The Courier-Mail - Motoring - - Prestige - PAUL GOVER CHIEF REPORTER

YAWN. Here comes an­other new SUV. The dif­fer­ence, this time, is that it’s a Jaguar.

Some peo­ple, me in­cluded, think the F-Pace has a silly name but that’s ir­rel­e­vant for a car that looks like a Jaguar, drives (a lot) like a Jaguar and has the cat-car look and feel you ex­pect from the badge.

Not just that, but it’s also the first Jaguar sold in Aus­tralia with an of­fi­cial tow­ing ap­proval of up to 2.4 tonnes. And it will also sprint to 100km/h in as lit­tle as 6.2 sec­onds.

Even so, it’s still a Jaguar and that brings cer­tain ex­pec­ta­tions as it slides into a line-up that’s head­lined by the F-Type sports cars filled out by the com­pact and in­volv­ing XE sedan and lux­u­ri­ous XJ. So it’s a co­nun­drum, wrapped in an SUV wagon body.

My early ex­pe­ri­ence with the F-Pace means driv­ing all three en­gines with a range of price points, from the ba­sic 2.0litre turbo diesel from $73,430 to the 3.0-litre V6 turbo diesel at more than $100,000.

It also in­cludes time with the car’s award-win­ning de­signer, Ian Cal­lum, who ex­plains that his ap­proach was to make the shape more stylish than a typ­i­cally boxy SUV.

He also had to en­sure there was no cross­over with the heavy­weight four-wheel drives from Jaguar’s sib­ling brand, Land Rover.

Talk­ing to Cal­lum, it’s clear that the SUV land­scape is be­yond crowded and it’s ever more dif­fi­cult to stand out in such a crowd. That’s why, for ex­am­ple, the F-Pace looks more like a swoosh sta­tion wagon above the top of the doors and why the cabin is a roomy fiveseater in­stead of a com­pro­mised seven-seater.

The F-Pace is in­tended as a soft-roader only but still comes with what’s called Adap­tive Sur­face Con­trol, en­abling it to climb steep hills, ford small creeks and main­tain grip on slip­pery mud or sand.

The rest of the pack­age is fa­mil­iar for a pres­tige SUV that will be shopped against a wide range or ri­vals in­clud­ing the im­pres­sive Mercedes-Benz GLC, Audi’s Q5 and the BMW X5.

But its clos­est ri­val, in style and sub­stance, is the Porsche Ma­can. The Ger­man car starts from $92,800 but has a sim­i­lar de­sign ap­proach and is also in­tended to be more en­joy­able to drive than the typ­i­cal truck­like SUV. It takes me a while to warm to the F-Pace. The car seemed good on the press pre­view drive, where it felt quick and taut and al­most a match for the Ma­can over some test­ing twisty roads.

But, now at home with a topof-the-line Port­fo­lio 30d at nearly $100,000 on the road, I’m not so sure.

It looks tough in Bri­tish Rac­ing Green with black wheels and with a gap­ing nose that Cal­lum has used to set an ag­gres­sive in­tro­duc­tion. Stan­dard equip­ment in­cludes plenty of lux­ury and safety gear, al­though it has yet to get an of­fi­cial ANCAP safety score.

It’s just that it’s not as re­laxed and charm­ing as other Jaguars. It’s more min­i­mal­ist, less spe­cial, than ei­ther the F-Type or the XJ. It’s not as in­volv­ing as the XE, which I re­ally en­joy driv­ing.

The diesel en­gine is not the most charis­matic thing about the car and the cabin comes up short on the op­u­lence I ex­pect from a Jaguar. The en­gine can feel a bit harsh, al­though the punch pro­vided by 700Nm is might­ily im­pres­sive, both for get­ting away from the lights and car­ry­ing a load.

Per­son­ally, I still pre­fer the sweeter feel and lighter re­sponse of the 2.0-litre turbo diesel four. I can un­der­stand tow­ing peo­ple will want the big banger and a lot of Jaguar shop­pers will go straight to the top any­way.

And that’s an­other thing. Jaguar is cash­ing-in on the F-Pace with some re­ally big prices for op­tional equip­ment — how about $850 for an elec­tri­cally ad­justable steer­ing col­umn? — and has re­sisted the in­dus­try move to bundling the most-pop­u­lar op­tions into af­ford­able pack­ages. JAGUAR F-PACE PORT­FO­LIO 30d PRICE From $91,304 WAR­RANTY 3 years/un­lim­ited km CAPPED SER­VIC­ING $1750 for 5 years SER­VICE IN­TER­VALS 12 months/16,000km SAFETY Not tested EN­GINE 3.0-litre V6 turbo diesel, 221kW/700Nm TRANS­MIS­SION 8-speed auto; AWD THIRST 6.0L/100km DI­MEN­SIONS 4731mm (L), 2175mm (W), 1652mm (H), 2874mm (WB) WEIGHT 1884kg SPARE Space-saver TOW­ING 2400kg 0-100KM/H 6.2 secs

But the F-Pace even­tu­ally gets me, as I ex­pected. There’s still much to like, in­clud­ing the roomy cabin, sup­port­ive seats, its gen­eral quiet­ness and the lively feel of the chas­sis.

It’s still not a sports car but it rides and han­dles well for some­thing that’s more than 4.7 me­tres long and top­ping 1800kg. It’s bet­ter than any of its ri­vals, short of the Ma­can, and packs more rear-seat space than any­thing in a sim­i­lar shootout.

The eight-speed au­to­matic is smooth but also re­spon­sive with pad­dle-shifters, I’m con­fi­dent it will get a five-star safety score, the fit and fin­ish are good and I like the large in­fo­tain­ment touch­screen. It’s taken Jaguar a long time to get its SUV on the road but it’s been worth the wait.

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