One-time executive saloon specialist Jaguar is changing, adding its first-ever SUV – the mid-size F-Pace – to showrooms in the hope of doubling its sales reach. The most sensible pick of the F-Pace line-up is the entry-level diesel 20d. The R-Sport version is priced from $81,565 before on-road costs, and wears a slightly sharper-looking face than the $5000-plus cheaper entry-level Prestige.
- Diesel engine. This part of the market – mid-size SUVs – benefits most from the lazy torque that’s typical of a turbo-diesel powerplant. Economical and able to lope along lazily, the 2.0-litre “Ingenium” powerplant’s only weakness is step-off acceleration, or that tendency to lack decent power when the revs are around idle, such as moving away from a traffic light.
- It’s economical. The official combined fuel use is 5.3 litres per 100 kilometres. In the real world it hovers around 8.0L/100km, which is still pretty good considering it weighs at least 100kg more than a Holden Commodore sedan.
- SUVs are more renowned for their roly-poly, elephant-on-roller skates feel because their centre of gravity is a lot higher off the ground than a conventional passenger car. The big Jag will still lean out of corners, but noticeably less so than you’d expect.
- It also rides well. Our test car was rolling on low-profile 22-inch alloys (a $4300 option) yet inside it was calm and quiet, with very little of the lumps and bumps of the road’s surface making their way inside.
- It grips tenaciously. Chuck the F-Pace at a corner with a bit of vigour, and it hangs on tight. There’s some sports car DNA in there somewhere.
- It looks spectacular. That wide, squared-off stance combined with slit-like headlamps and tail-lights, and a fastback roofline falling to that chopped, coupe-style rear makes it look like nothing else on the market.
- It’s comfortable inside. Out tester had the optional $1400 sports seats that shape so well to the driver’s body that they even have a function that adjusts how tightly the side bolsters grip your torso, so our opinion may be a bit skewed. They replace default leather sports seats.
- Rear-seat accommodation is very good, easily fitting three adults across the bench.
- The boot is a good size. An electrically opening and closing bootlid, operated via either the key fob or a door-mounted button, means shorter owners don’t need to reach up to push a tailgate-mounted button to close it.
- The engine’s lag from idle needs a bit of management. If you’re turning at an intersection, timing is everything.
- The F-Pace’s body is made out of lightweight aluminium, yet it still weighs almost 2.0- tonnes.
- The Jaguar’s dynamic mode that alters how the throttle and steering feel via a centre console-mounted button are a bit lost on the entry-level diesel model. The gearbox’s “S” for sport mode, which is meant to improve performance by hanging onto revs for longer before shifting up, will probably be of better use when towing.
- A full-size spare wheel is a $1000 option. Because it’s an option, we get less boot space than European buyers who stick with the speed- and distance-limited space saver spare tyre.
- There’s strange little storage cubbies built into either side of the transmission tunnel in between the front seats. They don’t quite take a mobile phone, or a purse or wallet, so what are they for?
- The trailing edge of the front door forms a pretty nasty point. If you’re a bit lax getting out of the way when closing it, it can bite.
ANY RIVALS I SHOULD ALSO CONSIDER?
This is a fast-growing and lucrative corner of Australia’s new-car market – sales in the latter part of 2016 were up more than 50 percent compared with 2015. There’s the technically brilliant, and polished-looking Porsche Macan; the classy Mercedes-Benz GLC and its fast-backed cousin the GLC Coupe; the soon-to-be-replaced Audi Q5, the dumpy-looking BMW X3 and its fastbacked cousin the X4; and the technology-laden, seven-seat Land Rover Discovery Sport. All have unique appeal, so it comes down to a matter of taste – and budget.