The English automaker’s newest addition to its fleet, the F-pace, may be a little late to the SUV party but it’s no doubt making up for lost time, says alethia tiang
the road ahead is narrow, bumpy and winding, as I climb up the mountainous course. Thankfully, I’m not doing this on foot. But my right foot is getting a workout, alternating between stepping on the brake and accelerator pedal, as I sit behind the wheel of the all-new Jaguar F-pace, the Brit automaker’s first foray into the fast-growing Sports Utility Vehicle segment.
Yes, you read it right. Jaguar has finally welcomed an SUV to its fleet. The new five-seater is expected to hit Singapore shores in July, but today, I’m in Montenegro to take the all-new Jag for a spin on the highways, country roads and off-road terrains of the small Balkan country, known for its narrow beaches and medieval villages.
The F-pace I’m in is the 3.0 S and I love how it’s taking on the sharp turns easily. The car is agile and grippy, as it confidently climbs up the uneven mountainous roads and narrow gravel paths to Lovćen National Park, located 1,800m above sea level. Sure, the road may be a bit bumpy but it’s nothing that this jungle cat can’t overcome easily.
On the straighter stretches, I can’t restrain my desire for speed and pick up pace. Power is guaranteed in this one, since it is fitted with the same robust engine as Jaguar’s sports car, the F-type. The F-pace, though, weighs a hefty 1,800kg, but the British car marque has somehow been able to mask that mass superbly, so the car hits 100km/h from a standstill in only 5.5 seconds. As I dig the accelerator deeper into the floor, the SUV growls and picks up speed even more, albeit slightly slower than I want. Maybe I’m just feeling a little impatient today, but no matter. I play around with the paddle shifts to gear up and down to my liking, pushing the car further and faster.
SUVS are traditionally Land Rover’s turf, but Jaguar has picked up a thing or two. Its ground clearance of 213mm is similar to the Discovery Sport and it comes with the option of fitting 22-inch wheels, but 20-inch ones work well enough to keep the ride smooth and the steering comfortable. However, the F-pace toes a slightly different line, positioning itself as a seriously stylish drive with off-road capabilities, while its size puts it in between Porsche’s Cayenne and Macan, and BMW’S X3 and X5.
Inside, leg and head room are more than decent, while boot capacity is 650 litres with the rear seats up. Fold them down and the cargo space expands to 1,740 litres. In comparison, the Porsche Cayenne offers 600 litres and 1,780 litres, while BMW X5’s are at 650 litres and 1,870 litres. Mind you, these cars are also bigger than the F-pace so the Jag’s offering matches up impressively.
Finally, I reach Lovćen National Park but I’ve not reached the end. I’m told to drive ahead to where a Jaguar representative is waiting for me at the bottom of a steep and bumpy slope. It is then I am told to climb up the hill with the help of the F-pace’s All Surface Progress Control, a function that enables it to drive up difficult surfaces while maintaining an easy pace. All I have to do is steer it in the right direction and let this intelligent ride do all the dirty work. But what goes up must come down, right? So at the top, I engage the Jag’s Hill Descent Control system — one we’ve seen so often in Land Rovers — and the F-pace steadily glides down the hill, while I simply control the speed by tapping on the brake pedal.
After a quick lunch, we head out again, this time in the diesel-run version with a canoe attached to the roof ( I’m sure I’ll find out what that’s for later). We drive to the famously scenic — or famously perilous — Cetinje-kotor road, named one of the 25 most dangerous in the world for being a narrow single-lane, two-way road with over 30 hairpin turns. But the 38-km route boasts an extremely magnificent sight of this Eastern European nation with aweinspiring views of coastal towns along the Adriatic Sea. Thankfully, the diesel F-pace is able to manoeuvre these meandering roads with impressive grip and stability, though it isn’t quite as powerful as the petrol variant — its two-litre engine produces a maximum power of 180bhp, as compared to the three-litre petrol’s 380bhp.
At the coast of Perast, Jaguar finally reveals our next activity:
A visit to Our Lady of the Rocks, but we each have to get into our canoes and paddle the short distance over first. A man-made island built in the 15th century by two brothers, Our Lady of the Rocks’ only attraction is a Roman Catholic church, which attracts its fair share of sailors for worship. Painted with murals, the church also houses a mini museum showcasing the island and the church’s history. It’s not lost on me how lucky I am to not only take Jag’s first-ever SUV for spin, but to also experience the charms of this beautiful nation.
With the sun beginning to set over the horizon, we head back to our luxurious base: The Aman Sveti Stefan. But instead of driving back around — which would take at least two hours, depending on traffic — we take the Lepetane-kamenari Ferry across the straits of Verige. With the cars parked on deck, we all take a 10-minute breather to simply enjoy the view.
The drive back from the jetty takes longer than expected due to major road works. But even in the massive traffic congestion, the F-pace inches ahead without so much as a jerk and jolts, as it moves off each time. It is during this wait that I finally play around a bit with the new top-of-the-line infotainment system. Much improved from its previous edition, the Incontrol Touch system sports sharp graphics and operates as intuitively as an ipad, with cool visual themes and a fullscreen navigation display.
Finally, I’m back at the Aman and thoroughly spent from an entire day driving around Montenegro. But it was nevertheless a satisfying one with the F-pace. When this car finally sets foot in Singapore (we’ll be getting the 3.0 S and 2.0D Prestige variations), I’m sure even petrol heads will be pumped enough to drive one home. Wearnes Automotive, 45 Leng Kee Road
From left: F- paces on board the lepetane- kamenari Ferry; a look at the technology inside the F- pace