It’s the first ever SUV to come from Jaguar and the most im­por­tant new car to ar­rive this year. Matt Joy finds out if the F-pace is re­ally a Jaguar as well as a 4x4

Belfast Telegraph - NI Carfinder - - Front Page - MATT JOY

WHAT’S NEW? On pa­per, the F-pace is as new as they come. Rumours of Jaguar build­ing an SUV started in the 1990s, but it’s taken un­til now for one to ar­rive.

It’s de­signed to of­fer the space and prac­ti­cal­ity that SUV buy­ers de­mand whilst still look­ing — and cru­cially, also driv­ing — like a real Jaguar should.

Un­der the svelte skin, the F-pace is based on the same alu­minium ar­chi­tec­ture as the XF, while the four-wheeldrive sys­tem is de­rived from that used on the F-type. It also gets some off-road tech­nol­ogy as well as some neat tricks of its own.

LOOKS AND IM­AGE Rid­ing on the vast 22-inch al­loy wheels, the F-pace is a su­perb look­ing ma­chine in the flesh.

It’s a co­her­ent de­sign too, not just a Jaguar grille ap­plied to a tall car, with ob­vi­ous nods to other Jaguar mod­els and a sense of style and speed.

The lower-spec­i­fi­ca­tion mod­els still look good too, although it’s likely that the 22-inch wheels will be­come some­thing of an es­sen­tial choice.

There’s no doubt Jaguar’s im­age has been on the up for the best part of a decade and it’s ready to carry an SUV in its range. With the rep­u­ta­tion of its other mod­els well ce­mented, it may just be­come the driver’s pick in the seg­ment.

SPACE AND PRAC­TI­CAL­ITY There’s no es­cap­ing the fact that buy­ers move into SUVS from other mod­els be­cause they want the space, whether they use it or not, but Jaguar has clearly done its home­work. It’s a mid-sized ma­chine, but in­side it feels big; front and rear.

From the driver’s seat you get the bet­ter view out, but still with a sa­loon-like driv­ing po­si­tion, with plenty of leg and el­bow room.

There’s ex­cel­lent legroom in the back too and suf­fi­cient width for three adults, though head­room is fine up to av­er­age heights with the op­tional sun­roof.

The boot is huge at 650 litres with the seats in place and it’s well sized; long and tall as well as wide with no ir­ri­tat­ing in­tru­sions, with plenty of use­ful stor­age in the cabin too.

BE­HIND THE WHEEL It’s a com­ple­ment to the F-pace and the team be­hind it that some­times it’s easy to think you’re be­hind the wheel of a Jaguar sa­loon. Re­gard­less of engine choice there is a sweet­ness and a di­rect­ness to the re­sponse from the con­trols — in par­tic­u­lar the steer­ing — that demon­strates a com­mit­ment to driv­ing plea­sure. Whether you’re just am­bling around town or de­stroy­ing a B-road, the F-pace flows along as well as its sa­loon sib­lings.

The 375bhp 3.0-litre su­per­charged V6 petrol is likely to be the least pop­u­lar op­tion, but it’s def­i­nitely the most fun. It rasps and crack­les when ex­tended and makes the F-pace a real sport­ing car. Dur­ing a long drive on chal­leng­ing coun­try roads, it made fan­tas­tic progress, be­ing quick, con­trolled and com­posed.

The 2.0-litre diesel with 178bhp will be the best seller in the UK and while it can’t com­pete with the V6 petrol on per­for­mance, it has a strong set of fig­ures; 318lb.ft of torque, 0-62mph in 8.7 sec­onds, 53.3mpg com­bined and 139g/ km of CO2. The eight-speed au­to­matic shifts quickly and smoothly to make the most of the engine torque and noise lev­els are kept in check.

Even though it will al­most never be used this way, the F-pace has gen­uine off-road abil­ity too. All Sur­face Progress Con­trol al­lows the driver to set a de­sired speed below 19mph and the F-pace will trickle along, man­ag­ing the brakes and ac­cel­er­a­tor up or down hill as you steer.

VALUE FOR MONEY The en­try-model in the F-pace range is the two-wheel-drive Pres­tige 2.0-litre diesel man­ual cost­ing £34,170, which comes with cruise con­trol, torque vec­tor­ing, front and rear park­ing sen­sors, traf­fic sign recog­ni­tion, 18-inch al­loy wheels and the In­con­trol Touch in­fo­tain­ment sys­tem with DAB and satel­lite nav­i­ga­tion. There’s even a clever gad­get called the Ac­tiv­ity Key, which is a rub­berised wa­ter­proof wrist strap that al­lows you to lock the keys in the car dur­ing sports or ac­tiv­i­ties, and is un­locked by sim­ply touch­ing the boot badge with the strap. A smart idea for £300.

WHO WOULD BUY ONE? The F-pace is a car with ex­cep­tion­ally broad ap­peal. It has the SUV pres­ence and heft that buy­ers are keen on, but it’s bet­ter to look at than any of its ri­vals, which may at­tract more fe­male buy­ers. It’s also great fun to drive as well as re­lax­ing, which will make it more ap­peal­ing to buy­ers who need to trade up for more space. The F-pace could be the car that blows the com­pe­ti­tion out of the wa­ter.

This car summed up in a sin­gle word: Com­plete. If this car was an...: in­di­ca­tor of Jaguar’s fu­ture, it’s look­ing ex­cep­tion­ally rosy.

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