JAGUAR F- PACE

CAT SHOWN FLAP: IN­SUF­FI­CIENT AD­VANCE­MENT OF BREED

Wheels (Australia) - - 2017 Car Of The Year - TOBY HAGON

IN TERMS of for­mu­las guar­an­teed to work, you don’t get much more of a sure thing than a lux­ury SUV. Throw in good looks and a sporty de­meanour and it’s sure to sell like hot­dogs at the Su­per­bowl.

That Jaguar took so long to pro­duce its first SUV, then, is per­plex­ing. Blame it partly on sis­ter brand Land Rover, which has long taken care of that de­sire for off-road­ers with class.

As un­fash­ion­ably late as it is, the F-pace comes out fight­ing with a sleek alu­minium-in­ten­sive body of­fered in a vast range en­com­pass­ing two diesel en­gines and a flag­ship su­per­charged V6 petrol. Choose be­tween four trim lev­els and it’s an ex­pan­sive range cov­er­ing a $50K price spec­trum that kicks off at about $75K.

But early COTY points were shaved off for how much is left on the F-pace op­tions list. Items as di­verse as wood trims, big­ger wheels, dig­i­tal ra­dio and blind-spot mon­i­tor­ing can add thou­sands to the price, and some thought much of that para­pher­na­lia should be stan­dard.

Yet leather and a de­cent safety suite – en­com­pass­ing au­ton­o­mous emer­gency brak­ing and a lane-de­par­ture warn­ing – are in­cluded.

Size­able rub­ber be­neath (up to 22 inches on op­tional wheels) and a clear fo­cus on be­ing suit­ably lashed down at speed make it among the more dy­namic of the five-seat SUVS. Wield­ing 1.8 tonnes through the high-speed lane change barely ruf­fled the big cat’s de­meanour. Judges noted much of the chas­sis good­ness of the XE and XF has been in­jected in the F-pace.

But that han­dling nous comes at the ex­pense of ride com­fort. A stiff sus­pen­sion tune con­tains the lean­ing nicely, but en­sures the body jig­gles as the sur­face qual­ity de­grades. The equa­tion gets worse on big­ger wheels, but they’re needed to com­plete the mus­cu­lar stance that is at the core of the F-pace’s ap­peal.

The en­gines, too, are a mixed bag. The 30d has truck­loads of grunt but is 110kg heav­ier than the four-pot diesel, tak­ing the edge off the in­her­ent agility.

The 20d gets a mild smok­ers cough to its ex­haust note at high revs but is oth­er­wise smooth and se­duc­tive, al­beit lack­ing the go some may ex­pect from a Jag.

En­ter the 35t; with up to 280kw it’s fast and fun but has points docked for its thirst.

In­side, the F-pace’s dash fol­lows a fa­mil­iar Jaguar theme but with im­prove­ments up­ping the func­tion­al­ity; larger side win­dows as part of the SUV pack­age let in more light to cre­ate an airier feel than an XF. Space is also gen­er­ous, en­sur­ing it lives up to the fam­ily du­ties many will em­ploy this Jaguar for.

Add it all up and the F-pace is about de­sign flair and dy­namic abil­ity rather than gen­uinely re­set­ting any SUV bench­marks.

It is un­doubt­edly an im­por­tant part of the fu­ture for Jaguar, but its fu­ture at COTY ended at stage one. It played hard, but in this bat­tle, it was out-played.

STIFF UP­PER LINK

Jaguar’s sub­frame-mounted In­te­gral Link rear sus­pen­sion comes as part of the F-pace’s IQ[AI] mod­u­lar plat­form, which it shares with the XE, XF and the next-gen XJ. A more so­phis­ti­cated set-up than a tra­di­tional multi-link, In­te­gral Link sep­a­rates lat­eral and lon­gi­tu­di­nal forces from ver­ti­cal forces. With help from forged and hol­low-cast alu­minium com­po­nents and softer bushes, it aims to meet the con­flict­ing re­quire­ments of crisp han­dling and sup­ple ride.

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