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JAGUAR F-PACE P400E AWD R-DYNAMIC HSE

The Jaguar brand is steeped in racing heritage. Having made its fortunes with such notable classics as the D-Type and E-type race cars of the 1950s and 1960s, Jaguars gained a reputation as gentlemen’s cars brimming with class. Six decades later, Jaguar eventually joined the SUV market with the F-Pace, which garnered critical acclaim and retained much of the classic Jaguar prowess of any of its earlier passenger cars. We spent a week with the updated P400e plug-in hybrid derivative to experience this for ourselves.

When the Jaguar F-Pace made its official public debut at the 2015 Frankfurt International Motor Show, die-hard Jag fans could be forgiven for being sceptical about the British marque’s first-ever SUV. Known exclusively for their sports, racing, and road cars, the upright F-Pace was a significant step change for Jaguar, although the carmaker was significantly later to the SUB party than its German luxury counterparts whose equivalent SUVs had, by that time, already been around for almost two decades.

With the F-Pace, Jaguar proved that it could successfully translate its sleek design cues to a family-oriented car, and won several design accolades for the brand in Europe and America. The first-generation F-pace has seen a few visual upgrades during its tenure, with the most significant being the latest iteration, released in 2021.

Designed by Ian Callum, the F-Pace is one of the most attractive vehicles in its segment, and manages to look both athletic and classy at the same time. And with Jaguar, understandably, not wanting to muck about with its handsome looks, the only notable exterior updates are in the headlights and taillights, which have been redesigned and now sport new LED signatures. The other changes are not as noticeable, so it will take a trained eye to tell the new model apart from the pre-facelift.

Our tester was rather fetching, wearing a beautiful deep shade of Portofino Blue, accentuated by gloss black trim and aggressive bumpers thanks to the R-Design package, and riding on snazzy 21” diamond-turned alloys. 

WELL-HEELED CABIN

The interior, although significantly advanced at its launch, had become one of the F-Pace’s weaker areas, with such notable competitors as the BMW X5 and the Mercedes GLE leading the way as far as up-to-the-minute design is concerned. 

The facelift introduced a dramatic overhaul of the dashboard area which has totally transformed the cabin. This is partly thanks to the crisp 11.4” infotainment system, which takes centre stage on the dash and comes with modern niceties such as smartphone integration. The analogue instrument cluster was also replaced by a fully digital and configurable display complemented by a crisp heads-up display. The rest of the interior is similar as before, but still is a splendid place to spend time in. 

In HSE trim, our tester came with a host of creature comforts, including perforated Windsor leather seats with 16-way adjustability, heated and ventilated functionality, and massaging. The rest of the cabin also benefited from the extended leather package, which elevates the cabin’s luxury to a more fitting standard. An expansive sliding panoramic sunroof was also available to bathe the cabin in sunlight and fresh air, and it was lined in a suede-like material that felt divine to the touch.

DRIVING IMPRESSIONS

Sadly, this is no SVR with its obscene 5.0-litre supercharged V8. Instead, our test unit was the plug-in-hybrid with 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder Ingenium petrol engine combo, which delivers 297 kW and 640 Nm and is mated to an eight-speed ZF automatic transmission. Now, biases aside, the engine surprised me with its enthusiasm. Jaguar claims a zero to 100 km/h sprint in 5.3 seconds and onwards to a top speed of 240 km/h, and the car felt every bit as fast as claimed.

Driving vehicles such as the F-Pace reminds me why sedans are slowly becoming obsolete. SUV ride quality and driving dynamics have come a long way, and the F-Pace is one of the champions of those improvements. Despite its hefty dimensions, the F-Pace handles like a much smaller car thanks to a well-sorted chassis and a competent suspension set-up. 

Agility is also a factor in the F-Pace, and I found myself shifting the drive mode selector from Eco to Dynamic on more than one occasion. In its sportiest setting the dials turn devilish red, and a throaty soundtrack plays from the speakers for a little more theatre. While we’re not the biggest fans of the fakery, it does help add a little more spark to what is already an engaging driving experience. 

LAST WORD

While there are plenty of SUVs to choose from at the luxury end of the market, few offer the charisma that comes with the F-Pace. Sure, the Germans may have better-built cabins, and the Alfa Romeo Stelvio has its Italian charm, but none have the distinguished allure of a Jag. There is space in the SUV market for the F-Pace, and with a starting price of R2,042,000, it should find favour with those buyers who appreciate the distinctive heritage that the marque delivers.

Report by BRYAN KAYAVHU | Images © JAGUAR SOUTH AFRICA

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