Jaguar's appearance helps no end, as its design team took plenty of influence from the F-Type sports car, mixed with the familial radiator grille and headlight design up front. It's largely very successful, but we beg you, potential F-Pace buyers, to specify a decent set of alloy wheels, as the 18-inch items that come as standard on the Pure and Prestige models (pictured here) do the car no favours whatsoever. Each to their own on the trim level, though I found the Prestige just about acceptable and would try to stretch to Portfolio or R-Sport if possible. And really, though there are rear-wheel drive and manual models lower down the range (with temptingly low emissions ratings), you'd be mad to buy anything other than an automatic, as history has shown us that the used market does not like a luxury car with a manual gearbox. So, while a starting price of €44,100 for the F-Pace seems entirely reasonable, I personally would consider this Prestige 20d AWD Automatic to be the more realistic option, taking into account residual value and the ownership experience. That's €56,210 before you add a proper set of wheels.
All of the F-Paces come with a noticeably spacious five-seat cabin and a huge boot (we fitted three child seats in the back without an issue); though it's all at its best the higher up the trim levels you go. Thankfully, all seem well put together and though the instrumentation and dashboard look a little plain at first, it all works well, especially the latest generation touchscreen infotainment system. Sit in the driver's seat and the controls fall neatly to hand, including the gear selector that theatrically rises up out of the centre console. The steering wheel is noticeably tactile to hold, reinforcing Jaguar's 'practical sports car' mantra for the F-Pace.
And the F-Pace does its best to live up to that on the road. Here, powered by a 2.0-litre turbodiesel engine with 180hp and 430Nm of torque, it's not the nippiest SUV on the market, but thanks to the lightweight aluminium construction, neither is it a slouch. Shame the 'Ingenium' engine isn't a little quieter and the eight-speed automatic transmission a little smoother around town, but on the open road it's a joy to drive and reports from my passengers after a five-hour schlep south mixing motorway and poor country roads suggest that it makes for a comfortable car to spend long journeys in.
But how far would you go to get one? Would you walk past the showrooms for all the cars I mentioned at the top of this page to the Jaguar dealership? There are some very tempting alternatives in that list and while the F-Pace certainly deserves consideration, it needs to be carefully specified to prevent it costing a lot more than some of them.