The Auto Channel
The Largest Independent Automotive Research Resource
The Largest Independent Automotive Research Resource
Official Website of the New Car Buyer

FIRST DRIVE: 2017 Jaguar F-Pace Review By Henny Hemmes +VIDEO

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

By Henny Hemmes
Senior European Editor

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

SVETI STEFAN, Montenegro - April 28, 2016: When Jaguar announced its plans to develop an SUV, not every fan of the brand was excited, nor was I. But that mood changed somewhat when seeing the concept and later the production model. Now, after the first test drives with the Jaguar F-Pace in the hills of Montenegro, I revised my view.

Apparently, Jaguar’s rather late entrance into the premium midsize SUV segment is not influencing interest in the F-Pace. On the contrary, it looks like a lot of people have been waiting for the ‘Cat’ to come up with such a popular model. After the world premiere at the IAA in Frankfurt, last September, the Jaguar F-Pace generated a lot of positive publicity thanks to its sporty and sophisticated styling.

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

Since December, Jaguar has already written ten thousand orders worldwide, including two thousand units of the ‘First Edition’. That is rather special, because customers have not driven the F-Pace.

New customers
Aldo van Troost, spokesperson of Jaguar Netherlands, told me that he has noted interest for the SUV “from people driving BMWs X3 and X5 and Touring and, surprisingly, also Porsche's Macan and Cayenne. “It was remarkable that we saw a lot of relatively new cars on our lot during the open days for the F-Pace,” said Van Troost. He thinks these are typically customers who are new to Jaguar and who always want to drive the very latest models.

In 2012, Jaguar Netherlands sold only 450 units, but steady growth thanks to the F-Type, and in particular to the XE that entered the market in June, Troost expects total sales to reach more than 1,500 units this year, including the F-Pace of which the distributor has already sold 130 units.

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

Role model
The late decision to come up with an SUV has had an unexpected advantage. Vehicle engineering manager Dave Shaw said during our first drive event: "We wanted to develop a dynamic driving SUV and were already well on the way, when Porsche introduced the Macan in 2014, which soon became our benchmark. We decided that our SUV did not have to be exactly as sporty as the Macan, but by studying the all of the Porsche details, we learned a lot and could consequently optimize our technology and the fine tuning of our suspension for a true dynamic character."

The FP, as the car is called internally, is based on the new aluminum architecture that is also used for the XE and XF models, representing the brand’s shift from steel to lightweight aluminum structures. The new strong and stiff platforms can also be used for smaller brothers of the F-Pace that we may expect since group mate Land Rover is well represented in the segments of larger models.

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

Precise set-up
Jaguar offered us extensive testing with three variants in the Montenegro mountains, where the F-Pace showed what Dave Shaw meant. The SUV is not as extremely sporty and agile as its German role model, but offers a dynamic drive and confident feel, without being uncomfortable. There is good feed back from the suspension and the adaptive dampers do their work flawlessly on the rough and sometimes damaged tarmac. The chassis is nicely balanced. With the suspension in Dynamic mode the V6 diesel felt somewhat softer then the V6 petrol.

According to Dave Shaw, the hardware (components such as dampers and springs) is the same, but the settings are adjusted to the engine weight and also a little more focused on comfort. All versions offer the select button in the center console to select the option for Eco, Comfort and Dynamic, while the S for Sport and the 8-speed ZF transmission can be manually switched using the paddles at the wheel.

During the first drive event, we were provided with the all-wheel-drive versions, which have an impressive grip. On an off-road terrain we drove over a rocky path up a 43 degree slope with the diesel model. By using ADSR (ADaptive Surface Response), the car can do it all by itself. ADSR is an option available with the automatic transmission and uses a pre set speed, in this case we set it at 2.2 mph.

I did not expect the comfort to be as good as it was on the large 22-inch wheels with the 254/40 tires, but the 20-inch units on the 2.0-liter turbo-diesel model that I drove later, felt better. And we did not drive like sissies in the diesel model either. With 180 hp and 318 pound-feet of torque the 4-cylinder motor accelerates in 8.2 seconds from 0-60 mph, not super fast, but not slow either! The great torque of the diesel engines is especially nice when driving up the mountain. Only at the start - when the engine is cold - you hear the specific diesel sound, and when accelerating hard, but otherwise you will not notice anything. The diesel engine is teamed to a ZF 6-speed manual that can be shifted fast and effortlessly.

I also drove the 300 hp strong 3.0-liter V6 diesel, which offers a lot of fun because of its torque of 516 pound-feet that is available from 2,000 rpm. Just as an indication: for the sprint to 60 mph this F-Pace model needs 5.8 seconds. This model comes standard with the same sweet shifting ZF 8-speed automatic that is also used for the V6 petrol engine.

The F-Pace’s steering is sharp, and clearly communicates. Turn-in is excellent and the car can be swiftly directed through the many hairpins and shorter and longer bends of the Montenegro hills. With little body roll the F-Pace feels well planted on the road. I started the drive in the Caesium Blue F-Pace S ‘First Edition’ that has unique details taken from the C-X17 Concept SUV of 2013, and extended standard equipment that includes the sporty S model body kit, 22-inch allow wheels with red brake calipers, full LED headlights, as well as other features that are optional on the regular model. Two examples are the Adaptive Dynamics system and the new InControl Touch Pro infotainment.

World first
Compared to the Porsche Macan, the F-Pace offers more space for all its five passengers and with 23 cubic feet, also the luggage compartment beats that of the Macan. The cabin is well-executed with nice wood and metal details and luxurious leather. The seats are excellent, offering good support and comfort.

The F-Pace can optionally be equipped with a 10.2-inch digital display with the touch and pinch functionality that we know from our smart phones. There is Wi-Fi hotspot, but unfortunately no Android Auto or Apple Car Play, which puts the F-Pace behind its competitors.

On the other hand there is a feature that no one else has thought of: the Activity Key, a waterproof rubber bracelet that is especially nice for drivers who want to run or play any kind of sport, where you do not want to be bothered with a bouncing key in their pocket. When wearing the Activity Key you can secure your car key inside the F-Pace, then touch the bracelet to the Jaguar emblem on the hatch to lock and unlock it. And no worries: If you accidently leave the window open, the normal key is useless, until the Activity Key lets the F-Pace know that its driver is back again.

It is a pity that the Activity Key is plain black rubber. It should be looking more premium, more flashy. I would have chosen silver with, for example, some Swarowski crystals in the color of the car’s paint.

Wrapping up, the 2017 F-Pace is well worth considering for buyers of a premium SUV. Both diesel and petrol engines perform well, and the well-tuned and excellently designed chassis offers excellent and dynamic driving capabilities and good comfort. The 2.0 diesel model may not be as fast as the V6 supercharged petrol variant, but it's certainly perfectly balanced. In the lovely executed interior, it is easy to enjoy the drive – or the ride.

The F-Pace is already available in its home market and will arrive on the European market by the end of this month and in China in June. When the SUV reaches the 162 Jaguar retailers in the U.S. around May 15, it will be available with the 2.0-liter petrol and 3.0-liter V6 engine ($ 56,700), later followed by the 2.0-liter diesel model that will be equipped with a 4.5 gallon Adblue tank, which has to be refilled approximately every 6,200 miles. Prices start at $ 41,990 (MSP)