Road Test: Jaguar F-Pace Portfolio 2.0d AWD Auto
Undoubtedly desirable, does the F-Pace strike the right balance between sports and utility? Alex Grant finds out.
Sector: SUV Price: £43,710 Fuel: 53.3mpg CO2: 139g/km
Depending on your perspective, and how much you subscribe to Jaguar’s marketing material, the F-Pace is either a practical high-riding sports car, or yet another premium SUV. Either way, it’s a much-needed addition with an obvious business case.
It’s a familiar offering; the F-Pace looks like an upwardly-stretched XF at the front, and there’s a blatant nod to the F-Type in its rear lights. It’s built on the same aluminium-rich structure as the rest of the line-up and offered with most of the XF’s four and six-cylinder diesel and petrol engines.
However, it slots into a bit of a gap. Jaguar’s driver focus lines this up against the growing number of premium-brand coupe-SUVs. Size wise, it fits between the XE and XF in its own line-up, and drops into a gap that’s larger than BMW X4 and smaller than the X6, though it’s closer in size to the former.
There’s a dark art to tuning an SUV more towards Sport than Utility; it can bring out the worst of both worlds, blending the space compromises of a coupe with the bulk and fuel consumption of a larger car. But the F-Pace strikes an attractive balance between the two.
So it’s quite generous on space. Granted, it’s a little bigger than most mid-size coupe-SUVs, but it’s also the lightest of the lot, except for the equivalent X4, and the boot capacity hasn’t suffered as much as the raked rear windowline might suggest. With the seats up or down, it offers more capacity than the much larger X6, GLE Coupe and Porsche Cayenne.
As contrived as it might sound, it’s also a respectable drivers’ car. It doesn’t feel as big or as tall as it should do while cornering, and there’s plenty of weight and feel to the steering which gives it a confidence on the road. Of course, the trade-off is a need to be picky with the way you spec it. The F-Pace wears small wheels badly, but feels unsettled on urban roads when it’s on larger ones. Adaptive suspension is a must-have if you’re filling the arches – which, given that the SUV class is all about styling, you should.
The 163bhp version of JLR’s new 2.0-litre diesel engine isn’t available in the F-Pace, and the V6 diesel is reserved for the S. So the best option for business users is the 180bhp 2.0d, and the eight-speed automatic gearbox means opting for four-wheel drive too. It’s the weakest link in the ‘sports car’ argument, but its spread of gear ratios means it can usually find extra performance when needed, and return close to brochure figure economy while cruising in Eco mode.
The trouble is, it lets itself down on details. Portfolio versions get soft, fluted leather seats and accents of wood in the cabin, but it’s not enough to mask the abundance of hard plastics within easy reach. It’s not something that’ll dissuade many potential buyers, but it’s not up to the standards set by its rivals.
Overall, though, the F-Pace is a competent SUV with all the right styling cues and equipment to have no problems flying out of showrooms the world over. But I’d expect, despite Jaguar’s claims, that most of them will be seeking its SUV practicality rather than its ability to lap the Nürburgring.
There’s a huge choice of desirable rivals in the two segments the F-Pace is straddling, but incredibly strong residual values and competitive CO2 emissions mean Jaguar is well placed to find a home on executive-level choice lists.