What's Australia's fastest growing sector in the passenger car market? I am leading here, if you didn't already know, it is the SUV (Sports Utility Vehicle). It seems every second man and his dog are buying SUV's. SUV's accounted for 35% of all passenger vehicles sold in Australia, according to sales figures for the year 2015.
Jaguar have cottoned on to the fact that not having an SUV is hurting their bottom line and the F Pace is supposed to address that. Take Mercedes Benz for example, they have no less than 5 distinct SUV models in their range. It may be that Jag are a little late to the party but don't the late comers usually stir things up a bit.
So does the 2017 Jaguar F Pace stir things up? Well for one thing the "S" in SUV isn't just for show, the F PACE really does pick up the pace. For the full fruit F PACE S featuring a 280Kw supercharged 3.0 litre V6, it will flex its muscle with 0 to 100Kmh in just 5.5 seconds.
The F Pace is a "clean sheet design", in Jag's own words. Inspired by their F Type coupe, the F Pace is a performance SUV with the DNA of a sports car. Wow, big call, hopefully it's not just fancy marketing speak.
On the looks front we'd say they've nailed the brief. It really does have the cat like sporting grace, shared with both the current F Type and XE models. Front on it looks very similar to a high riding XE, which is no bad thing, the gaping mouth and front light treatment add credibility to its sport leanings. From the rear, the tail light cluster could have come straight off the F Type coupe and the all-important three quarter panel view leaves no question as to the F Pace's intended purpose.
Expect no less for the interior, cosseted in a full leather trimmed luxury, the experience inside the cabin is just as compelling as the exterior and if you tick all the options will include; heads up display, 12.3 inch Instrument Panel Display with virtual dials and full screen 3D Map View, 10.2 inch Touchscreen with multi-touch gestures handling info-tainment with SAT NAV. iPod, Smart Phone, Bluetooth connectivity, 2 x USB ports and 10Gb of on board storage for your music collection.
For the Australian market there will be a choice of 4 engines, a 2.0 litre 4 cylinder turbo diesel developing 132Kw, a 3.0 litre V6 turbo diesel developing 221Kw, a 3.0 litre V6 supercharged petrol developing 250Kw and the top of the tree 3.0 litre supercharged petrol developing 280Kw. All drivetrains feature the superb ZF 8 speed automatic transmission that's doing the rounds in just about every premium car we care to mention. All F PACE's feature permanent all-wheel drive, though you can optionally elect two wheel drive for the 2.0 litre diesel, why you would is beyond me.
Where Jag hopes to pip the competition is on the driving. The driving dynamics and handling are supposed to be class leading and aimed squarely at those that want more from their SUV than just to pick up the kids from soccer training.
How are they doing this? Well the all-wheel drive system employed shares duties with the highly praised F Type, further reinforcing that the F PACE is a driver's car. As such, it has the ability to funnel power fore and aft as required, using what Jag calls, Electro Hydraulic Coupling. Under general driving conditions most of the power is going to the rear wheels but as much as 50% can be sent to the front if required. All of this is happening adaptively in real time.
So does the drive translate to the sports car experience that Jag promises? Forgetting the handicap imposed by its weight and height, Jag have managed to engineer an SUV which as promised, points, stops, handles and rides very sports car like. Is it class leading? Without back to back testing against the competition we won't know for sure. There's talk its every bit as good or better than any SUV up to a Porsche Macan. Time and sales will tell.
As you'd expect from a vehicle sharing it's drive train with the F Type, the 3.0 litre supercharged engine in the F Pace S has some of the same raucous character, albeit toned down to suit its intended market. The noise is deep and resonant (from inside the cabin at least) and when you want to crack on, the ZF 8 speed is more than happy to come to the party. Manually changing gear via the wheel mounted paddle shifters is a sheer joy.
When we talk about pointing the F Pace; with the steering rack at 2.5 turns lock to lock, the tiller is more than fast enough, it's accurate in its responses as well. On the ride aspect, the compliance is sorted to maintain comfort without overly compromising the handling. It's stiff enough to be entertaining when wanted but maintains the Jag ethos of grace, space and pace.
The stoppers are well weighted and effective despite its 1870kg kerb weight.
So all up, the F PACE S makes for the complete SUV package and is proper quick.
What does that mean for you and me and most especially the Jag fan?
Well, it looks like a Jag, feels like a Jag and my god it is a Jaaaagggg!
2017 Jaguar F Pace S AWD TECH SPECS
Engine: 3.0 litre 4 valves per cylinder supercharged petrol
Max Power: 280Kw @ 6500rpm
Max Torque: 460Nm @ 4500rpm
Transmission: ZF 8 speed automatic
Wheels: 20" Venom 5 twin spoke
Brakes: 4 wheel disc with ABS
Suspension: Front Double Wishbone, Rear Multi-Link
Gross unladed weight: 1861Kg
Price approx: $104,000 AUD
0 to 100Kmh dash: 5.5 seconds
Top speed: 250Kph (speed limited)