There are sport utility vehicles (SUVs) and there are sport utility vehicles. I say this because utility is one thing, but sport is another matter altogether. There is nothing sporty about a Hyundai Sante Fe or a Toyota Land Cruiser Prado. It’s a different matter with models such as the Porsche Macan and Cayenne and then it is even more obvious with the Ranger Rover Sport. In fact, you do not get much more sporty or utility than the Rangie.
It is no surprise the team at Jaguar were probably a little jealous of their colleagues at Land Rover. Sport is a Jag characteristic. Range Rovers are supposed to be able to carry champagne and spaniels across muddy fields, not charge through tarred mountain passes defying the laws of physics.
Keen to get a piece of the pie and assert their sporting authority on the SUV genre, Jaguar introduced the F-Pace. The patriotic British motoring press went bananas but were faced with a dilemma — can it be a better British SUV than the Range Rover Sport?
We’ll come back to that, but in the meantime the F-Pace is flying out of showrooms around the world, including here in SA. It is no surprise, it looks stunning and has the modern styling that blends traditional SUV with something resembling a coupe towards the rear. It has real presence courtesy of that huge grille, gaping air ducts and narrow, mean-looking headlights.
The bonnet sits high as does the bodywork on the side profile, with a narrow glass area all the way round. The roofline tapers at the rear enhancing that coupe look with a narrow rear window, large spoiler and narrow lights that reflect the latest Jag design theme. It is a great looking vehicle, emanating presence from every angle.
Inside things are all new era Jag, with design elements from the X models. The gear selector that rises from the centre console when the engine starts is still cool and there is a full digital instrument cluster. The look of that cluster changes depending on whether you are in economy mode, comfort mode or dynamic head for the hills mode.
You also get the latest touchscreen infotainment system which gives you access to navigation, audio, climate control and other settings. It is not the best in the business and is mounted a little too low so you often have to take your eyes off the road to make sure you select the right thing. But it is easier to use and more comprehensive than previous Jaguar systems.
The layout of the interior is superb, providing that elevated driving position which is at the same time focused on making the driver feel as though they are behind the wheel of a sports car rather than a school run tractor. The steering wheel feels thick and is perfectly weighted. The rear seats are comfortable and there is plenty of legroom. Head room not so much, compromised by that tapered roofline.
We tested the 3.0l S supercharged V6 petrol, which offers plenty of performance but you have to wait for it to kick in. It can be lazy to get up and go, with the maximum torque of 460Nm coming in at 4,600r/min, but when that supercharger is properly on song, the power arrives with a jolt. It takes getting used to if you want to drive sedately and occasionally I found myself pulling gently out of a junction and then the thing just leaps.
You can reduce this slightly by driving on the paddles.
The ride is good but a touch firm, particularly on many of Jourg’s roads, but get out of town and push things a little and you quickly ignore that. What you do notice though is the weight. It is lighter than the Rangie at 1,884kg but in the corners it feels as though it is almost reluctantly hauling its bulk around. That is partly because the Rangie has a clever system that flattens the vehicle in the corners, whereas the Jag rolls a bit more.
It is still fantastically dynamic though.
Jaguar deserves applause for its first effort in the SUV space. It is a great looking vehicle, with presence as well as luxury and a truly sporty soul. It is every bit the Jaguar. What it is not is a Range Rover Sport and while you cannot drive five minutes without seeing one on our roads, the Sport is not being overtaken by its Jaguar cousin just yet. – Mark Smyth
Fast Facts: Jaguar F-Pace 35T S
Engine: 2995cc supercharged V6
Power: 280kW at 6500rpm
Torque: 460Nm at 4500rpm
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic
0-100km/h: 5.5-seconds (claimed)
Top speed: 250km/h (claimed)
Fuel: 8.9l/100km (claimed)
CO2: 209g/km (claimed)
Price: From R1 225 046