For someone decidedly not a fan of SUVs, David James Gandy was all set to dislike Jaguar’s first foray into the crossover market. Then he tried it—and was hard pushed to find a fault at all
There appears to be a dominating factor in buying a crossover or SUV in today’s world: procreation. You know: one partner wants space to fit in the 50 different pram attachments, and the other—in meltdown after having to sell the coupé or sports car—refuses to drive an estate or people carrier. An SUV, however, still has enough cachet.
If this isn’t the case, then I’m not sure what the appeal is. SUVs are big and heavy, and physics will tell you they will not drive or handle as well, and will be less fuel-efficient, than their rivals. They will generally be more expensive, have longer braking distances and be harder to park, and the idea that they will have more space and are safer is often inaccurate. There are exceptions, of course: Porsche somehow defies physics—which they’ve been playing with ever since they realized the engine in the 911 was in totally the wrong place—and its SUVs drive and handle almost as well as its sports cars.
The SUV/4×4 market has gone a little insane, though. Of course we know Land Rover makes incredible 4x4s, capable of taking you to the top of Ben Nevis if you so wish. SUVs will not. Bentley, Maserati and Lamborghini all have SUVs or crossovers in the pipeline and Audi has about 50. Jeremy Clarkson might be right when he says, “Admit it. You want a big SUV because it’s part of today’s uniform. It tells people that you have a second home in the country…It says that money’s not a worry… It’s silly but it’s how we are.”
As you may have worked out, I’m not a fan. Why would I be? You take a perfectly good car, make it uglier, worse around corners, use more fuel, and then take up more space on our already overcrowded roads.
But then Jaguar goes and builds the F-Pace. An SUV—sorry, “performance crossover” or “practical sports car”, as they call it—that defies everything I have just said. I spent three solid days trying desperately to find something wrong with it. Eventually I did: some of the plastic on the rear air ducts and door panels feels a little less premium. That’s it.
I haven’t seen one picture or film that can capture just how good-looking the F-Pace is in the flesh, but when you have Ian Callum and his team on board, you are going to end up with something special. There are historic references to Jaguar, with the large menacing grill and instantly recognizable rear lights of the F-Type sports car. There is a beautiful brutality to it and, even though it’s an entirely new style, it’s instantly recognizable as a Jaguar.
I was on my best behaviour driving among a fleet of F-Paces in Montenegro for this shoot. It was at least nine minutes before I overtook everyone to really test the driving and handling. When I did, I was astonished. The steering is wonderfully judged and precise—I’ve driven many a sports car that fails to match it. As for the handling, imagine a slightly larger, slightly heavier Jaguar F-Type. The F-Pace uses the same AWD system as the F-Type and, considering my daily drive of choice is an F-Type R AWD, this was a huge delight to me. It’s a rear-biased car, with traction and torque transferred to the front axle in 165 milliseconds. The ride is beautifully balanced between comfort and sport and is accompanied by a gorgeous growl from the 380bhp 3-litre V6 petrol engine.
Jaguar interiors are now up there with the best of them. The F-Pace features the latest 10-inch in-control touch system with quad core processor, 60GB SSD drive and Ethernet network with eight Wi-Fi hotspots—and if you don’t know what that means, ask the nearest 10-year-old. The interior space in the rear feels bigger than Jaguar’s XJ saloon and the boot has a huge 650l capacity—you could really set up camp in there.
When I first got my Jaguar XK years ago, people asked me why I was driving an old gentleman’s car. Now, boys run up to my Jag, take pictures and ask me to rev the engine. Jaguars are cool again, but in a very understated British way and I just love that.
I will sign off here and leave you with a little thought. To buy a Porsche Cayenne Turbo you are looking at spending £120,000. A Jaguar F-Type is around £60,000 and the F-Pace around £34,000, so for less than the price of the Porsche, you could have both. Not that you would need to; but just sometimes, it’s nice to get away from the pushchairs.
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Credits: Arnaldo Anaya-Lucca (top-left); Andy Morgan