2016 Jaguar F-Pace 3.0 V6 review
Early test of first Jaguar SUV reveals a 4x4 with the soul of sports saloon and good road manners. No ordinary family SUV, but an appealing one all the same...
The Jaguar F-Pace is the British car maker’s all-new rival for the BMW X3, Audi Q5 and Porsche Macan. If the name doesn’t exactly trip off your tongue, it may be because it departs from Jaguar’s established model taxonomy for its passenger saloons XE, XF and XJ.
Having been four years in the making, the F-Pace comes to UK showrooms this April – at a time when mid-sized 4x4s are very big business indeed for premium car makers, and none with any ambition to grow can afford to be without one.
Built on the same platform as the XE and XF, the car is chiefly made of lightweight aluminium and comes in rear- or four-wheel drive guises and with manual and automatic gearboxes. There's a choice of 2.0-litre diesel, 3.0-litre diesel and 3.0-litre supercharged petrol engines. Prices start from under £35,000.
Although we won’t be able to test the car in final production form until later this year, Jaguar gave us an early taste of the F-Pace in prototype form at its cold weather test track in northern Sweden. We drove a top-of-the-range, 375bhp petrol V6 S AWD on 20in wheels and winter tyres.
What’s the Jaguar F-Pace like to drive?
Caution must be exercised here, since we were only given the chance to drive the F-Pace on ice and snow – and, for any length of time, only in V6 petrol form. But on what evidence we could gather, it’s a great-handling 4x4 designed to appeal to keener drivers – while remaining comfortable, secure, refined, capable and easy to drive, and in most ways performing the role that 4x4 regulars will expect of it very well.
The V6 S AWD is the enthusiast's pick of the range, and although it doesn’t have the crackling active sports exhaust that the identically engined F-Type sports car gets, the engine sounds sweet and soulful. Outright performance is hard to gauge on a slippery surface, but the engine is certainly responsive and smooth, although it could be a bit stronger through the middle of the rev range.
Knowing that most drivers dread tackling snowy conditions even in their 4x4s, Jaguar’s been very clever in giving the F-Pace some particularly user-friendly control features and making it feel extra secure. Aside from its Normal, Dynamic and Eco modes, the F-Pace has an additional Adaptive Surface Response mode, which constantly monitors the grip level under the car’s four driven wheels, and adapts its throttle, driveline and electronic stability and traction control systems to suit.
As a result, the car’s accelerator pedal is tame and progressive when you need it to be, but can be sharpened up when the mood takes. At all times, the controls feel consistent and the car effortlessly obedient.
The four-wheel-drive system sends drive to the rear wheels by default but shuffles power forwards quickly and to stabilising effect when grip is breached. As a result of the default rear-bias, the F-Pace’s cornering manners are very sweetly balanced. The suspension feels a touch firm at low speeds, but seems to ease up as you accelerate, and while body control is impressive and the steering fluent and incisive, the F-Pace's ride seems quiet and supple enough.
What’s the Jaguar F-Pace like inside?
Jaguar calls the F-Pace a sports crossover rather than a mid-sized 4x4. What that means on the inside is that, while it’s got a pretty generous boot and offers plenty of room for legs, shoulders, knees and elbows, the car isn’t so ample for head room.
There’s room enough for fairly large adults, sure – but not quite enough to be in the same league as a few rivals when it comes to accommodating taller occupants. The second row has only two ISOFIX anchorages and there’s no seven-seat option.
Up front, in the driver's seat, there's a pleasant sense of being cocooned and well-supported on all sides. Our V6 S test car had Jaguar’s optional InControl Touch Pro infotainment package fitted, bringing with it an adaptable 10in LCD instrument screen and an enlarged 12.3in central infotainment display.
The multimedia system benefits from a hardware upgrade relative to the one fitted to the current XE and XF and is much more responsive, configurable and easy to use. The adaptive instrument display, meanwhile, can be switched to a full-size navigation screen among other things, although doesn’t quite look as slick as Audi’s Virtual Cockpit.
Material quality levels and fit and finish are good, although the fascia doesn't have the expensive-looking gleam of a like-for-like Mercedes GLC or the substantial feel of Audi’s latest introductions. Equipment-wise, you get an 8in touchscreen infotainment system with DAB radio, in-car wifi and smartphone remote control functionality as standard, with Jaguar’s Meridian audio system featuring on upper-level trims.
Should I buy one?
That’ll depend primarily on what want from your upmarket family 4x4. Other options offer a bit more of what tradition dictates most customers are looking for: comfort, richness, luxury, space and occasional rough-stuff capability - the F-Pace having no height-adjustable air suspension option and limited wheel articulation.
But what the Jaguar does offer – greater visual allure and dynamism than the class norm and laudable ease-of-use, bundled with most if not quite all of what its competitors bring on practicality, versatility, ruggedness, all-weather surefootedness and laid-back refinement – is undoubtedly appealing. If that sounds like it’ll suit your requirements, the rest of the F-Pace’s package certainly seems on the money.
What Car? says...
Jaguar F-Pace V6 S AWD