First Drive: Jaguar F-Pace
Will Jaguar’s new SUV give it a bigger presence in the corporate market? Steve Moody finds out.
Sector: SUV Price: £34,170-£51,450 Fuel: 31.7–57.6mpg CO2: 129–209g/km
For the last few years Jaguar has been in search of an identity and a place in the world of premium brands. The problem has been that while it makes sports cars and very competent saloons it hasn’t hit the volumes that can transform it into a major player alongside the German brands. As a result in fleet, businesses are likely to think of those first when choosing cars, and the British marque after. The F-Pace SUV will change all that.
What once was niche is now core, and with the launch of the F-Pace there has been none of the teeth gnashing and worries of brand dilution that went along with Porsche or BMW when they launched big four-wheel drives. Instead, executives at Jaguar expect this to be the biggest selling model by some distance, bringing new customers to the company. So it had better be good.
Initial impressions are favourable. The F-Pace is a fantastic looking car, solid and upright but with brilliantly integrated hints at the firm’s sports cars, especially around the rear, which makes its bulk look more slender. For the type of buyer of an SUV, with executive earning power and an image to project, aesthetics are essential.
Manufactured at Jaguar Land Rover’s Solihull Plant alongside the Jaguar XE, the F-Pace is built with a light, stiff body structure comprised of 80% aluminium, and is the only aluminium-intensive monocoque in the segment. Additional weight savings come from the composite tailgate and magnesium for parts such as the cross-car beam, and the result is a car that weighs around 150kg or less than the competition.
You might assume that this would translate into a considerable CO2 advantage over its rivals, but the gap is less than you might think. The rear-wheel drive 180bhp 2.0-litre diesel manual is the only model under 130g/km, and is at the same level as an equivalent Mercedes-Benz GLC with an auto box.
That said, the leaps in CO2 are not vast for an auto and the type of driver of one of these SUVs is not completely hung up on taxation, otherwise they wouldn’t be in one in the first place.
Of more importance is the way it drives and the manner in which it fits their lifestyle. The body’s high torsional stiffness enables the F-Type-derived front suspension and sophisticated rear suspension to deliver an entertaining car for the size, even if it is dynamically not as accomplished as the considerably more expensive Porsche Macan. The small diesel does its job manfully, while the 300bhp diesel V6 is wonderfully smooth and strong and by far the best powertrain – although of course you will pay for the privilege.
On the petrol side, the 380bhp 3.0 V6 Supercharged motor, straight out of Jaguar’s high performance cars, is odd – being at once ludicrously quick at the top end and weedy at the bottom. Simply, it’s a sports car engine in a heavyish SUV and out of place.
For the owner of this car, there is a welcome improvement in the infotainment system, and Jaguar finally seems to be catching up with the modern world with every new model. The screen can be configured to suit you, and the ability to download Apps to add new functionality will only become more useful in future. The rest of the cabin though, is fine, without being fabulous, and still lags behind the Germans in terms of materials and finish.
Price-wise, the F-Pace is extremely competitive with cars such as the BMW X3, and has residuals any car company would kill for: more than 50% after three years/60,000, meaning whole-life costs should be well tied down.
Jaguar needs the F-Pace to deliver it into the hearts and minds of corporate Britain. Good-looking, nice to drive and classy, it will be an extremely sought after SUV among executives.