► Top-end diesel F-Pace tested
► Driven both off-road and on
► Our comprehensive review
Back at the beginning of 2016, Ben Barry had a chance to drive the all-new Jaguar F-Pace SUV off-road, traversing mud and grass at low speeds and upping the pace considerably on gravel tracks.
Now, we’ve been for an 800-mile gallivant up and down the spine of England to get a proper feel for Jag’s diesel F-Pace range-topper, wafting up and down motorways, negotiating the city environment and punting it around the Northumberland countryside.
Let’s start with the basics…
The F-Pace is the third model to be spun off Jaguar’s all-new aluminium architecture. Like the XE and XF saloons, the F-Pace uses double-wishbone front suspension, an Integral Link multi-link rear axle and coil springs – not air – and either fixed or adaptive dampers all-round.
The bodyshell is aluminium-intensive; it packs 80% aluminium content, a little more than both XE and XF. The non-aluminium content includes steel doors and a composite tailgate.
At 4731mm long, the F-Pace slots between XE (4672mm) and XF (4954mm) saloons, and rivals its Range Rover Velar stablemate for size.
What does the V6 diesel S get you?
The diesel-powered S is the most powerful oil-burner you can get, and comprises a turbocharged V6 engine pumping out 296bhp and a muscular 516lb ft of torque. That means your high-riding Jag can accelerate to 62mph in just 6.2 seconds and on to a top speed of 150mph.
It’s the torque that steals the show here, naturally; the huge wave you ride on low down in the rev range almost entirely negates the need to smash the accelerator pedal. Applying around five tenths of the throttle is enough for the eight-speed ZF to kick down a couple of cogs and make you surge forward.
Spec-wise, the top-line diesel S trim bags you a raft of safety kit, two-zone climate control, All Terrain Progress Control and 20-inch alloys for £52,665. Our 17-plate test car had a mind-blowing £14k in options added to it including 22-inch wheels, InControl Nav Pro with Meridian Surround sound system, JLR’s Dual View screen and adaptive cruise with traffic jam assist and a whole lot more besides.
It’s perhaps slightly worrying that the 22s don’t look huge, given that entry-level cars will wear 18s; they look like Kate Moss wearing a size-16 dress. The caveat of optioning those wheels, though, is the fidgety ride at lower speeds; the F-Pace really struggles to navigate bumps with any composure if you choose the most pimpin’ wheel size available.
Take a seat inside…
The F-Pace driving position immediately sets the scene: despite the elevated stance, the comfortable leather seat is set low in the cockpit, and the XE steering wheel feels small and wieldy.
Because the glasshouse swoops up and could make young ’uns feel enclosed, Jag has borrowed a trick from Land Rover: ‘stadium’ second-row seating is raised by 10mm compared with the fronts. It doesn’t sound like much, but it works, and the back seat feels as airy as it is spacious. There’s certainly plenty of room if you’re well over six feet, and Jag claims a 6’5” team member was perfectly comfortable.
Jag paid attention to making the F-Pace as versatile as possible: the result is deep door bins, a large 650-litre boot, and – nice touch – a reversible boot floor, which is rubberised on one side, carpeted on the other.
A downside is the actual interior design, which we’ve mentioned on XE and XF. The quality and layout – save for the fiddly interface for the three drive modes – is fine, but Land Rover interiors are more confident, and that juxtaposition is more obvious when you’ve got four driven wheels and raised ground clearance. This plus the slightly irritating and glitchy InControl Pro nav system can slightly stifle the grandiose experience.
How does it drive?
It’s very impressive. Just like the driving position, your initial prods at the controls quickly set the scene for a sporting experience. The steering feels a little heavier than other Jags, but it’s very precise and swift, and every little input of steering yields a result; no slop here, and sadly not an awful lot of feel. Jink it left and right on tracks like a rally stage and the F-Pace quickly follows your direction with zero lag and excellent body control.
That composure also pays dividends through long sweeping bends. The F-Pace rolls slightly, but quickly settles; it gives enormous confidence for the driver to pick a line and power through the corner.
Overall, the feeling is of rear bias, but a bias that seamlessly directs torque forwards when you start to demand an awful lot from the F-Pace, say by turning the steering and flattening the accelerator during tighter corners. Really lean on the front end by adding more steering when the tyres are already stressed and you’ll find the ultimate limits are far higher than you imagined, and that just a little understeer gives warning that you’ve over-stepped the mark. It’s consistent, safe and predictable too.
And when you’re not driving like your hair’s on fire? This is a comfortable, quiet, relaxing car to drive.
In 3.0D S trim, the F-Pace is a very satisfying piece of kit. It’s stylish, practical, engaging to drive and solid value too.
Jag’s F-Pace certainly feels more like the super-agile XE than it does the less involving if still enjoyable XF, which deserves a round of applause given the higher centre of gravity and extra bulk.
It’s jumping headlong into a super-competitive marketplace, but the F-Pace has the talent to take on the competition and come out the other side strongly.
Check out our test of the 2.0-litre diesel F-Pace R-Sport here