The cat is back

Jaguar’s 21stcen­tury in­car­na­tion of its F-pace SUV is a fi­esty cross be­tween a feral wild­cat and an im­pos­ing shire horse, says Charles Ran­ge­ley-wil­son

Country Life Every Week - - In The Driving Seat -

THere’s al­ways been a strange as­so­ci­a­tion be­tween agri­cul­tural ma­chin­ery and rac­ing cars. Lam­borgh­ini S.P.A. was Lam­borgh­ini Trat­tori S.P.A. be­fore farmer Fer­ruc­cio got fed up with an un­re­li­able Fer­rari and built his own. As­ton Martin’s post-sec­ond World War saviour, David Brown, was mak­ing a for­tune build­ing trac­tors and tugs when he saw an ad­vert for a lux­ury sportscar com­pany go­ing cheap: the orig­i­nal DB4 was re­ally a track­layer. And Coven­try Cli­max built trac­tor and fire­pump en­gines be­fore pump­ing Jack Brab­ham to a For­mula 1 world cham­pi­onship.

How­ever, in spite of this in­ex­pli­ca­ble sym­bio­sis be­tween plough lines and lap times, I doubt Jaguar’s founder Sir Wil­liam Lyons, orig­i­na­tor of the fe­line XK120 sportscar and feral C-type rac­ing car, will have pre­dicted a 21st-cen­tury in­car­na­tion of the leap­ing cat that is the new F-pace: a hy­brid be­tween a wild­cat and a shire horse, like some kind of Gothic pair­ing dreamt up for a me­dieval bes­tiary.

Such is the mar­ket nowa­days for mo­tors from which its oc­cu­pants can see over hedges while also speed­ing be­tween them. It doesn’t quite make sense and yet, of all the cars I’ve driven in the past 12 months, the one I’d most likely have taken home was the Porsche Macan. Why? Be­cause it ticked all the boxes. Fast, lux­u­ri­ous and the­o­ret­i­cally ca­pa­ble of tak­ing me down the rough tracks that lead to hours out­doors with rod or gun. Plus, it’s a Porsche, of course.

Now, Jaguar has gone and rolled a 22in low-pro­file wheel over that hy­po­thet­i­cal shop­ping spree, with a car that ticks all those boxes just as well. Plus, it’s a Jaguar, of course.

If any­thing on the car was de­signed to smudge the trac­tor­sportscar con­tin­uum, it was those wheels. Seis­mo­graphs in the South Pa­cific trem­bled slightly as I rolled up the drive­way. I’ve never seen such large items this side of, well, a trac­tor. These be­he­moths, I later dis­cov­ered, are a £1,600 op­tion, al­most 4% of the cost of the oth­er­wise keenly priced car. A box I would not tick given how they chopped up the ride on ru­ral B roads.

How­ever, they may be my only quib­ble with a car I oth­er­wise loved driving all the way to Wales and back, chas­ing those spring­time trout much as I did last year in Jaguar’s F-type. Back then, look­ing for an ex­cuse to drive the world’s pret­ti­est coupé, I de­scribed the 500bhp su­per­car with my tongue in my cheek as an ‘ex­cel­lent fish­ing ve­hi­cle’ on the grounds that it could get to the river quickly and, in all-wheel-drive (AWD) guise, park on the grass verges. This time, I can pop the tongue back to its nor­mal park­ing po­si­tion and say the same.

Space, pace, com­fort and just a teeny bit of bling: the new SUV Jaguar has it all. Be­hind the wheel, it’s a sweet-han­dling es­tate (the Jaguar XF, in fact, from which this car is cloned), but one that’s some­how mirac­u­lously sus­pended an ex­tra 2ft off the ground. It was flat in the cor­ners, pli­ant and lithe. The mostly alu­minium con­struc­tion has cre­ated an un­com­monly light­weight SUV.

To drive, this car is big­ger on the out­side than it feels on the in­side. In ev­ery other re­spect, the op­po­site is the case. The boot is gen­er­ous and there’s loads of legroom in the back. I had four adults com­fort­ably seated and coo­ing about the plush in­te­rior as we hunted Wales’s labyrinthine lanes look­ing for a place to eat. Their over­all ver­dict was more than pos­i­tive, es­pe­cially when I men­tioned the price. You can have

‘Go for the V6 and don’t worry about your friends

a new F-pace in your drive­way for £34,730, although the model I test drove starts at £51,450.

There are three en­gines to chose from: I drove the three­l­itre V6 diesel and greatly en­joyed its ef­fort­lessly smooth and sporty oomph. The two-litre, straight­four In­ge­nium is ad­e­quately quick and pleas­ingly fru­gal, but the su­per­charged three-litre V6 petrol is ex­cit­ingly quicker, but a bit of a drinker.

The four-pot In­ge­nium comes in two-wheel-drive or AWD guise: as the for­mer, and in its least pow­er­ful state of tune (163bhp), the Jag will give you al­most 60 miles to the gal­lon, niftily un­der­cut­ting its Ger­man ri­vals and en­sur­ing your Guardian-read­ing friends will still talk to you.

But you know, what’s the point? It’s a big SUV. It’s all about AWD and gr­rrrrrrrrrr. Go for the V6 and don’t worry about your friends. They’ll get over it.

On the road Jaguar F-pace 3.0 AWD S Priced from from £51,450 An­nual Road Fund Li­cence £450 Com­bined fuel con­sump­tion 47mpg Power 300bhp 0–60mph 5.8 sec­onds Top speed 150mph

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