By Jonathan Crouch
The F-PACE took Jaguar in a bold and different direction and was crucial to the brand's future as it tried to expand its sales and take on key premium rivals. It brought a well-judged compromise of class, performance and capability to the luxury mid-sized SUV segment and provided a tempting alternative to the established German players in this sector. In short, this car was well worth the wait. Here's how the earliest versions of this model stack up as a used buy.
If there's one type of car that epitomises this period in motoring history, it's the SUV. So many buyers desire them and back in 2016, Jaguar wanted a slice of this action. As a result, the British company finally 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. That was the F-PACE.
So why did it take so long for this British maker to enter a segment its German rivals had been dominating for decades? The answer probably lies in Jaguar's brand partnership with Land Rover and a management disinclination for the two marques to cross into each others' territories. But it was thinking that had to change - and did when this F-PACE finally hit the market in the Spring of 2016.
Given the Jaguar Land Rover company background, you might quite understandably expect this to be little more than a re-badged Range Rover Sport beneath the skin - or if not that, perhaps a somewhat larger, more dynamic-looking take on a Discovery Sport, that car being slightly closer to this F-PACE's size and price. Refreshingly though, this model is neither of these things. In fact, it turned out to be resolutely different in its approach from anything Land Rover made, with underpinnings owing far more to Jaguar's XE and XF saloons, both of those cars having been engineered to accommodate 4WD.
As a result, there was the potential for the kind of properly driver-orientated handling dynamics that a Jaguar SUV really ought to have. And which it needed to realise marketing ambitions that in price and performance saw tough and well established competitors being targeted. Lower range models were pitched against desirable versions of prestige-branded compact SUVs like BMW's X3 and Audi's Q5, while quicker F-PACE variants had to match up against the likes of benchmark performance models in this segment like Porsche's Macan and AMG versions of the Mercedes GLC. This F-PACE sold in its original form until late 2020, when a facelifted version arrived, complete with optional PHEV tech. It's the earlier-pre-facelift versions we look at here.
What You Get
It says much that Jaguar chose to market this F-PACE as a 'sports car', albeit a very practical one. The stylish shape was pretty much exactly what we saw from the Coventry company's C-X17 prototype, a car unveiled back in 2013 at the Frankfurt Motorshow. In production form, the lines were just as eye-catching, Chief Stylist Ian Callum refusing to be constrained by the SUV sector's usual aesthetic design cues, instead delivering a much more dynamic silhouette, with a roofline lower and closer to the road than anything else in the segment.
Time to take a seat inside and you can check out the so-called 'Sports Command' driving position. This delivers the kind of high-set authoritative seating placement that SUV drivers like so much, without perching you so far up that you lose the feel of being an integral part of the whole experience. It's a very well-judged compromise, positioning you perfectly for the kind of involving drive promised by the 'sports car' marketing rhetoric. The whole cabin ambience is designed to make anyone coming to this car fresh from one of Jaguar's saloons feel instantly at home, with the dials, the switchgear and the rising circular gear selector you get on automatic models all familiar fare.
As usual in executive segment models, the centre of the fascia is dominated by a colour infotainment screen, this 8-inch 'InControl Touch' display being the same as that used across Jaguar and Land Rover's other more recent models. In the rear, once installed, two tall adults get more headroom than you might expect the raked-back roofline to be able to provide and there's reasonable standards of knee room too.
The boot is accessed on all models via a powered tailgate. It rises to reveal one of the largest luggage compartments in the mid-sized SUV segment, offering a 650-litre capacity that's 100-litres bigger than you'd get in, say, a rival Mercedes GLC, a total bettered in the sector only by Land Rover's Discovery Sport. With all three rear seat segment portions dropped down, the floor isn't quite flat, but the 1,740-litre cargo capacity provided is impressively big for this class of car.
What to Look For
Buyers of this F-PACE tend to divide into a couple of groups: those who've had no problems at all; and those who've had a series of niggly electrical issues (look for those on your test drive). Things like infotainment system issues, squeaks and noise, and issues with the engine stop-start system.
One owner was typical of those less than satisfied in our survey. He reported squeaks and rattles from the passenger and driver's door and pointed out that the alloy wheels had corroded and had lacquer bubbling off. The rear discs on his car had also corroded, the soundproofing was falling off the wheel arches and the washer pipes became disconnected from the washer bottle. There were several badly fitting body trims (even after several workshop visits to rectify), too. And the engine seemed to use a lot of oil, needing two litres in 15000 miles. Check all these things on your test drive - and look out for scuffed alloy wheels that could be pricey to fix. Obviously, insist on a full service history.
(approx based on a 2017 Jaguar F-PACE 2.0d) An oil filter is in the £8 bracket. An air filter is in the £29 bracket and a pollen filter costs typically between £13 and £32. A set of wiper blades will cost you about £27. Front brake pads sit in the £31-£84 bracket; rears will sit in the £28-£72 bracket. Front brake discs sit in the £180-£200 bracket; rear discs are about £180.
On the Road
Jaguar wanted this F-PACE to be a class leader when it came 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. You don't have to have AWD on this car - rear-driven variants are available with all the main trim derivations - but 4x4 traction is a necessity if you want the automatic transmission most potential owners will probably be looking for. Change ratios for the auto 'box 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.
We should talk about engines. From launch, virtually the whole of the F-PACE line-up was built around a single powerplant, the 2.0-litre Ingenium diesel used in the Jaguar XE and XF models that share this car's basic architecture, a unit provided here in a single 180PS state of tune. It's a frugal thing, capable in a 2WD F-PACE of returning 57.7mpg on the combined cycle and 129g/km of CO2 (both NEDC figures). With 2.0-litre variants, you can also add in 'Adaptive Dynamics' configurable damping for sharper tarmac handling. And an 'Adaptive Surface Response' system which works off road to constantly set up the car to suit the terrain you're travelling over. That's one of the things that makes this car a surprisingly capable tool in the rough. If the only terrain you care about is asphalt, you want a bit more power and you've more in your budget, you'll want one of the top 3.0-litre V6 'F-PACE S' variants, either the 300PS diesel we'd recommend or the potent supercharged 380PS V6 petrol version. A V8 5.0-litre 545PS SVR model arrived in 2018.
The F-PACE has been well received - 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 as a used car if you find a good one. 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.