► New 2.0-litre diesel Jaguar F-Pace driven
► Is the 4cyl diesel a worthwhile option?
► Claimed 0-62 in 8.7sec and 53.3mpg; £40k
Jaguar’s Ian Callum loves to design a car with big wheels and the F-Pace can wear rims up to 22 inches in diameter, its haunches sitting pretty as a picture over them.
You won’t see too many in the wild with those, though. As we know, bigger wheels mean worse fuel economy and higher CO2 output. And on that note, so do bigger engines.
For the majority of UK buyers, leasers and company car drivers – the latter being of growing interest to the British firm – the F-Pace’s real-world spec will be more along the lines of the car tested here. It’s an R-Sport model, perched one up from base-spec Prestige in the range, equipped with your only choice of motor for the lower trims: a 2.0-litre diesel.
Is the Ingenium an ingenious choice?
While you’ve got the option of petrol or diesel six-pots for the highest-spec F-Paces, the 2.0 Ingenium engine in this mid-spec R-Sport will account for the lion’s share of sales. There are a couple of transmission options: a six-speed manual and rear-wheel drive at the lower-cost end of the line-up (making for the headline 127g/km CO2 output), adding all-wheel drive and the eight-speed ZF automatic as you climb up the financial ladder.
The six-cylinder engines both have their charms, including a mighty 516lb ft of torque from the diesel, but this four-banger does the job just fine. Its pulling power is enough to get an overtake done at short notice, and it’ll also drag up to 2400kg braked – as much as the V6s and enough for the jet ski, speedboat or other ‘lifestyle’ addendum of your choosing.
It doesn’t sound as harmonious or deliver its torque in such great waves, but that’s no big issue. The cabin is so well refined that you won’t notice unless you’ve driven the hilariously noisy V6 petrol lifted straight from the naughty F-Type. It’s definitely the performance pick, though clearly working very hard in a car of this size and weight. Here’s hoping there’s a 5.0 V8 on the way to better sate those with high-performance desires.
The F-Pace’s hidden talents
There’s every chance you’ll want to take the long way home in an F-Pace, as it's a thoroughly satisfying driver’s car. The first thing to note about its handling is that R-Sport models come with 19in wheels. Here’s a spec secret for you: the 22-inchers on the already-sold First Edition cars make for worse steering and ride quality.
You’re better off with smaller ones (if you can call 19s ‘small’) to make the most of the car’s SUV nature. The reality is the F-Pace does have a lot of body roll through corners relative to any Jaguar before it, so going for higher-profile tyres at least helps smooth out the tarmac a little better. There isn’t any dynamic penalty in doing so – just marginally lighter and sweeter steering response. It’s a win/win situation.
You’ve got to roll with it
While a tendency to lean is always in evidence, even with the optional adaptive suspension in its sportiest setting, the F-Pace isn't incompetent in corners. Quite the opposite, in fact. Once you’ve mastered the inertia switch as you change direction and factor in a little dive under braking, you’ll find a chassis with decent balance and composure.
This is a car that inspires confidence when driven quickly, and the lighter four-pot under the bonnet only helps prevent the double wishbone-equipped nose washing wide even more than V6-equipped models. Don’t forget some of the best driver’s cars around - like the MX-5 for instance – have a little more body roll than you’d expect. Embrace it and that’s where the fun starts.
This is primarily a rear-driven car, after all. The all-wheel-drive set-up is a derivation of that found on the F-Type AWD, and under most conditions torque is sent predominantly rearward – with all of the handling benefits that brings.
Another Jaguar that’s all Crossed up
Handling sign-off wizard Mike Cross and his team have done a good job here – it’s not quite the arrow-sharp oversteer monster the Porsche Macan Turbo is, but come on – this is a crossover. If you want five-second powerslides, you buy an F-Type. This is instead an engaging car with impressive grip reserves that’s also more comfortable, more pleasant inside and a more compelling proposition for everyday life than the SUV from Stuttgart.
Oh, and did we mention it’ll off-road almost as well as one of its Land Rover cousins? There was an eerie moment on the launch event when we’d just completed a hillclimb route through the Montenegrin mountains at very high speed. I’m talking tyre-torturing, brakepad-battering speed. We slowed, drove around a corner and straight up a steep grass hill covered in loose leaves and jagged rocks most cars would be terrified by.
Jaguar's new F-Pace is up to speed elsewhere, too, including on the tech front. One slick option is the 10.2-in touchscreen InControl Pro multimedia system, which packs a quad-core processor and 60GB solid-state hard drive. We found its operation intuitive but, despite all the impressive numbers, it still takes a few infuriating moments to load up when you switch the car on so you’re unable to instantly use the sat-nav.
It’s a vast improvement on previous JLR attempts, though, so that’s to be commended. It features a SIM card and can act as a wi-fi hotspot to connect multiple devices at once, and if set up for it will even text selected people your ETA, with real-time updates if you’re delayed. They’ll know when to put the kettle on.
The contrasting talents of the F-Pace never seemed so clearly defined. It’s more rewarding to drive quickly than any SUV needs to be, and it’ll tackle terrain 99% of buyers won’t ever experience.
It’s also comfortable on the road and full of modern kit, even in the lower-spec versions. Don’t forget that while you can’t get the V6 engines in these versions, the Ingenium has better fuel economy and lower tax costs along with all of the grunt you’ll need.