Pace and poise, at a price

The Courier-Mail - Motoring - - First Drive -

VALUE The diesel is the cheap­est ticket to an F-Pace, the Pres­tige 20d start­ing at al­most $10,000 less than the su­per­charged 3.0-litre petrol ver­sion. Our test car was the R-Sport, which is roughly $6000 more and adds a bod­kyit, sports seats and big­ger wheels to the stan­dard fare of pow­ered tail­gate, real leather up­hol­stery, sat­nav, park­ing sen­sors and good qual­ity Merid­ian au­dio. The op­tions list is long and ex­pen­sive, though. Our car came with an eye-wa­ter­ing $27,000 worth of ex­tras. Capped price ser­vice is rea­son­able at $1100-$1750 over five years. COM­FORT The mas­sive 22-inch wheels on our test car did lit­tle for com­fort around town, where the ride was a bit jit­tery over pock­marked sur­faces. But be­yond the burbs the Jaguar’s bal­ance be­tween com­fort and cor­ner­ing prow­ess is among the best we’ve en­coun­tered. The seats are sup­port­ive over longer hauls, if a lit­tle cosy and lack­ing head­room in the rear, thanks to the raked pro­file. SAFETY The F-Pace hasn’t been crash- tested yet but the re­cently re­leased XF and XE sedans each scored five stars in Euro­pean test­ing. Given it shares un­der­pin­nings with them, ex­pect max­i­mum marks. There are six airbags, au­ton­o­mous emer­gency brak­ing and lane de­par­ture warn­ing, but lane keep­ing as­sis­tance, blind spot mon­i­tor­ing and re­vers­ing traf­fic alerts are op­tions on all mod­els. A top-spec Mazda CX-5 has bet­ter ac­tive safety. DRIV­ING The F-Pace gen­uinely puts the sport in sport util­ity ve­hi­cle. Even the diesel is gen­uinely fun to drive along a wind­ing coun­try road. The steer­ing is sharp, with just the right amount of feel, and cor­ner­ing grip is truly im­pres­sive. You can feel it lean through bends but it has im­pres­sive bal­ance and rarely gets flus­tered by mid-cor­ner bumps. It’s much lighter than its main ri­vals and it shows. In sports mode, the eight-speed auto shifts de­ci­sively and keeps the power and torque on tap com­ing out of the cor­ners. Fuel econ­omy is a claimed 5.3L/100km — we used about 8L/100km on a mix of free­way, coun­try roads and city driv­ing. ALTERNATIVES More ex­pen­sive but has con­sid­er­ably more power and torque from its larger en­gine. Matches the F-Pace’s sporty dy­nam­ics. Peren­nial fam­ily favourite shares the F-Pace’s abil­ity through the bends, al­though the ride isn’t as com­fort­able and the cabin not as fresh-look­ing. More power and torque, though. Big, com­fort­able cabin with ex­cel­lent er­gonomics and classy fin­ishes. En­gine is a lit­tle noisy and doesn’t feel as planted on the open road. VER­DICT It’s easy to fall in love with the FPace. It looks great and drives like a dream. But Jaguar is stretch­ing the friend­ship by charg­ing big dollars for safety equip­ment and tech­nol­ogy stan­dard on far cheaper ve­hi­cles.

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