Launches: Audi Q5, Re­nault Captur, Honda CR-V

Popular Mechanics (South Africa) - - CONTENTS -

Jaguar has per­fected the art of the fast SUV. Lind­sey Schut­ters in­ves­ti­gates the un­der­pin­nings of that achieve­ment I’m not a fan of fast SUVS be­cause I don't en­joy how they feel when head­ing through an off-cam­ber bend. Call me a coward, but that's just me. I also had a prob­lem with the two-litre diesel Jaguar F-pace be­cause I couldn't see any com­pelling rea­son to rec­om­mend it over Land Rover's slightly less well screwed to­gether Dis­cov­ery Sport. Then I got be­hind the wheel of the three-litre su­per­charged V6 F-pace S and sud­denly I was in­trigued.

This car has all the off-road ca­pa­bil­i­ties of its less mus­cu­lar cousin, but is an en­tirely dif­fer­ent an­i­mal on the as­phalt. I found my­self want­ing to go faster. I started chas­ing the ex­haust note. I wanted it to ex­hale a puff of tyre smoke on each cor­ner. I was in­tox­i­cated. And like all things that give me a rush, I wanted to know why.

There are faster things out there, like BMW'S X5 M, but for now let's con­cern our­selves with the first le­git­i­mate lovechild be­tween Jaguar and Land Rover. The fe­line in­flu­ence is the first you'll feel be­cause the sus­pen­sion de­sign comes from the almighty F-type and is adapted to fit the 2 874 mm wheel­base, which places most

of the weight be­tween the axles.

Up front is the famed dou­ble- wish­bone and round back is a multi-link set-up that Jaguar named In­ter­gral Link, ob­vi­ously doff­ing a hat to the in­te­gral na­ture of good rear sus­pen­sion on a large ve­hi­cle. To be fair, the com­pany could have slapped new body pan­els and fancier leather on a Dis­cov­ery Sport, but it chose to make an ex­cep­tional car in­stead.

Stiff lower bits

Sus­pen­sion is mostly made from alu­minium with com­po­nents forged from cast blan­kets into a ribbed de­sign. Us­ing alu­minium makes the plat­form as light as pos­si­ble while re­sist­ing corrosion. That ribbed de­sign also con­trib­utes to the stiff­ness.

Up­per links of the rear sus­pen­sion are forged alu­minium; the lower arm fea­tures a hol­low cast­ing of the same ma­te­rial. Springs and dampers are mounted sep­a­rately and pre­cisely po­si­tioned to bet­ter deal with the dy­namic forces. The aim is su­pe­rior stiff­ness with­out com­pro­mis­ing on re­fine­ment, but the pleas­ant side ef­fect is a de­sign that is space-ef­fi­cient and that doesn't in­trude into the sub­stan­tial – and maybe best-in-class – lug­gage space.

Stiff­ness is a re­cur­ring theme. The dou­ble wish­bone is no­tably stiffer than other de­signs in cam­ber, al­low­ing the front tyres the sta­bil­ity to de­velop more lat­eral force more quickly. This means you can turn in harder while car­ry­ing greater speeds with a re­duced risk of skid­ding.

When those front sus­pen­sion de­vel­op­ments are tied to the vari­able steer­ing ra­tio – achieved through chang­ing the steer­ing con­tact point with the vari­able pitch gears on the rack bar from the val­leys on-cen­tre and the peaks at lock – your driver con­fi­dence sky­rock­ets from all the real-time re­spon­sive­ness. The F-pace has by far the best steer­ing feel among SUVS, which usu­ally err on the side of light­ness.

When those clever en­gi­neer­ing touches are pushed to the limit, torque vec­tor­ing is on-hand to dis­trib­ute power through finely me­tered brak­ing to the in­side rear wheel when corner­ing and help re­duce un­der­steer. Th­ese sys­tems specif­i­cally fo­cus on that in­side rear wheel to re­tain steer­ing in­tegrity.

Eyes on the road

If you leave the driv­ing dy­nam­ics set­tings in the de­fault mode, the Adap­tive Dy­nam­ics sys­tem comes into its own. The car mon­i­tors body move­ment 100 times a sec­ond and wheel move­ment 500 times a sec­ond to pro­vide con­tin­u­ous vari­able damp­ing to suit the de­tected con­di­tions. It must be said that this isn't new tech­nol­ogy at all and Jaguar has mas­tered pass­ing off be­ing late to the tech­nol­ogy party as in­no­va­tion, but the F-pace does han­dle as well as they say it does.

There are just a ton of tiny things, like the ad­di­tion of a fifth mount­ing point for the steer­ing rack and in­creased ro­ta­tional stiff­ness where the sub­frame meets the body. The rear axle also has high lat­eral stiff­ness to help the tyres stay in con­tact with the road on ini­tial turn-in; the less you have to rely on torque vec­tor­ing through the dif­fer­en­tial and the elec­tronic sta­bil­ity sys­tems, the bet­ter. Elec­tronic nan­nies can make han­dling un­pre­dictable.

F-pace aero­dy­nam­ics re­sem­ble that of a sa­loon more than an SUV to im­prove high speed cruis­ing. Fur­ther en­hanc­ing ride qual­ity is the bushes, which can now be made softer than on stan­dard mul­ti­link sus­pen­sions to ab­sorb more en­ergy be­cause of the greater lat­eral stiff­ness. There's also greater caster stiff­ness, which re­sults in bet­ter body con­trol un­der brak­ing.

Where the F-pace lags be­hind in au­ton­o­mous drive fea­tures, it more than makes up with re­gard to con­fi­dence-in­spir­ing han­dling. That it can eas­ily ac­com­mo­date a fam­ily of four and all their lug­gage or shop­ping is a bonus. There is method to the In­ter­na­tional Car of the Year ac­co­lade and it can in­spire mad­ness be­hind the wheel.

From R1 069 400, jaguar.co.za

The Jaguar F-pace’s dual pur­pose of com­pe­tent rough-roader and agile as­phalt sprinter was an am­bi­tious un­der­tak­ing, but some­thing that was ul­ti­mately achieved in S guise.

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