Naturally, most Irish buyers of Jaguar's new F-Pace SUV will opt for the 2.0-litre diesel version, but we're still glad cars like this supercharged petrol model exist. The 380hp V6 gives the F-Pace's chassis plenty to think about, and it sounds well, but the S remains a curiosity in this part of the world. The First Edition version does a rather good impression of the C-X17 concept car that previewed the production model too, though it's costly.
In the metal
The First Edition of the F-Pace is a limited production grade designed to look as close as physically possible to the Jaguar C-X17 concept car that preceded the showroom-ready model. It's limited to just 2,000 examples worldwide and a little bird tells us that they're all pretty much spoken for already, so if you want one, have a word with your local dealer sharpish. Everyone remembers the striking deep blue colour of the original concept revealed at the 2013 Frankfurt Motor Show, and that's one of four hues available on the First Edition; it's called Caesium Blue incidentally and it's the colour shown here. The other unique option is Halcyon Gold, the less-well remembered colour applied to the concept for its appearance at the Guangzhou Motor Show in China. There's also silver or black, but as those are available on other variants of the F-Pace, why would you? Complementing the paintwork is a set of stunning 22-inch alloy wheels finished in dark grey, full-LED headlights, gloss black vents in the front wings and a sliding panoramic roof. The effect is pronounced, giving the First Edition serious presence. To be fair, much of the sporty look is applied to the F-Pace S too, wheels, special colours and other trinkets aside.
Inside, the concept's influence is found in the embossed 'houndstooth' pattern in the Windsor leather seats, finished in Light Oyster. There's loads of equipment as standard as well, including the InControl Touch Pro touchscreen system, virtual instrument cluster and 10-colour ambient lighting.
The First Edition of the F-Pace was, fittingly, the first version of the car we drove at the launch. And we were, initially, a little underwhelmed. After all, it's powered by the same 380hp supercharged 3.0-litre V6 petrol engine found in the Jaguar F-Type sports car, which is an absolute riot. It makes 380hp and 450Nm of torque, which is plenty for a relatively lightweight SUV - as evidenced by the respectable 5.5-second 0-100km/h time. And yet, it never feels that fast, even in Dynamic mode. Perhaps it's the higher up seating position, or the added weight in comparison to its relative, but it feels more refined than it is sporty. It also does without the F-Type's riotous exhaust system, which is a shame.
It wasn't only the performance that left us feeling a little disappointed; the dynamics didn't really live up to the 'practical sports car' billing. Sure it's planted and sure it feels great on a smooth and sweeping fast road, but put it to the test on tighter curves and it's less fun. We found the front end lacking bite and feedback, so you unwittingly entered a corner expecting more grip from the front tyres and then realised the limits had been reached, with untidy understeer the order of the day. Where was the torque vectoring? Where were the F-Type inspired dynamics?
All became clear once we drove other variants of the F-Pace, including a 3.0 V6 S model using the same engine as the First Edition. It seems to boil down to the wheels and tyres. The 22-inch alloys look awesome, but the resultantly low profile sidewall means much less feedback through the steering. On 20-inch wheels, we found the 3.0 V6 S to be a joy, telegraphing its limits in a clear fashion and feeling up the job of being hustled along an interesting road. Commendably, regardless of wheel size, all F-Paces we drove managed to remain comfortable. Moral of the story: make sure you test a car with the same size wheels you're thinking of ordering, as they may have a pronounced effect on your driving enjoyment.
What you get for your money
Somewhat surprisingly, the supercharged 380hp petrol engine is available in all grades of the F-Pace, from the entry-level Pure, right up to the Portfolio and First Edition. All use the eight-speed automatic transmission and four-wheel drive. Pricing starts at €78,000, rising to €103,300 for the 'S' version that'll remain on the price list after all the First Editions are sold. The latter is an eye-watering €116,900, though Jaguar will also sell you a First Edition powered by the 3.0-litre diesel V6 for a 'bargain' €101,250 if you ask nicely. As you'd hope, the First Edition is loaded down with equipment, including Adaptive Dynamics, cruise control, dual-zone climate control, widescreen infotainment, Bluetooth and a whole lot more.
In comparison to the diesel versions of the Jaguar F-Pace, the 3.0-litre V6 petrol model makes a good sound, but it has been developed for refinement more than out-and-out excitement so don't expect an F-Type S on stilts. Jaguar is clearly keeping a little in reserve for further high-performance variants so this car is unlikely to have an impact in Ireland. Those with very deep pockets might be tempted by one of the concept car-aping First Editions, but make sure you can live with the dynamics of the car if it's fitted with the 22-inch wheels.