After years watching from the sidelines, Jaguar finally pounces into the closely-fought luxury mid-size SUV market.
By Ghaith Madadha
First appearing as the guise of the C-X17 concept back in 2013, the newly released F-Pace promises to be a seminal model for Jaguar. The F-Pace—which is the British automaker’s first, much belated foray into the massively popular SUV market—stands to become its most popular model and is expected to dramatically boost sales by attracting a whole new buyer demographic.
It is a mid-size premium sports SUV competitor to the likes of the Audi Q5, BMW X3, and Porsche Macan, and seamlessly re-purposes Jaguar’s sporty yet supple driving characteristics for SUV service, delivering a fast, fluent experience.
The F-Pace’s long bonnet, short overhangs, fluent lines, and gracefully descending roofline lend an urgently assertive demeanor. Slim headlights, wide snouty mesh grille, hungry lower intakes, and muscularly sculpted bonnet evoke an athletic sensibility, while slim rear lights point to its F-Type sports car sister.
It is light and stiff with 80 percent aluminum content, which keeps overall and unsprung weight low to aid performance, efficiency, safety, and handling characteristics.
The driven F-Pace S is powered by a direct injection 3-liter supercharged V6 engine, developing 375 BHP at 6500 rpm and 332 lb/ft torque at 4500 rpm. With mechanical forced induction, the F-Pace S provides instant boost and responsiveness and none of the low-end lag associated with gas driven turbocharged engines. It is characterized by a consistent muscular yet urgently progressive delivery and distantly evocative snarl as it eagerly reaches for its long-legged rev limit.
The F-Pace races through the 0-100 km/h in a clean 5.5-second sweep and onto an electronically-governed potential 250 km/h top speed, yet can return 8.9l/100 km combined cycle fuel efficiency. Its 8-speed automatic gearbox shifts swiftly and smoothly, and features a paddle-shift manual mode for more driver involvement. Engine, throttle and gearbox responses can be sharpened—and dampers stiffened—through individually selectable drive modes accessed through the infotainment screen.
With sophisticated double wishbone front and integral link rear suspension, the F-Pace delivers stiff lateral control yet supple vertical absorption, high speed stability, and settled rebound control. Sublimely reconciling its height and 1,800 kg weight, its defining quality is however driving fluency. Deft chassis tuning and adaptive dampers mean that it can run on massive low-profile 265/40R22 tires yet remain forgiving over imperfections.
Tidy into corners with precise quick steering, poised and balanced throughout, the F-Pace operates with 90 percent power sent to rear wheels for sporty agile handling. It can, however, reapportion up to 50 percent power to front wheels to maintain traction and grip on wet corners or for off-road driving, as experienced during test drive in Montenegro. The F-Pace is well-appointed, with user-friendly layouts and stylish design inside, providing a highly adjustable driving position. Good visibility, along with agility and fluency ensured it felt like a much smaller vehicle as it confidently tackled a series of narrow mountain hairpins.
Even though it’s at heart a sporty road-biased SUV, the F-Pace’s four-wheel-drive system and ample ground clearance ensured it progressed unhindered on rough, rocky, gravelly off-road trail during test drive. Benefitting from sister brand Land Rover’s extensive off-road experience, the F-Pace’s driver assistance systems act like off-road cruise control to maintain traction. Meanwhile available semi-autonomous safety technologies can nudge the electric steering into lane, and feature pedestrian sensing autonomous braking, stop/go adaptive cruise control, parking assistance and blind spot and reverse traffic detection. Advanced smartphone integration allows online connection with the F-Pace, in-car Wi-Fi, and remote engine and climate control operation.
Engine: 3-liter, supercharged V6-cylinders
Gearbox: 8-speed automatic, four-wheel-drive
Power, BHP (PS) [kW]: 375 (380)  @6500 rpm
Torque, lb/ft (Nm): 332 (450) @4500 rpm
0-100 km/h: 5.5 seconds
Top speed: 250 km/h
Fuel economy: 8.9l/100 km
Length: 4731 mm
Width: 1936 mm
Height: 1652 mm
Weight: 1861 kg
Suspension, F/R: Double wishbones / integral link