JAGUAR F-PACE

CAT SHOWN FLAP: INSUFFICIENT ADVANCEMENT OF BREED

TOBY HAGON

IN TERMS of formulas guaranteed to work, you don’t get much more of a sure thing than a luxury SUV. Throw in good looks and a sporty demeanour and it’s sure to sell like hotdogs at the Superbowl.

That Jaguar took so long to produce its first SUV, then, is perplexing. Blame it partly on sister brand Land Rover, which has long taken care of that desire for off-roaders with class.

As unfashionably late as it is, the F-Pace comes out fighting with a sleek aluminium-intensive body offered in a vast range encompassing two diesel engines and a flagship supercharged V6 petrol. Choose between four trim levels and it’s an expansive range covering a $50K price spectrum that kicks off at about $75K.

But early COTY points were shaved off for how much is left on the F-Pace options list. Items as diverse as wood trims, bigger wheels, digital radio and blind-spot monitoring can add thousands to the price, and some thought much of that paraphernalia should be standard.

Yet leather and a decent safety suite – encompassing autonomous emergency braking and a lane-departure warning – are included.

Sizeable rubber beneath (up to 22 inches on optional wheels) and a clear focus on being suitably lashed down at speed make it among the more dynamic of the five-seat SUVs. Wielding 1.8 tonnes through the high-speed lane change barely ruffled the big cat’s demeanour. Judges noted much of the chassis goodness of the XE and XF has been injected in the F-Pace.

But that handling nous comes at the expense of ride comfort. A stiff suspension tune contains the leaning nicely, but ensures the body jiggles as the surface quality degrades. The equation gets worse on bigger wheels, but they’re needed to complete the muscular stance that is at the core of the F-Pace’s appeal.

The engines, too, are a mixed bag. The 30d has truckloads of grunt but is 110kg heavier than the four-pot diesel, taking the edge off the inherent agility.

The 20d gets a mild smokers cough to its exhaust note at high revs but is otherwise smooth and seductive, albeit lacking the go some may expect from a Jag.

Enter the 35t; with up to 280kW it’s fast and fun but has points docked for its thirst.

Inside, the F-Pace’s dash follows a familiar Jaguar theme but with improvements upping the functionality; larger side windows as part of the SUV package let in more light to create an airier feel than an XF. Space is also generous, ensuring it lives up to the family duties many will employ this Jaguar for.

Add it all up and the F-Pace is about design flair and dynamic ability rather than genuinely resetting any SUV benchmarks.

It is undoubtedly an important part of the future for Jaguar, but its future at COTY ended at stage one. It played hard, but in this battle, it was out-played.

SPECS BODY

Type 5-door wagon, 5 seats Boot capacity 650 litres Weight 1775 – 1884kg DRIVETRAIN Layout front engine (north-south), AWD Engines 1999cc 4cyl turbo-diesel (132kW/430Nm) 2993cc V6 turbo-diesel (221kW/700Nm) 2995cc V6 supercharged (250kW/450Nm) 2995cc V6 supercharged (280kW/450Nm) Transmission 8-speed automatic CHASSIS Tyres 255/55R19 – 265/40R22 ADR81 fuel consumption 5.3 – 8.9L/100km CO2 emissions 139 – 209g/km Collision mitigation Crash rating not tested Prices $74,340 – $120,415

STIFF UPPER LINK

Jaguar’s subframe-mounted Integral Link rear suspension comes as part of the F-Pace’s iQ[AI] modular platform, which it shares with the XE, XF and the next-gen XJ. A more sophisticated set-up than a traditional multi-link, Integral Link separates lateral and longitudinal forces from vertical forces. With help from forged and hollow-cast aluminium components and softer bushes, it aims to meet the conflicting requirements of crisp handling and supple ride.

“THE MORE I DROVE IT, AND THE HARDER I DROVE IT, THE MORE I LIKED IT”

BYRON MATHIOUDAKIS

“BASE 20d LESS GRAVELLY THAN V6 DIESEL, BUT BOTH CREAMED BY NEWGEN BENZ DIESEL”

NATHAN PONCHARD