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It must have been a long and difficult decision-making process for Jaguar to build an SUV. Sister brand Land Rover produces solely SUVs, so why would the same company go off and build a competitor product to challenge sales from within the stable?

Market forces

The end result is surely a by-product of market demands. Right now there are very few manufacturers, even traditional sportscar makers, that do not offer at least one SUV in their respective line-ups. Examples from Porsche, Maserati, Bentley and soon enough Lamborghini are proof of the demand for these models from buyers all over the world.

Under the skin

No one would have given it a second thought if Jaguar engineers raided the family parts store and adopted a Discovery Sport/Evoque platform on which to base this model. These are, after all, both very good SUVS, but instead the firm went digging through its own parts bin for a platform.

Underpinning the F-Pace, therefore, are the same key components as found on the XE and XF. Incidentally, while there are RWD models available in overseas markets, all SA-bound versions will be AWD, utilising a similar arrangement as found in F-Type models.

Differentiation is key

Knowing full well that there would be comparisons made to Land Rover products of a similar size, Jaguar had to imbue its latest model, and very-first SUV, with a far greater degree of differentiation. Starting point for that would be the styling. Based on the C-X17 Concept car, the F-Pace is unmistakably Jaguar in its appearance. From those slim headlamps, similar to those of an XE, to the items at the rear, which mimic those of the F-Type sportscar, the F-Pace cuts a handsome figure; and in no way relatable to any Land Rover products.

Beautiful inside

Much the like the outside, the F-Pace interior carries over hallmarks seen in the recent saloon models. The steering wheel, gearshift dial and touchscreen infotainment system create a cabin that reminds one of any other modern Jaguar and, in keeping with Jaguar’s “driver’s car” credentials passengers, the pilot is cocooned by the facia and centre console.

Power options

Power for the new range is provided by two turbodiesel and two turbopetrol engines. The opening salvo of the range is a, 2,0-litre inline four, which produces 132 kW and 430 N.m of torque. Bolstering the turbodiesel offerings is a 3,0-litre V6 which pumps out 221 kW and a whopping 700 N.m of torque.

On the petrol front there is a 3,0-litre supercharged V6 available in two power levels: 250 kW/ 450 N.m and 280 kW/450 N.m. Locally sold F-Pace models are fitted exclusively with eight-speed automatic transmissions.

On the go

On the recent ride and drive event to herald the launch of the F-Pace onto the South African market I got to experience the newcomer in Eastern Cape. This scenic part of the world dishes up all manner of road conditions from perfect motorways to beautiful dirt tracks and rutted B-roads in between.

The fully independent suspension layout coped with all that launch route could throw at it. In particular, the F-Pace displayed excellent ride quality characteristics on the rutted gravel paths through local game reserves that were included as part of the route.

Choosing a powerplant

Having experienced all the engine derivatives over the course of two days, I’ve have to say the 3,0 TD V6 is my pick of the bunch. With 221 kW and 700 N.m on tap from low down the 3,0-litre turbodiesel really flies. It has a turn of acceleration that is grin-inducing even when you open the taps while already travelling at speed. Long-distance cruising will be effortless with this engine option.

The smaller turbodiesel seems a little overwhelmed by the large body and heft. Despite Jaguar’s constant boast of 80% aluminium construction, even the smallest, lightest base-spec 2,0 version weighs in at 1 775 kg, without any extras or occupants aboard. I’d be keen to see what a fully laden top-spec car weighs.

The supercharged V6 motors sound beautiful, and obviously make good power but the fuel consumption figures are bound to be high. On the launch over one long motorway stretch we saw an average of 15 L/100 km on the trip computer.

Racetrack specialist?

Jaguar SA was keen to underline the “sportscar DNA” that resides within the F-Pace so took the assembled media to the Aldo Scribante Raceway near Port Elizabeth. However, instead of giving us the chance to really experience the car, we were asked us not to travel at high speeds on the track… which makes one wonder what the point was. That said, I am pretty sure that we are unlikely to ever see an F-Pace at a local track day any time soon.

Verdict

As a first attempt the Jaguar F-Pace is really good. It doesn’t tread on the toes of real off-roaders from within its own stable. See it more as a raised XF and you will have a clearer picture of what it is.

In this part of the market it goes up against serious competition - not least of all Porsche’s Macan and BMW’s X4. That comparative is just based on size however and if one looks at the pricing and you quickly realise that there are a whole host of models that the F-Paces competes against.

Base versions start at R778 966 with the very top models going for R1 331 146. And for that outlay you could have just about any SUV model in the market from a BMW X5/6 and a Mercedes-Benz GLE, to a Porsche Cayenne, Volvo XC90, and not least of all the excellent Range Rover Sport.

That is some very stiff competition.

Get a copy of the August issue of CAR for a full road test of the Jaguar F-Pace 35 S

 

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