With the Jaguar F-Pace S First Edition, Britain’s best-loved saloon manufacturer joins luxury German brands in the crowded small SUV market – and doesn’t disappoint with this bold, stylish and surprisingly roomy car, writes Tiff Needell
Mercedes started it with its M-Class in 1997 followed by BMW two years later with the X5, but it wasn’t until 2005 that the Audi Q7 completed the set of German luxury saloon manufacturers offering four-wheel-drive SUVs.
If you wanted to spend a little less, Volvo saw a gap in the market with its XC90 in 2003 and, if you wanted to part with a bit more, Porsche had arrived a year earlier with the Cayenne.
Over just eight years a market once dominated by either Land Rover products or American Jeeps had competition coming from all corners.
Now Britain’s best-loved saloon car manufacturer has joined the game as well as we welcome the Jaguar F-Pace – another bold move by the fast-developing marque.
Eight years ago Jaguar retail sales had slumped from 120,000 in 2003 to just 65,000. A rich heritage was of little use without new investment so when Tata bought Jaguar and Land Rover from Ford things had to get better.
And so they did. A new mid-sized XF had just been launched and that was soon joined by the fourth- generation XJ before the new XE completed the saloon car range last year. In between the long-awaited F-Type had emerged to great acclaim and now there’s the F-Pace.
To cope with the demand, 20,000 new jobs have been created at Jaguar Land Rover and last year Jaguar sales were back up to 95,000 and heading upwards with 70 per cent of the production destined for export.
With that background the F-Pace needs to be good and it doesn’t disappoint. Styling is neat and simple with plenty of nice Jaguar family cues and a large, bold grill at the front.
Size-wise it’s more Range Rover than Evoque – longer than its main rivals, the BMW X3, Audi Q5 and Porsche Macan, and a fair bit wider as well. All of which gives it class-leading space on the inside but no seven-seat option.
Prices start at £34,170 for a rear- wheel-drive, 180 horsepower diesel with a six-speed manual gearbox, but if you want the four-wheel-drive, eight-speed automatic you’ll have to pay between £37,860 and £42,860 depending on whether you choose the Prestige, R-Sport or Portfolio package.
Me? I’d spend at least £51,450 for the S model because it’s the only one with a petrol engine – the 380 horsepower, supercharged V6 – and then I’d just have to go for the First Edition version, which is offered in a caesium blue paint scheme.
You also get all the best luxurious goodies as standard including Windsor leather seats with houndstooth embossing, a panoramic roof, 22in double helix alloy wheels and the InControl Touch Pro sat-nav with 10.2in screen.
Based on the lightweight aluminium architecture of the XE and XF saloons, both the on-road handling and the off-road capabilities are aimed at the middle ground with more emphasis on road handling that can challenge that of the Porsche Macan.
My only disappointment is that Jaguar has not offered a smaller, more economical petrol engine. So, if you’re going for the S model and average 10,000 miles a year, for an extra £10 a week on fuel you can reach 62mph 0.7 seconds faster than in the identically priced 3.0 diesel – and breathe cleaner emissions!
IoD member Celia Stewart tested the F-Pace on the challenging roads of Montenegro. Read her drive diary here
Jaguar F-Pace S First Edition
Top speed 155mph
Acceleration 0-62mph in 5.5 seconds
Engine 3.0 litre V6 supercharged petrol generating 380hp
Gearbox eight-speed automatic