After what seems like an age since we first saw teasers and hints surrounding the Jaguar F-Pace, it was finally unveiled at the 2015 Frankfurt Motor Show. Based on the Jaguar C-X17 concept car, it'll hit showrooms next year priced just over £34,000 and we've already taken a drive in a prototype.
It might be Jaguar's first ever SUV, but sister company Land Rover has its fair share of experience in the market. The F-Pace will squeeze between the Range Rover Evoque and Range Rover Sport in size, but with premium cabin feel and on-road dynamic ability at the top of the agenda.
Prices will reflect this position, with the entry-level F-Pace kicking things off at £34,170. Both petrol and diesel models will be available when the car hits showrooms in April 2016, plus a rear-wheel drive version will also feature in the range. At the top of the line-up will sit a 375bhp F-Pace S model into which Jaguar has dropped the supercharged V6 from the F-Type sports car.
The car will be placed “somewhere between the Audi Q5 and Q7" and will have enough boot space to give the VW Passat Estate a hard time, with a luxury interior that should make rivals like the Volvo XC90 and BMW X5 look old-fashioned.
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We were treated to a sneak preview of the new F-Pace before its official reveal at the Frankfurt Motor Show, with Jaguar's chief designer Ian Callum at the brand’s Coventry HQ. The car has been almost four years in the making and, according to Callum, totally subverts the Jaguar he joined 15 years ago.
“As a design team, we’d never done anything like this before,” he said. “In some ways it went against our very nature of wanting Jaguars to be low, long and sleek.
“But having accepted the status quo of what people want these days, we said we’ll produce what we hope to be a very sporty version of this type of vehicle.”
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From the front, it’s unmistakably Jaguar. The headlights are similar to those who’ve seen a new XE or XF on the road, and the gaping grille has been carried over from other models in the range. Down the side, there’s an inverted crease in the bodywork, with a tall windowline and sleek rear lights completing the look.
“We had a few attempts at it,” said Callum. “In the end I said to the team let’s look at the F-Type, which we all know and love, use a lot of the F-Type feel and put it into this car. The important thing for me was this was a Jaguar shaped like a crossover, it wasn’t a crossover that was pushed into the shape of a Jag.”
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Callum and his team have certainly done that. In the metal, the F-Pace looks imposing and sporty, yet different enough to stop you in your tracks. Our car came in striking Caesium Blue – one of four launch colours – and as well as seeing it static in the studio, we also watched it do a few laps of a private courtyard. It’ll be a formidable sight when it finally arrives on UK roads in the spring, with engineers guaranteeing those cars fitted with the potent supercharged V6 will sound the part, too.
Unlike rivals that use shareable platforms, Jaguar uses a tweakable aluminium architecture that ensures no two models are restricted by wheelbase or ride height. As a result, Callum was able to position the wheels exactly where he wanted them – resulting in short overhangs and impressive interior legroom.
The inside of our pre-production prototype was exquisitely finished, with a 10.2-inch central touchscreen (an eight-inch system is standard) and 12.3-inch Audi TT-style virtual instrument cluster. Just like in the Audi, Jag’s optional setup allows you to view the car’s sat-nav instructions in place of the conventional dials – all in crystal clear HD.
A host of hi-tech innovations debut on the F-Pace – but the company is keen to stress that the car will not be complicated to use. Head of connected tech and apps Peter Virk said: “It is the most advanced Jaguar tech ever, but it is equally relevant to grandparents and children.”
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Among the highlights is compatibility with the Apple Watch – it’s possible to heat the car when you wake up with a tap of your wrist. A host of connectors are available too, including HDMI, four USBs and MHL (Mobile High-Definition Link). A wifi hotspot allows eight different devices to be connected, while it’s possible for four different videos to be streamed at any one time. One neat feature that parents will like is the car’s ability to automatically send a text of estimated time of arrival to anyone in the driver’s contact book based on what the sat-nav predicts.
Jaguar hopes the array of tech will help the F-Pace reach out to new buyers, with younger drivers, female motorists and more tech-savvy owners in its sights.
From launch, buyers will be able to choose from Prestige, R-Sport, Portfolio and S models, as well as a limted-run First Edition version. Engines range from the basic 178bhp 2.0-litre Ingenium diesel, through to a 296bhp 3.0-litre V6 diesel and range-topping 375bhp supercharged petrol.
Only the entry-level diesel is available with fuel-sipping rear-wheel drive and a six-speed manual gearbox – all others get the tried and tested eight-speed ZF automatic and all-wheel-drive.
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Fuel economy is good, too. The entry-level rear-drive manual will return 57.7mpg and emit just 129g/km of CO2. It’ll do 0-62mph in 8.9 seconds, and hit 130mph flat out. The all-wheel drive auto isn’t quite as efficient (53.3mpg and 139g/km) but it is ever-so-slightly faster (8.7 seconds to 62mph).
The flagship diesel looks great on paper, too – returning 47.1mpg and sprinting from zero to 62mph in just 6.2 seconds. The V6 petrol is the fastest (0-62mph in 5.5 seconds) but also the thirstiest (31.7mpg and 209g/km). There’s no word yet on a supercar-beating Jaguar F-Pace SVO version.
Don’t expect this new F-Pace to compete with Jeep for off-road prowess. Jaguar is leaving that competition to sister brand, Land Rover, reminding us that this is an SUV designed first and foremost for superior on-road dynamics.
As a result, four-wheel drive versions get a clever setup that can make the transition from 100 per cent rear bias to a 50:50 torque split in just 165 milliseconds. What’s more, the system operates across the car’s entire speed range.
However, the car has been partially developed on the sand dunes of Dubai, so there will be a degree of off-road ability – but with company execs quite explicitly stating that the Porsche Macan is the dynamic benchmark, and bullish that the F-Pace can outhandle it, it’s clear this is a crossover whose primary focus is thrilling dynamics.
Standard equipment on basic Prestige models includes heated leather seats, 18-inch alloy wheels, LED daytime running lights and a power bootlid. DAB radio, WiFi connectivity and sat-nav are also standard. Step up to the mid-spec R-Sport model (priced from £36,670) and you’ll add 19-inch wheels, sports seats, xenon headlamps, a sports body kit and gloss black detailing.
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Portfolio models (from £39,170) are altogether more lavishly equipped with lashings of leather and wood inside, a panoramic glass roof, an upgraded 380W Meridian sound system and rear view camera. Range-topping S models are only available with the two more powerful engines and boast 20-inch wheels, red brake calipers, a specific body kit and Jag’s clever adaptive damping system, which monitors wheel movement 500 times a second. Prices kick off at £51,450.
It’s safe, too. Jaguar says the new F-Pace has been "engineered to satisfy the most stringent safety standards worldwide and provides exceptional levels of occupant and pedestrian protection". The autonomous emergency braking system gets a pedestrian detection system as well as lane departure warning, traffic sign recognition and an intelligent speed limiter.
F-Pace also introduces what Jag claims is a world-first – in the form of Activity Key. A ‘waterproof, wearable technology’ the system allows owners to lock their keys in the car using a rubber wristband. Jaguar calls it invaluable if, for example, you’re going ‘surfing or kayaking’. Activity Key has no battery and works on the same RF frequencies and the other keys, so only needs to be held by the tailgate to operate.
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Five spacious seats are standard – with Callum categorically insisting Jag “won’t build a seven seater” while he’s in charge of design. The car we saw had the Portfolio’s panoramic roof, meaning headroom in the rear was down on rivals like the Audi Q7, but legroom was good and thanks to a 40:20:40 split-fold rear seat and 650-litre boot the F-Pace neatly fills the void left by the soon-to-be-discontinued XF Sportbrake.
Jaguar bosses are currently assessing the feasibility of a replacement estate – but nothing has been confirmed. Fold the F-Pace’s seats flat and you’ll reveal an impressive 1,740 litres of space, while a full-size spare wheel can be specified and stored under the boot floor.
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Buyers wanting one of the first UK F-Paces are able to order their cars straight away, with the option of putting down a deposit on one of the limited-run First Edition models. Costing £65,275 it gets the 3.0 V6 diesel from the new XF, and is specced to the eyeballs with kit such as 22-inch alloy wheels, adaptive LED headlights, gloss black details and a sliding panoramic roof.
By Jaguar's own estimates, sales in the SUV sector are expected to expand from around 850,000 in 2014 to around 1.2 million in 2020/21, and Jaguar believes the F-Pace can be a substantial hit, with 90 per cent of customers likely to be new to the brand.
By Graham Hope
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And so, at last, we have finally seen the production version of Jaguar’s F-Pace. It’s a car that has clearly concerned some purists, with Jaguar venturing into territory that once would have been considered a crime. But having now seen Ian Callum’s latest creation up close, under the lights at Frankfurt, I’m optimistic that even the biggest doubters will be convinced of its worth.
The F-Pace is clearly a Jaguar first, and a crossover second, which was always the objective. The front is pure Jag, but the profile makes it look naturally athletic and lithe, rather than artificially so, like some of the new crop of coupe-SUVs. That’s no mean feat for a high-riding vehicle.
To my eyes at least, it certainly stacks up favourably against those cars it will be expected to compete for sales against. And of course, it will help usher in a new type of Jag buyer – younger, or female perhaps. That is exactly what is required as the brand seeks to grow.
As global marketing strategy director Steven de Ploey put it: “The F-Pace is the car that shows we have finally ditched our slippers and pipe and will make Jaguar a contemporary proposition to take on the best in the world.” In short, it is a car that will make more people want to buy a Jaguar, and that is surely a positive thing, regardless of what the purists think.
A word, too, on the spectacular launch, which saw stunt driver Terry Grant break the world loop the loop record on a 19.08 metre construction at a Frankfurt race course. There was tangible drama in the air as Grant accelerated above 50mph on the approach, and then went round the loop at speeds as low as 15mph.
Yes, it was glitzy, as we have come to expect from JLR. But the showbiz element was underpinned by a breathtaking piece of action that served as a perfect introduction to the car. It was as well judged as the F-Pace itself.
What do you think to Jaguar's first ever SUV? Give us your verdict on the F-Pace in the comments section below...