Just like politics and honesty, supercars and economy, Jag and SUVs could never be spoken of in one sentence. Unitl now. Is this metamorphosis worth your attenton?
India is the only place where Jaguar and Land Rover is said in one breath. In fact, it was the Indian media and business analysts who coined the term ‘J LR’ when the talks of Tata Motors buying the brands off Ford started to surface. Till then,both had an individual identity and did completely different things. The gap has started to blur, and the first case in point is Jag’s entry into the space that Land Rover has been dominating for so many decades. Never did I imagine that I’d drive a Jaguar on a beach. But, it’s here, the F-Pace, Jag’s answer to the Porsche Macan, jumping on to the bandwagon of carmaker-turned-SUV-maker just like Maserati, Bentley, Porsche and soon Lamborghini.
The F-Pace is as different a vehicle as the name sounds. It has inherited styling cues from Jag’s newer sedans, but you cannot deny that there’s a bit of F-Type, too, in there. The F-Pace isn’t a very big SUV. You could call it the size of a Macan (pun not intended) or a Merc GLC. But it isn’t too small to be mistaken for a crossover. It has quite a presence on the road,and if you go in for a bright paint shade like the car here, it’ll be even more of a head turner.
The cabin is typically Jaguar. The only thing that’s not like any other Jag is the seating position – it’s high and commanding, giving a nice view of the road ahead and the tall, flat hood. The rest will remind you of the XF or the XE. There’s generous use of piano-black finish on the centre console, and there’s plenty of equipment to play with. The F-Pace is strictly a five-seater. But for the five passengers that’ll be on board, there’s ample room. The rear seat is comfortable and roomy and gives you the proper feeling of being in a premium SUV.
Now that Jaguar and Land Rover are under the same umbrella, and Jag has entered the SUV space, someone had to make sure that the SUVs from the two brands appeal to very different customers.
And every inch of the F-Pace is made to be different from the LRs. Things are a bit more chic than the LRs and things are made so that you don’t dare explore off-road. Apart from the AWD system, there’s nothing that encourages you get onto rough terrain. That means, of course, there’s no low range transfer case, ride height control, lockable diffs and stuff that likes muck and rocks. It’s meant to stay on the road.
And on the road, where Jag wants you to drive the F-Pace, it’s a complete hoot. The body manages and controls its weight rather well and maintains composure even when you are pushing the limits of physics. The sort of body roll that you generally associate with SUVs is not present in this Jag, and it seems like the engineers wanted to make the F-Pace true to Jag’s brilliant driving dynamics. And they’ve succeeded. The steering has a good feel and the right weight to make you feel confident around corners and the AWD system comes in handy to find more grip around corners.
Jag’s stayed true to its name for making nice driving cars, but is it as good as the brilliant Porsche Macan? The Macan doesn’t believe in the laws of physics. It just twists and rubbishes them; the F-Pace, on the other hand, stays within the limits of science and abides by things like inertia, gravity and weight issues. And the results of that are a lean in the body around bends and the tendency of being slightly less meticulous around tight bends as against the Macan.
To mate the F-Pace enthusiastic on the road, the suspension has been tuned to be on the stiffer side. By SUV standards, of course. There’s not much travel in the springs and the stiff setup means that your back isn’t going to be too happy. And on a patch of broken road, you can hear the suspension at work and struts bottoming out with a loud thud.
In India, the F-Pace will be sold with either a 2.0-litre turbo diesel that’s good for 177bhp and 430Nm of twist or a 3.0-litre V6 that churns out 296bhp and an earth-moving 700Newtons. Yeah, you read that right. With that sort of torque being channelled down to the road, this 2.5-tonne SUV rushes to 100kph from standstill in 7.2 seconds.
The engine is quick to respond to your needs and has a strong mid range.
It’s mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission. The thing with the transmission is that it goes on doing its thing in the background without anyone noticing it or making too much hue and cry about its speed and precision. In fact, it isn’t the fastest or the wisest transmission on sale. Well, it’s not bad by any standards, but it won’t change cogs in the blink of an eye, and there’ll be times that you’d expect it to give you a downshift, but it simply won’t. However, things that work in its favour are the wide variety of ratios that it has at its disposal, and the flexibility that it can offer to the engine. And with that, it’s reasonably fuel efficient for a 2.5-tonne SUV with a 3.0-litre V6 on board: it’ll go 8.2km in the city and 10km on the highway on a litre of sticky fuel. Not bad, I say.
As I mencioned earlier, the F-Pace isn’t as precise and intuitive to drive as the Macan, it’s got a stiff ride, and when you talk about off-roading, all it can do is be silent, keep a straight face and look at its cousins from Land Rover. But apart from these shortcomings, it has quite a few things that work well. The styling, for instance. Or the plush cabin or the confidence it inspires from behind the wheel. Or the steering feel and willingness to change directions, or even the body control it possesses. And if you put everything together, it turns out to be a rather nice package.
There is one other thing about the F-Pace that may seem like a con. For all the aluminium body panels, tech, toys and mass that the F-Pace offers, Jaguar demands $51,000 for this, the R-Sport variant. A little more and you could get yourself a Range Rover Sport. But to solve the dilemma you may face, trying to decide between the Jag and the Range Rover, all you need to do is ask yourself one question: do you want a nice-driving, road- hugging, performance car in the shape of an SUV or do you need some bulk and off-road hardware and a true-blue brawny SUV?
In a world where manufacturers have started to give cars the ability to multi-task, never mind the body style, Jag has managed to make something it has never made before, and as far as new beginnings go, this one is a hit right from the start. From making side-cars for bikes, to sportscars and now to SUVs, Jag has done a pretty neat job of putting things together. It won’t ou tdo the Macan, the F-Pace, but it’ll surely keep Porsche pushing standards even higher. Because if they don’t, you know who’s going to be right at its doors, waiting for that opportunity to race ahead.
Engine: 2993cc, V6, turbo diesel
Transmission: 8A, AWD
80-0kph: 24.6metre; 2.1 seconds
City efficiency: 8.2kpl
Highway efficiency: 10kpl
Pros: Handling, road presence, steering feel
Cons: Stiff ride, lack of off-road hardware
Bottom line: Drives well, looks nice and has a plush cabin