Jaguar has always been the choice of sophistication. Think, oak and walnut trim. Wafty Suspension. The Gentleman’s choice. So it’s interesting to think about where the F-Pace sits against the core values of what is intrinsically a historically prestigious brand that exclusively produced executive saloons and sporty coupes.
That may sound a little silly, afterall, BMW and Mercedes delved into ‘soft-roaders’ a long time ago. Such is the diversification of the core brands these days. But it seems as if Jaguar have resisted ‘selling out’ as long as possible. You don’t see the leaping cat perched on hatchbacks, let alone front wheel drive family cars – so is finally seeing them delve into the world concern?
I collect the keys of the F Pace with as much of an open mind as possible, but the imposing looks instantly win me over. Jaguar of course are no stranger to this world given their Land-Rover connection, but the styling of the F-Pace has resisted the ultra-modern, angular, space-ship-esque styling that is prevalent in a lot of the vehicles being churned out today. I know it’s subjective, but I think it looks great from every angle. From the F-Type styled rear lights to the large front grille. It somehow keeps an aura of class about it.
But inside, they haven’t tried to shamelessly cling on to time of old. On this F-Type R, the dash is swathed in piano black trim and leather-effect dash. The dash however is for reasons unbeknownst to me, a cheap-feeling plastic. The stitching is intended to add to the leather effect but it feels a shame that there wasn’t a slightly higher level of finish here. Although watching the gear selector rise out of the dash doesn’t get old, I’m not a fan of turning a dial to select a gear. It adds to the already chasmic disconnect between man and machine that is synonymous with Autoboxes. It feels so digital. It also adds a little lag as you have to wait a brief second or so for the car to allow you to move out of park (also the case if you accidentally rev the engine before doing so). I also wonder whether it is an unnecessary source of failure and what happens if the day ever comes where your gear lever no longer rises from it’s slumber.
A huge, full-coloured infotainment system adorns the center console which is quickly familiarised. The usual refinements such as Bluetooth audio, DAB and so on are within a fingers reach, with vehicle settings, climate and heated seating control as well as rear view camera and parking sensor display all within easy access.
The car sits tall on 20” rims but feels comfortable to climb into, nestling into the every-which way adjustable seats. Legroom is plentiful as you find a position in the comforting leather seats front and back. With 6 foot tall adults possible to sit in both the front and back. The interior, while not quite having the pizzazz of the Porsche Equivalents, is ergonomically focused and well-built. It’s clear that the focus is more akin to the Jaguar Sedans, putting luxury and ease-of-use in pole position. Perhaps controversially, I think this is Jag’s best interior yet. Accommodating passengers simply isn’t a problem. It’s a very wide car at almost 2 meters across, with a long wheelbase so the seats naturally slurp up the abundance of space without feeling cramped.
A pulsing push start button invites you to awaken the (in this instance) 2 Litre engine. It blips to life whilst remaining fairly quiet at idle. In expected fashion you can adjust the car’s attitude by scrolling through the various drive modes, Snow, Comfort/Economy and Dynamic. Whilst in Economy you’re told you will expect a more relaxed throttle response cruising around town the road is simply lapped up. Damping is supple whist there is no excess of body-roll.
Flick the car into Dynamic mode and the dials begin to glow red. The car switches into a mode designed to give the ultimate throttle response and mapping, stiffer suspension and more aggressive shifts. Combine this with slipping the gearbox into Sport and manual mode and things change. The car picks up pace aggressively on a crescendo of turbo whistles and engine growls. It changes direction in the manner of a lighter, smaller car and never feels obverbaringly large on the road – although you do notice the size when you try to parallel park without scuffing those midnight black wheels on the kerb.
We won’t for a second pretend it turns like an F-Type which Jaguar will delight in drawing parallels to. The 2-litre Ingenium unit is surprisingly well placed here, providing ample torque where you need it. Drive sensibly with moderated inputs and you’re rewarded with a rather slick albeit not out and out sporty ride. It simply chews up the kilometers in sublime comfort as you make progress and it’s tighter than most of what Land Rover have to offer too.
And that 2.0 lump. It’s debatably a better all-round proposition than the punch V6 Diesel being 100kg lighter (200 if you go RWD and ditch the Auto Box), peaking out on torque earlier. This lends itself to a more rounded handling profile as well as better around town driving characteristics.. The 20 inch wheels fitted to out road-tester offer a slightly more compliant, enjoyable ride compared to the largely 22’s – but then they do suit the car’s design better so it’s a tough choice. You won’t be fooled in thinking you can throw your F-Pace around in the muddy stuff with too much gusto, mind – but on the road it is a gorgeous all-rounder.
So it’s safe to say I’m impressed with the F-Type in standard guise. It’s well built, comparatively sporty for a big car, but also mixes in heaps of usability. It’s certainly one of the sharper cars in this often marmite segment. The offerings from Porsche, dial up that sportiness a little but then there is always the SVR if you have greater performance ambitions.