If the SUV you’re buying is from a German manufacturer, chances are pretty good that it’s underpinned by a platform or architecture shared with that of another German automaker.
Jaguar has resisted this sharing trend. While Jaguar-Land Rover makes a lot of utility vehicles, but to take a Land Rover platform and stick a Jag frame on it would undermine the performance of the former and the dynamism of the latter.
The origins of the F-PACE
The first version of the model was first unveiled as the C-X17 concept at the Frankfurt auto show in 2013, followed by the finished product in 2015, re-dubbed the F-PACE. Visitors to the Frankfurt show had been impressed by Jaguar’s first-ever go at an SUV, and the final product retained most of the design elements of that first prototype, such as the full, aggressive-looking LED headlights, 22-inch forged-alloy wheels and a short front overhang.
The C-X17 concept was the first utility prototype to come out of Jaguar’s design studio, and it had posed some very unique challenges for design head Ian Callum and his team. But rule number-one for Callum and co. was to avoid any compromise of Jaguar’s intrinsic values.
Which meant the vehicle had to be elegant, sporty and spectacular at the same time that it exhibited the practical qualities of an SUV. What’s more, it had to distinguish itself from the masses by retaining the inherent sophistication of a Jaguar.
“We designed the C-X17 from scratch starting a base set of principles, and a deep sense of what constitutes a Jaguar – pure lines, exciting proportions, a balanced shape, boldness and power, but matched with an attractive sensuality. Le C-X17 is boldly and distinctively a Jaguar.”
- Ian Callum, Jaguar design head, on launch of the C-X17 concept
Lightweight and easy to handle
The F-PACE is based on the same architecture as the XE and XF, which means it’s made in large part of aluminum – 80% of the body, in fact.
Other components, such as the transversal rail of the chassis, are made of magnesium. When that is mounted high, the light weight of the magnesium helps lower the centre of gravity more so than if it was of steel or aluminum. The floor of the trunk being of steel helps that along even more, in addition to shifting weight toward the rear. The goal for Jaguar’s designers was to attain as close to a 50/50 ratio as possible.
The F-PACE features a double-wishbone front suspension, while the rear suspension is an integrated-link system. The engines are mounted lengthwise in front, and all F-PACE 25t models get all-wheel drive and the omnipresent ZF 8-speed transmission. Performance numbers place the model in the middle of its category – 0-100 km/h takes 6.4 seconds, maximum speed is 217 km/h.
For the 2018 model-year, Jaguar unveiled a range of new engines, including an E-Performance base diesel engine delivering 162 hp (only available in Europe), a 180-hp Ingenium diesel engine and a new gasoline engine, the 247-hp Ingenium – that is the one we had for our tester. Engine noise is minimal at cruising speed, and initial acceleration is strong. This is a willing and able engine, and it even comes with a stunningly melodious purr between 2,500 and 4,000 RPM.
The 2018 year also brought new colour options and interior accents, giving buyers more choices overall, and additional tech components have been made available or been made standard, for example a digital instrument cluster.
Handling is very precise and sporty for a utility model of this size; steering is quick and accurate, and turning radius is incredibly tight, making for easier manoeuvring in tight parking spaces. Select the Dynamic mode and everything tightens up, to the point where the ordinarily comfortable ride can become a trifle harsh on a bumpy road surface. The accelerator pedal gets jumpier as well. Contrary to the high-end V6 version, this trim provided us with comfort and efficiency.
And it truly is comfortable. Jaguar wisely cast aside any notions of adding a third row, opting to assure spacious seating for five passengers, along with considerable cargo space and room enough for a spare tire, included in lieu of firmer run-flat tires. The 10-way power-adjustable heated seats become 14-way adjustable in the R-Sport version. Seats can also be had ventilated, as can heated rear seats, both as options. The $2,500 package that delivers those also brings the hands-free power hatch and power reclining seats that can be folded down virtually flat, from a distance if desired.
The F-PACE remains of the best-handling, most-refined and most-sought-after premium mid-sized SUVs. Whichever engine option you go, its qualities are many and impressive.
We do feel, though, that while the 25t version offers buyers more choices (especially when they forsake the diesel), the total doesn’t necessarily add up to more than the sum of the parts. Opt for the diesel version, on the other hand, and you get not only one of the hotter, funnest-to-drive SUVs on the market, but one that gives you excellent fuel consumption of between 7.2 and 8.9L/100 km in normal, real-life driving conditions.
Caressing the curves: Blacklight, the film
Jaguar has gone so far as to put together a video celebrating the 70 awards won worldwide by the F-PACE SUV. Among those the British-made high-performance family vehicle has taken home, World Car of the Year and World Car Design of the Year, both in 2017. Jaguar’s film captures, in spectacular fashion, the F-PACE’s cutting-edge engineering and exterior design.
“We set out to break the mould with our first performance SUV and everyone at Jaguar is thrilled with how well the F-PACE design has been received around the world. After winning 70 awards we wanted to create a film that reflects both its critically acclaimed design and the engineering that underpins everything we do at Jaguar. The result is as dramatic as the vehicle itself.”
- Ian Callum
The film, called Blacklight, shows thousands of paint drops sprayed simultaneously on the F-PACE, highlighting its distinctive and elegant profile while it covers the vehicle’s shell. Once the vehicle is covered in water and paint, the giant vents force the mix out along the vehicle’s exterior curves, showcasing at the same time the flow of air over the top of the vehicle. It’s a superb piece of automotive art. Check it out below.
For a luxury model, the pricing of the E-PACE is not really that exorbitant, at least not on the entry-level trim. The 4-cylinder gasoline-engine version starts at $50,250, while the diesel kicks in at $51,250 in its Premium incarnation. The price climbs to $55,750 for the Prestige edition, and $61,000 for the R-Sport. The various options available on my tester brought the total up to $70,950.