I had the opportunity to spend some time with a brand new 2018 model year Jaguar F-Pace 25t Premium recently, and thought I’d share my impressions.
First of all, it says “25t” on the back, so you’d be forgiven for thinking there was a 2.5 liter engine under the hood. But alas, it’s only a 2.0. On a more positive note, it’s an Ingenium, which makes it sound as if Jaguar has invented a whole new form of metal alloy that gives engines super powers.
They didn’t and it doesn’t. It’s just a regular old four-banger with a turbo and an intercooler. It sports a displacement of 1,999 cc (122 cu in) and produces 247 hp and 269 lb-ft of torque. Interestingly, the same engine produces 296 hp and 295 lb-ft in the F-Type, which I have to admit is pretty impressive. Apparently, “Ingenium” means high tech.
Of course, in order to make all those horses come out and play, you have to mercilessly whip the engine up to around 5,500 rpm, whether you’re driving the F-Type or the F-Pace.
Speaking of “Pace”. Shouldn’t the F-Pace have been named something else? After all, it’s more about Space than Pace. And why “F”? Just because the F-Type has been well received? At least the F-Type was logically named, as the successor to the E-Type. But the F-Pace could have been called “Maggie” for all the sense that it makes, because there is no predecessor, no heritage, no tradition. It’s just a hulking big and underpowered SUV, and a fairly pedestrian looking one at that.
So, there you have it; I’m not impressed with the design. Does it look good? That’s up to your individual tastes to decide of course. I kinda like the tail lights. Yes, that’s about it. But then again, we’re Keepers of the Faith here at Jag-lovers, so nobody listens to us, and for good reason. Jaguar will probably sell more of this model than of any Jaguar model preceding it.
Did you know that in the UK Jaguar is running billboards for the F-Pace with the headline “The Essence of Jaguar”? I strongly disagree with that sentiment, but there’s no arguing with success and the F-Pace is successful. I actually don’t have a problem with that success, but I do have a problem with the lack of passion put into this vehicle. You see, it’s not the SUV, it’s the SOB that’s the problem.
If I close my eyes, I can imagine the designers, the engineers, and even the executives at Jaguar going “This is not the car we dreamed of building, but it seems to be what you want, so here you go.”
And it shows. Which is sad.
Driving the F-Pace didn’t start out too well for me. I’m 6’1″ and the interior in the front felt cramped, mainly because the center console is very large and quite intrusive. I found myself unable to find a comfortable driving position, in particular for my right knee, which kept bumping up against the hard side rail of the console. After only about an hour in the driver’s seat it started getting painful. To be fair though, the rear seats feel a lot more roomy, and the size of the luggage compartment is about what you’d expect of an SUV of this size. The rear seats fold down to create even more space.
The doors are large, and getting in and out of the car is easy. The car is quite tall, so you feel like you’re stepping up into it. Once inside, the seats are comfortable. The steering wheel has flappy paddles, but with this engine they don’t really do much. The same goes for the “Dynamic/Normal/Economy/Snow” driving mode selector on the center console.
The entertainment system is adequate, although for $50,696 (as tested) I’d have expected a much better stereo with richer sound. The navigation system works, but it feels like it’s falling further and further behind the competition.
My test car came with AWD, which I did not get a chance to test. It also had lane assist, which I quickly turned off. On paper it’s a good idea, and certainly very useful if you’re driving long distances on a multi-lane freeway. An easier and quicker way to turn it on and off would have been much appreciated. The backup camera is an improvement over earlier years and quite helpful, but the screen feels small compared to much of the competition. Still, it gets the job done.
All in all, and depending on where you rest your knee, the car is good, if not great. Where I have a problem with the car though, is on the road. It feels sluggish, it feels top heavy, and the steering feels mushy. When I say that, I’m not even comparing it to my F-Type, I’m comparing it to my wife’s 2015 Audi Q5. That car is so much more rewarding to drive, which is good for Audi, but quite sad for Jaguar. This is what I mean when I ask where the passion went.
The Ingenium engine is quite powerful, but you have to fight the transmission in order to access that power, because it only really manifests at high rpm. Don’t get me wrong, the transmission is actually quite good, and it shifts promptly, but the combination of having to downshift 4 gears and spool up the turbo makes for some interesting overtaking situations. I guess you could work around some of that by keeping the car in Dynamic mode all the time. Or, you could try to remember to change mode every time you want to overtake, but then that feels like working too hard. Besides, the process of mode switching takes a while, so that would mean planning ahead. Not quite what you’d call a spirited driving experience.
Once you do get up to speed, the car is quiet and stable, excellent for freeway driving. Of course, this is where large, heavy cars really shine, and why SUVs are so popular in the US. Using it for commuting back and forth to work was a bit of a mixed bag for me, I quite liked the freeway parts, but about half of my commute is on a twisty single lane road over a mountain, and that’s where the F-Pace just didn’t measure up. It felt more like a lumbering beast than a Jaguar, and I kept comparing it to our Q5, to the Jaguar’s disadvantage.
Another place the F-Pace felt awkward was in stop and go traffic on the freeway. Once the cars in front of me started moving, it felt like an eternity before the F-Pace would leave its moorings and set sail. By the time it did, traffic in front of me had invariably come to a stop, and I would have to drop anchor and hit the brakes. I’m sure this can be alleviated by more careful use of the gas pedal, but even after several days of trying it still felt like an annoyance.
There’s no fighting inertia, something that became abundantly clear every time I hit a sweeping turn on one of my favorite back-roads. I felt every pound of all that heft trying to pull me off the road. That’s when you think “I should have left it in Normal mode, this car isn’t built for excitement.”
Of course, that’s an inherent quality of the form factor of a large SUV, and not really Jaguar’s fault. But can you imagine having to say that about a Jaguar?
What a pity.