The F-PACE took Jaguar in a bold and different direction and has proved to be crucial to the brand's future, expanding its sales and taking on key rivals. It brings a well-judged compromise of class, performance and capability to the luxury mid-sized SUV segment that provides a tempting alternative to the established German players in this sector. Let's try it in potent 3.0-litre diesel F-PACE D300 guise.
If there's one type of car that epitomises this period in motoring history, it's the SUV. So many buyers desire them and Jaguar wants a slice of this action. As a result, the British company brought us its first ever model of this kind, complete with high-riding driving position, four-wheel drive and even some decent off-road ability. The F-PACE was launched in 2016, then revised four years on to create the car we look at here in D300 V6 diesel form.. With this car, there should be the potential for the kind of properly driver-orientated handling dynamics that a Jaguar SUV really ought to have. And will need if it's to realise marketing ambitions that in price and performance see tough and well established competitors being targeted. Quicker F-PACE variants like the 3.0-litre D300 diesel model we're trying here must match up against the likes of benchmark performance models in this segment like BMW's X4. That'll require Jaguar's SUV to be more than merely very good: it has to be brilliant. Is it? Let's find out.
Jaguar wants this F-PACE to be a class leader when it comes to driving dynamics in this segment, an objective helped enormously by its lightweight aluminium architecture. Further aids in this regard include torque vectoring to maximise cornering traction and a defiantly rear-biased AWD system that never diverts more than 50% of its power up-front, a process that happens in milliseconds as soon as the first signs of wheel slip are detected. The 3.0-litre D300 diesel variant we're testing here uses a 300PS 3.0-litre V6 unit that puts out 650Nm of torque, powers you to 62mph in 6.1s and tops out at 143mph. Impressive figures, but possibly rather more than you actually need - in which case, the lesser four cylinder 2.0-litre Ingenium diesel variants beckon. All Jaguar diesels now use the brand's mild hybrid electrified tech. This 3.0-litre derivative comes only with AWD and an 8-speed auto gearbox. Change ratios for the auto transmission are one of the things that can be tweaked via the settings of the 'Jaguar Drive Control' system, a set-up that also adjusts steering feel and throttle response to suit the way you want to drive. If you want to go further and make the 'Jaguar Drive Control' settings more fundamental in altering the driving character of the car, then you'll need to spend extra on the optional 'Adaptive Dynamics' adjustable damping system your dealer will want to tell you about.
The visual changes made top this revised model are subtle but effective. There's now a more sculpted bonnet with a wider power bulge and more precisely defined surfaces. It flows down into a larger grille with 'diamond' detailing, while the side fender vents now feature the iconic 'Leaper' emblem. The front bumper's been re-designed and there are new super-slim LED quad headlights with 'Double J' Daytime Running Light signatures. At the rear, re-designed slimline lights feature Jaguar's 'double chicane' graphic. And the bumped and tailgate now have a more sculpted look. It's a bit different inside too. There's a sportier-looking centre console that sweeps up to the instrument panel which features a new 'Pivi Pro' 11.4-inch curbed-glass HD touchscreen in an elegant magnesium alloy casing. The Drive Selector for the auto gearbox has been re-styled too and the door casings now have more of a premium feel with a smart 360-degree grab handle. The seats have also been re-designed and feature wider cushions. Otherwise, things are as before. You may sit higher than any other Jaguar but it still feels more sports car than SUV and there's no seven-seat option. There's comfortable space for a couple of adults in the rear. And you get a decently-sized 650-litre boot, extendable to 1,740-litres via a 40:20:40-folding rear bench.
If you're fortunate enough to be able to consider a top V6-engine F-PACE variant, you'll need a budget of £50,000 or just over. There are three D300 trim levels - 'S', 'SE' and 'HSE'. As for rivals at this level, well in addition to the priciest six cylinder sporting versions of the Mercedes GLC Coupe and the BMW X4 (which cost only a fraction less), you'll probably also be looking at Alfa Romeo's Stelvio and maybe also Volvo's XC60. All F-PACE models get Premium LED headlights, LED tail lights and wheels of at least 19-inches in size. Inside, there's two-zone climate control and 8-way powered front seats trimmed in 'Luxtec' man made leather. You get an 11.4-inch centre dash 'Pivi Pro' touchscreen with Connected Navigation, plus a DAB sound system and 'Apple CarPlay'/'Android Auto' smartphone-mirroring. There's also a 3D surround camera, cruise control, front and rear parking sensors, JaguarDrive Control drive modes and the All Surface Progress Control system for icy, slippery roads. Safety kit includes Emergency Brake Assist, Lane Keep Assist and a Driver Condition Monitor. There's also traffic Sign Recognition with an Adaptive Speed Limiter.
Inevitably, if your F-PACE comes fitted with the more potent 3.0-litre V6 diesel, rather than the lesser 2.0-litre diesel unit, it won't be quite as cheap to run. Nevertheless, 38.1mpg on the combined cycle and 194g/km is a pretty good WLTP showing. Like all the diesel F-PACE variants, this one now uses advanced MHEV technology (also featured on the six-cylinder petrol powertrain) which features a Belt integrated Starter Generator (BiSG) to harvest energy usually lost when slowing and braking. This energy is then stored in a separate 48V lithium-ion battery before being intelligently redeployed to assist the engine when accelerating away, as well as delivering a more refined stop/start system. A three year unlimited mileage warranty is standard with the F-PACE, although this can be extended with a number a couple of different plans that include a cover for an MOT test failure, as well as the normal cover for most electrical and mechanical systems. Service intervals are every two years/21,000 miles.
The F-PACE has been successful - and with good reason. Look at it, drive it and analyse it and you feel you've a product born out of generations of development. It's hard to believe this was Jaguar's first stab at the SUV segment. All of which leaves this Jaguar as a very tough act to fault. It's one of the stand-out contenders in this corner of the SUV market, no small achievement when you look at the quality of the competition. True, it might not be as rough road-ready as a Land Rover product. Or as track-tailored as a Porsche Macan. Most buyers in this segment though, don't want a mid-sized luxury SUV at either of those two extremes. They want a car like this. A sporting SUV to savour.