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
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