ROAD TEST: The latest models to hit the uncrowded roads of North East Victoria | Southern Riverina
AFTER spending a few days in one of Sydney's wealthier harbourside suburbs, we were surprised to see few examples of Jaguar's F-Pace.
The company's first and largest SUV ticks all the boxes, or so we thought.
It's stylish, pricey and with its long British lineage - what more could one want?
Or so we pondered searching for a parking spot, on a long narrow street that was not wide enough for two vehicles to pass and which offered parking on one side only.
A small city car starts to make a lot of sense in this context, because the F-Pace is long and rather wide and finding somewhere to pop it into is not accomplished easily.
In fact, parking the car can be a challenge full stop, because you can't see over the bonnet and the auto dipping rear vision mirrors can be both a help and hindrance trying to guide it into a tight spot without scraping the rims (fortunately they can be disabled).
That gifted Scot Ian Callum designed the F-Pace.
As Jaguar's very first SUV, he got to start with a clean slate.
Callum, who we've met more than once, is a believer that Jags should look cool because cool cars attract cool people, and the F-Pace largely achieves this goal.
Like his other designs, the proportions of the five-seat SUV are near perfect, but we can't help feeling the front lower air intakes could do with some embellishment - at least in this model.
They're a bit large, a bit plain and appear designed to fill empty space more than anything else.
The radiator grille is starting to look a bit dated too, but of course it will soon be superfluous to needs.
The rear of the wagon with its broad haunches, chunky rubber and horizontal taillights is beyond criticism.
F-Pace is offered with a choice of petrol and diesel engines, some turbocharged, others turbocharged and hybrid together, while still others are all three: turbo, supercharged and hybrid combined – all underpinned by all-wheel drive.
Prices start from $82,200 for the entry F-Pace R-Dynamic P250 S, with a turbocharged 2-litre petrol engine.
Our test vehicle, the R-Dynamic D300 SE powered by a 3-litre twin turbo diesel with a mild hybrid, is priced from $103,200 plus on-road costs.
The top of the line 5-litre supercharged V8 SVR P550 is priced from $149,900.
There's pages and pages of options to personalise your car and contribute to the bottom line.
Determining what is standard and what is optional however could require confirmation.
Our test vehicle was fitted with a number of options that brought the total price to $115,399 before on-roads, including sunroof ($4420), 22-inch wheels ($4420), head-up display ($1960), privacy glass ($950), Drive Control with Adaptive Surface Response ($310) plus additional power sockets ($139) - 2 x USB and 1 x 12 volt for rear seat, 1 x 12 volt for luggage area.
The 22-inch wheels bring a tyre repair kit instead of the space saver.
Standard kit includes 20-inch alloys, black exterior pack, two zone climate air with rear vents, heated 12-way power-adjust DuoLeather sport seats with driver memory, and configurable cabin lighting.
There's also LED headlights, auto high beam, auto dimming interior mirror, auto lights and wipers, power fold and dip exterior mirrors, front and rear parking sensors, and a power tailgate.
Infotainment consists of the latest Pivi Pro system with a floating 11.4-inch touchscreen that is quick to start and features Bluetooth, voice control, satellite navigation, AM/FM/DAB+ radio, wireless Apple CarPlay and wireless Android Auto and wireless phone charging, along with an online data plan.
The simplified menu structures allow drivers to access or view up to 90 per cent of common tasks in two taps or less, we're told.
The Meridian sound system pumps out 400 watts, with 13 speakers including a separate subwoofer plus active noise cancellation to remove background road noise.
Five-star safety comprises six airbags, a rear-view camera, autonomous emergency braking (AEB), lane departure warning (LDW) and speed assist systems (SAS).
There's also blind spot assist, rear traffic monitor, lane keep assist, traffic sign recognition and adaptive speed limiter, adaptive cruise control with steering assist, driver condition monitor and a tyre pressure monitoring system (TPMS).
What you don't get is a proper 360-degree overhead camera which remains a $950 option.
F-Pace is covered by a five-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty.
But get this, there are no service intervals. Instead, the vehicle tells you when it's ready to be serviced.
How cool is that?
As such Jag offers a pre-paid service plan for $2650 that covers the car for all services in the first five years or 102,000km.
Jaguar has been a long-time proponent of aluminium to reduce weight.
A lighter vehicle means better performance and fuel economy, with 80 per cent of the body made from aluminium, with additional weight savings using a composite tailgate and magnesium for parts such as the cross member.
The higher torsional rigidity also delivers better handling from the coil over double-wishbone front integral link rear suspension.
Feeding the beast is a 3-litre twin turbo six cylinder diesel, with a mild hybrid that delivers a substantial 221kW of power and 650Nm of torque, the latter from 1500 to 2500 rpm.
Power is delivered to all four wheels through an eight-speed automatic, with paddle shifters and auto engine stop-start to save fuel.
But it's a torque on demand system so most of the time it operates in two-wheel drive with a bias to the rear wheels.
Together with brake-based torque vectoring and variable electric power steering, this SUV has a lot going for it.
The dash from 0-100km/h takes 6.4 seconds; it has a top speed of 230km/h, and uses a claimed 7L/100km of fuel.
The hybrid uses a belt integrated starter generator to harvest energy usually lost when slowing and braking.
This energy is stored in a 48V lithium-ion battery for later use to assist in accelerating, as well as delivering a more refined stop/start system.
The latest JaguarDrive Control features four drive modes: Comfort, Eco, Rain-Ice-Snow and Dynamic, that can be selected based on road conditions.
The settings, selected through a new rotary dial next to the drive selector, adjust steering, transmission, throttle, and Adaptive Dynamics settings.
Auto vehicle hold provides added convenience and smoother operation than conventional automatic hill hold.
The new technology holds the brakes for an unlimited period when stationary on a gradient, gently releasing the brakes when the driver depresses the accelerator to drive away.
Adaptive surface response is designed to distinguish between different low traction surfaces, like mud, ice, gravel, and snow and delivers the ideal torque split for the conditions.
Sounds good, but many reviewers find it hard to get past the badge.
Just because it's a Jag, doesn't mean it's perfect. In fact, we believe there's a case for 'blind' reviews - that is not knowing the brand of vehicle you're testing.
F-Pace presents well and has the requisite ambience, with tobacco-coloured leather, offset by mood lighting, stainless steel trim and earthy tones for the infotainment system.
But for a big car it has surprisingly little room in the back seat and the raked roofline could find you ducking to avoid bumping your head.
The boot on the other hand is quite large at 755 litres with the seats up, suggesting the design is skewed towards two people and plenty of luggage at the expense of their passengers.
The part analogue/part digital instrument cluster features a central 7-inch mitred digital display that is mortised between two analogue dials.
While the design looks interesting, in a chronograph kind of way, the digital part is busy and difficult to interpret on the move.
A full 12.1-inch 'interactive' display is an $845 option.
The air controls adopt a different approach too, changing between fan, temperature and seat heat levels with a push or pull of the knobs.
Once you discover how it works it's okay, but it’s hardly what we'd call intuitive.
Entry is keyless. You push a button to start. Then grip the low-profile transmission lever, tucking your fingers over the front to release the selector lock.
To disengage the electric parking brake, it is necessary to tap the accelerator which releases with a start if you happen to be parked on a slope. Not such a good idea?
There's more than enough oomph from the 650Nm diesel to barrel off the line and the car is extremely quiet for a rattler, but throttle response is jerky and can make it difficult to manoeuvre at low speed.
Ride quality is damned good, even in sport mode, but the adaptive suspension (or is it the adaptive surface response) generates an inconsistent and sometimes jiggly feel in the default comfort mode.
It's not as bad as air suspension, but not as good as plain old springs. Sport mode is your friend but needs to be selected with each start.
The optional panoramic sunroof fitted to our car comes with a retractable gauze screen to keep out glare but struggles to exclude the heat of the sun.
With a 68-litre tank, we were getting 8L/100km after close to 400km.
What we like?
It's a Jag
Doesn't use much fuel
What we don’t like?
Big heavy doors
Limited rear legroom
Difficult to see vehicle extremities
Twitchy ride from adaptive suspension
Heat passes through sunroof shade
Infotainment system requires too much thought
The bottom line?
While Jaguar is now owned by the Indians, they have been wise to let them get on with the job.
With Callum gone and plans to go all-electric by 2025, there's big changes ahead and cars like this diesel F-Pace will soon cease to exist.
If you fancy one, may we suggest you get one while the getting's good?