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Jaguar Enters The Premium SUV Fray With Its New F-PACE
Andy Harris, Motoring and Property Editor
Jaguar is on a roll. Buoyed by investment from parent company Tata Motors, a raft of new models have flowed from the British manufacturer's factories.

Recent offerings have included the new XE and second generation XF and both have been well received. Combined with the sporty F-TYPE, there is much to be proud about and worldwide sales are on the up.

Anyone with a passing interest in cars will have noticed a seismic shift to SUVs and up until now Jaguar has not had an offering in this lucrative sector.

Welcome then the all-new F-PACE, Jaguar's first proper 4x4 SUV. Eager to get behind the wheel as soon as possible, I journeyed to the beautiful country of Montenegro to put the car through its paces!

Traditionalists may bemoan Jaguar's move away from its core market, but first impressions suggest that most will find the new car pleasing to look at and with 2,000 orders already safely in the bag, Jaguar top brass have much to smile about. Predictions are that F-PACE will be the biggest selling Jaguar of all time.

Prices will start at a smidgen over £34,000, broadly similar to the competition from Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz, but undercutting Porsche's Macan by over £10,000. The latter is the benchmark by which most will judge the F-PACE, being universally acknowledged as the best driving car in the class and by some considerable margin.

The entry level F-PACE 'Prestige' comes with Jaguar's familiar 180PS diesel engine, manual gears and with power fed to the rear wheels. I'm sure most buyers will indulge themselves a little more and the AWD R-Sport version is expected to be the best seller in the range - £40,340 will get you behind the wheel.

Performance from the Ingenium 2.0-litre diesel is surprisingly brisk, with 0-60 times of around 8.5 seconds. It coped well enough with the hilly roads of Montenegro, so I'm sure the Yorkshire dales won't be too much of a challenge.

Those with deeper pockets (£51,450 to be precise) will be faced with a dilemma. On the one hand this amount will buy an F-PACE equipped with a 300PS 3.0-litre turbocharged diesel engine with plenty of firepower. 0-60mph is dispatched in 5.8 seconds and married to the smooth-shifting XF automatic gearbox, the extra oomph is immediately noticeable, especially when overtaking. On paper it is only marginally more thirsty than the 2.0-litre (47.1mpg as opposed to 53.3mpg for the combined cycle).

But here's the problem... That same £51,450 also buys an F-PACE equipped with Jaguar's 380PS 3.0-litre supercharged petrol engine lifted from the F-TYPE. Not only is it a great sprinter (0-60mph in 5.1 seconds), it's the enthusiastic power delivery that excites. This combines with a melodic, snarling soundtrack that was enjoyed by all and sundry as we blasted through the myriad of tunnels carved into the Montenegrin hillsides.

Sports car quick in a straight line and I am pleased to report that the Jaguar handles the corners with aplomb. You are always aware that you are in a higher riding vehicle, but there's no doubt the F-PACE runs the Macan close. For a vehicle weighing 1.8 tonnes, it impresses.

It is expected that a Jaguar will ride well and I feel Jaguar has struck the right balance between ride and handling. Ignore the largest 22 inch alloy wheels and you will enjoy fine on-road comfort in all models.

Clearly not wishing to step too firmly on sister company Land Rover's go-anywhere offerings, Jaguar still wanted to ensure that the F-PACE is not just a tarmac queen. Our test route was devised to demonstrate the car's considerable off-road prowess. We tackled some scary ascents and descents, all perfectly handled by the new All Surface Progress Control. This system acts as a low speed cruise control for tricky surfaces and inclines and as a hill descent control when needed. Easy to use, it kept us safe and proved the F-PACE can do off-road much more than any owner is likely to ask of it.

Lovers of the great outdoors will find that bike racks and roof boxes are already available and you can also specify an Activity Key. This small waterproof wristband acts as a second key, allowing you to lock your keys in the cars whilst off sailing, kayaking or just enjoying a day on the beach. Should you feel inclined to tow a caravan or large trailer, the towing weight limit is a generous 2,400kg.

Jaguar has lavished plenty of attention on the F-PACE's interior. There's room aplenty for five adults to spread out in and 650 litres of boot space for their luggage. High quality leather abounds and trim materials are first rate. The optional panoramic roof bathes the cabin in natural light and pay some more money and it can open too.

Equipment count is high in all models, so the need to spend more mostly comes down to engine choice.

There can be no doubt that the new F-PACE will be a sales success. The expectation is that 90% of buyers will be new to the brand, but traditional Jaguar owners will find much to delight in. The low emission 2.0-litre diesel models will undoubtedly take the lion's share of sales, especially amongst company buyers but I'm sure many will find ways to justify the greater spend required for the more powerful models.

Make no mistake, Jaguar has managed to infuse all F-PACE models with its unique DNA and I for one am delighted.

Fast Facts
Jaguar F-PACE priced from £34,170 rising to £51,450
First Edition model available for £65,275 - be quick!
2 diesel engines (180 & 300PS)
380PS supercharged petrol engine
RWD on 180PS diesel only, rest of range AWD
6 speed manual (180PS diesel only) or 8-speed automatic
Spacious luxury interior for five adults
Class-leading 650-litre boot
2,400kg towing capacity
Expect an ultra-sporty R model to follow in due course
In the showrooms now, order books filling up fast

Jaguar Enters The Premium SUV Fray With Its New F-PACE, 7th April 2016, 22:00 PM