Published on February 16th, 2017 | by Richard Wiley0
Jaguar’s 2.0d R F-Pace meets space and practicality
I’ve been fortunate to have driven the F-PACE on its international launch in Montenegro and subsequently on other press events closer to home but this is my first association with Jaguar’s SUV on my home patch.
I’m not sure why but driving on familiar territory seems to trigger different impressions and the first one that struck me was that the F-PACE is bigger than it seems when operated in the great outdoors, scurrying up and down mountain passes or belting along motorways.
Its physique though is not founded in excess bulk but rather in the muscular overtones it conveys. Clearly, designer Ian Callum and his team were determined to retain Jaguar-esque sporting genes in the overall execution of what is first and foremost a versatile, go-almost-anywhere conveyor of at least four occupants.
A sloping rear window line is not the only visual clue either. Large meshed air intakes up front add to the sporting message as do the mildly extended wheel arches and tapered cabin proportions. Notwithstanding that the test unit was painted – and very nicely too – in a rather anonymous shade of silver, onlookers certainly noticed the F-TYPE while showing an obvious disregard for similar devices from Munich and Stuttgart.
Maybe the relative scarceness of the Jag which is still very much in its introductory phase in RSA, has something to do with this but even if styling is a subjective issue, there seems to be unanimity of opinion that Coventry has “got it right.”
This unit was configured in R-Sport trim with Satin Black trim elements and black, multi-spoke alloy wheels. Indeed, the only shiny bits in evidence were limited to badging and to the J-blade design element within the Xenon headlamp clusters.
Even the roof rails stood out in shiny black and along with the tinted glass, the darker bits endowed the Jag with something of a stealth bomber image. Maybe this approach is for the younger buyers that Jaguar is pursuing as I still prefer this model in metallic blues and reds with silver alloys. Be aware though, that personalisation is very much in evidence on the F-PACE equipment menu so everyone should be happy in the end.
The aforementioned silver paint was notable for good gloss and a near complete absence of orange peel and extended to the door handles which permit keyless entry for the driver.
Happily, those doors are rather large affairs and open wide to offer unusually easy access to a cabin that’s much roomier than the sporty external lines might suggest. Indeed, the couple I transported to a dinner date proclaimed the rear quarters to be rather fine and dandy which could account for why they ate their meal so quickly!
After all, there’s nothing like getting back to what you like and in this case, what they liked was 60:40 folding seating smartly trimmed in a combo of black and red perforated leather highlighted with red stitching. The fronts are all-electric with the driver having access to three memorised positions while the steering column is capable of moving in all directions at the mere push of a switch.
Ultimately, the driver ends up with a commanding driving position thanks to the high build of the vehicle but that traditional Jaguar feeling of being cocooned is still present thanks largely to the presence of a high centre console which runs all the way from the dash to between the seats.
Gone is the traditional clubby Jag environment of old and in its place is a more modern interpretation marked out by sweeping lines flowing back from the dashboard extremities into two-tone door panels that feature soft-touch cappings but rather unyielding lower bits that happily are mostly out of sight.
The general ambience is certainly premium but I do question the sighting of the electric window switches high up on the door cappings as well as the use of a complicated stalk-operated main light switch. For me, a simple rotary switch on the dash is the way to go. It’s also a shame that the full-size spare wheel creates an u
neven loading area in the expandable boot but given this model’s off-road potential, I guess that spare is necessary.
The steering wheel is an form below the screen and the volume control for the excellent Meridian sound system remains in the hands of a simple rotary switch.
I strongly advise a visit to a relevant Jaguar website (Mr Google will help!) to establish the basic equipment levels by model and to find out the extent to which the F-PACE can be personalised. This unit was fitted with keyless entry and start and with the clever Activity Key wrist band but the one fitment which I really appreciate is the traffic proximity warning system built into the large, folding external mirrors.
Given the hefty pillars that clearly contribute to the inherent stiffness of the F-PACE, as well as the presence of five head restraints, over-shoulder visibility can be restricted so this electronic nanny is really appreciated. It goes without saying too that this Jag is kitted out with every active and passive safety item known to man and that includes ISOFIX mountings in the rear so even the toddlers will be at ease in this most sporting of SUVs.
If I’ve left you to find out the detail about available kit levels in the F-PACE, I’ll expend more energy on telling you how this SUV drives because ultimately, that’s what a Jaguar is all about. Sir William Lyons may have done a double back somersault in pike position if he knew the famous leaper logo was to be applied to a high-riding and relatively bulky SUV, but he can rest in peace. The F-PACE drives just how you’d expect a Coventry cat to do.
If you’re into motoring, and I guess you must be or you wouldn’t be exercising your grey matter re
ading this, you will know that it takes only a few metres to establish the general feel of a car. Is it sloppy, is it telegraphing too much mechanical commotion, does it deflect external disturbances? Collectively, all these things – and more – add up to create an overall impression that is best summarised in the word ”refinement.”
Truth be known, the new Ingenium 2.0 turbo diesel motor fitted to this model is aurally quite gruff under heavy load and is a tad ratlly at cold idle, but the insulation from inside is such that these disturbances are not an issue. The tone of the combustion is actually quite pleasing – more petrol-like than diesel – and at idle, what sounds can be picked up are of no consequence.
For the record, this motor produces its maximum power of 132 kW at 4 000 rpm but more importantlyntly, the torque peak of 430Nm muscles in at a mere 1750 rpm. I found its ability to get the F-PACE moving and cruising to be entirely adequate rather than electrifying, a characteristic I mention because some press colleagues thought it a tad sluggish. Consider if you will, that a 120km/h cruise has the rev counter sitting somewhere around 1750 rpm which ensures terrific economy and near silent progress on the open road. On full taps, the factory claims 208km/h and 0-100 in 8.7s.
Allowance simply has to be made for the relatively small displacement of this powerplant which offers an important economy benefit at the same time, and with this in mind, I rate the 2.0d as good choice for real world driving in which GP starts and break-neck speeds just aren’t relevant. Jaguar anyway offers a 3.0 alternative which will suit the speedsters better.
Over a full week of varied driving, I recorded an overall consumption of 9.4l/100kms which, for the record, compares well with the Volvo XC90 equivalent that slurped diesel at the rate of 12.5l/100km in identical conditions.
Jaguars have always been known for the quality of their ride and steering and the F-PACE upholds the tradition. Bearing in mind that configurable dynamics are incorporated in the R-Sport so you can fiddle to suit your tastes, the chassis delivers a firmish feel notable for exceptional control and remarkable resistance to roll.
Sure, in the firmer setting, the ride on poor surfaces at low speeds can feel a tad jiggly but happily, whatever surface was traversed, not a single rattle or squeak disturbed the equanimity and apart from a little rustling around the wing mirrors, isolation of external noises is very good.
Given the high ride height achieved to some extent as a result of the fitment of huge 255/50R20 tyres, the chuckability of the F-PACE, confirmed by me in past track tests, is truly remarkable. The brakes too are beyond reproach.
The steering is great because it delivers a decent level of feel at all speeds and is weighted to perfection in that it’s not too easy at low speeds and not too leaden or stiff at high speeds.
Rather obviously, the AWD system ensures that traction problems simply don’t exist in regular driving conditions, and again, past experience suggests that off-road ability is sufficiently good to allow passage in some rather daunting terrain.
Jaguar’s familiar 8-speed auto, activated by the now familiar rotary controller aided by discrete paddle shifters, transfers power to all four wheels as required and for the most part, shifts smoothly and rapidly. I did think though, that in this application it didn’t feel quite as responsive as memory suggested but I suspect this may be a question of deliberate software tweaking to suit the characteristics of the diesel motor.
The F-PACE is filled with other niceties including Trailer Stability Assist, All-Surface Progress Control. Hill Launch Assist, Torque Vectoring and more, all of which collectively make for safer, more assured motoring. Happily, none of these aids detract from Jaguar’s desire to deliver the F-PACE as the definitive sporting SUV.
Certainly, you never feel you’re driving a relatively bulky vehicle that offers a host of practical virtues for the simple reason that the F-PACE is such an effective driving machine. If your budget stretches that far, you will find though that the 3.0 engine derivatives will bring out the sporting characteristics of the F-PACE to an even greater extent.
RMA Motors are the official importers for Jaguar Land Rover in Kenya.