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2016 Jaguar F-PACE S 35t review (video)

Sick and tired of the same boringly conservative luxury SUVs from Germany? Jaguar is taking it first-ever swing at the premium SUV market with this new beauty. It’s called the F-PACE. You might as well get used to seeing it as it is tipped to become Jaguar’s new best-seller.

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The luxury SUV market segment is as fierce as ever at the moment. This means Jaguar has a big job ahead with the F-PACE. While most of the German rivals have plenty of evolution and generational expertise behind them, Jaguar only has its lustrous and extensive motorsport and sportscar pedigree to turn to. Is this going to be helpful with an SUV? Jaguar has utilised its latest ‘iQ-Al’ platform for the F-PACE, infusing plenty of aluminium into its construction for lightness and rigidity. Even so, the F-PACE is at the heavier end of the class weighing in at around 1850kg (depending on the variant).

Here we’re testing the F-PACE S, which is the top variant, in top 35t form – it’s the most powerful until the rumoured V8 F-PACE ‘R’ arrives. Despite the name hinting a turbocharger, and a 3.5-litre capacity for that matter, the 35t is, confusingly, a 3.0-litre supercharged petrol V6. No matter. What’s important is it belts out 280kW and 450Nm, making it (at the time of writing) the second most powerful SUV in this specific class in Australia behind the Porsche Macan Turbo.

Prices start at $103,420 for this as-tested version. Buyers can jump into an F-PACE (20d diesel) from as little as $74,340 though, making the ‘PACE one of the more affordable SUVs in the class.

2016 Jaguar F-PACE S 35t – THE SPECS

Engine: 3.0-litre supercharged V6
Output: 280kW@6500rpm / 450Nm@4500rpm
Transmission: Eight-speed auto
Drive type: All-wheel drive
Wheels: F&R: 20×8.5, 255/50 (optional 22s fitted)
ANCAP: Not tested
Tare weight: 1861kg
Power-to-weight: 6.64:1 (kg:kW)
Official fuel economy: 8.9L/100km
Economy during test: 11.2L/100km

Fuel capacity/Type: 63L/95 RON
Power efficiency: 31.46kW:L/100km
0-60km/h: 2.83 seconds*
0-100km/h: 5.73 seconds*
1/8 mile: 9.12 seconds at 132.8km/h*
1/4 mile: 13.96 seconds at 164.6km/h*
100-0km/h braking: 3.06 seconds at 37.47 metres*
Decibel at idle: 42*
Peak decibel at 60-100km/h: 84*
Priced from: $103,136

* Figures as tested by PerformanceDrive on the day. Factory claims may be different

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2016 Jaguar F-PACE S 35t – THE PACKAGE

Is it a real Jaguar, you might be wondering. For one, the cabin atmosphere, attention to detail, and design reeks of the stuff only Jaguar dreams are made from. You get the brand’s current cabin decor, complete with a new wide-screen touch-screen interface packed with all of Jaguar’s latest apps, with a wrap-around dash forming perfectly into the LED-lit door trims.

The power window buttons continue to sit atop the door window sill, which can be a bit of a reach for some, but the solidity and genuine quality feel is second to none. They feel like they have been machined and then pressed into the door trim using a large hydraulic gig. The door pull, centre console, and steering column all pass our shake test too, remaining completely immovable. This gives you some indication of the build quality and also the quietness of the drive.

How about cabin space? We put the F-PACE at about the middle of the class. The roofline and ceiling are quite low for an SUV, and the pillars are very thick, but these don’t seem to intrude on space once you’re in your seat. Legroom is respectable in the front albeit with Jag’s traditional high and chunky centre console making you feel slotted in, while rear seat space is very good with this test car featuring separate climate control for the rear, vents on the console and B-pillars, and two 12V sockets. Cargo space is rated at 650L/1740L, putting it at the larger end of the mid-size class. Being part of Land Rover, the F-PACE is ready for long-distance travel as well, with a 12V socket in the back and tie-down rails along the floor.

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This test vehicle has been optioned with Brogue brown leather, which we think suits the luxury yet sporty theme of the F-PACE very well. It also seems to blend well with the black exterior and massive optional 22-inch black wheels. Speaking of options, this vehicle is also fitted with plenty of extras as Jaguar wanted to showcase as many of the personalisation possibilities as… possible.

One of the neatest options is the fully digital instrument cluster display. This is new for Jaguar, a company which has up until now stuck with traditional dials like BMW and some other carmakers. It does lose tradition, but in turn it provides an all-new level of technology and man-and-machine engagement for the driver. You can configure the display in a number of themes and colours, and show various things like the map from the standard sat-nav.

Speaking of sat-nav, the F-PACE sports a fresh wide-screen interface as mentioned. You can swipe and pinch your way around the menus, with a heap of on-board apps to keep you entertained. This new setup is fantastic, not that the outgoing system was flawed. We didn’t experience any loading issues or Bluetooth connectivity problems during our time with the car.

As standard all variants come with, at minimum, an 11-speaker 380W Meridian sound system, power front seats, a power tailgate, leather, a rear-view camera, and keyless entry and button start. The S adds sports seats, black exterior trimmings, red brake calipers, adaptive dynamics driving modes, and 20-inch wheels. In terms of safety, all come with autonomous emergency braking, lane departure warning, tyre pressure monitoring, and brake-type torque vectoring. ANCAP hasn’t yet performed its crash tests.

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2016 Jaguar F-PACE S 35t – THE DRIVE

Officially, the 35t consumes 8.9L/100km. In the real-world you can’t really expect a figure that low, but it isn’t as bad as the 280kW might suggest. We averaged around 11L/100km during our test, but keep in mind we enjoyed liberal doses of throttle and V6 bark perhaps more than the average owner might indulge in. On a long-term basis we think the figure could drop down to around 9.5 mark, and that’s not to bad when you consider the performance.

Performance? Yep, you’ve come to the right place. And we don’t just mean this website. The Jaguar F-PACE S 35t covered the 0-100km/h sprint in just 5.73 seconds using our VBox Sport (claimed time is 5.5), with the quarter mile stopping the clock in 13.96 seconds. As you can see, this feline beast is no slouch. It leaps off the line with full-time all-wheel drive (not on-demand like some other systems), with power and speed building rapidly and consistently until your courage thins and weakens.

One of the most impressive elements of the drive and the performance is the sheer immediacy of the throttle response and subsequent acceleration – in Dynamic mode anyhow. The throttle pedal is like a powerful electric vehicle, instantly responding and accelerating the more your push it; it’s like the laws of physics are on vacation. No other SUV in this class offers throttle response as eager as the F-PACE 35t. If this isn’t important to you, you have the option of selecting the ‘comfort’ driving mode which slackens things down a bit, and makes the Jag more relaxing in nature and perhaps more gentle around the suburbs and city streets.

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Having electric-like power at your right foot does provide a positive repercussion when driving along your favourite road too. Like in other Jags with this engine, you can use the throttle incrementally to adjust your speed when exiting corners, and dial up as much power/speed leading into the next bend.

It’s here that you’ll most enjoy the F-PACE. Body control and handling are brilliant, especially for an SUV. The electric power steering is also precise and presents plenty of feedback – you tend to enjoy turning the sporty three-spoke wheel just for fun, taking more corners and roundabouts, even if it means going the longer route. Bodyroll is virtually non-existent, remaining flat and committed at all times, with the big 265-section tyres providing all the grip you could possibly need. Just for fun, we tried to provoke the all-wheel drive system to give in and spin a wheel. This is just not possible. It really is all-wheel drive, all of the time. Throwing the weight around doesn’t unsettle this either. This isn’t an on-demand system as briefly mentioned. On-demand is ideal for fuel consumption but constant AWD is far superior in terms of safety, performance and all-weather confidence.

Are there any criticisms we have for this beast in terms of the driving manners and feel? We think the optional 22-inch wheels are a little overwhelming for the chassis and steering when pushed. We’re guessing the F-PACE wasn’t strictly engineered on the track with 22s on it. There is some minute kickback and steering catchup when you toss between a set of sassy S-bends. Obviously if looking good is of utmost importance, nothing else will suffice. We also suspect ride quality would improve with the standard 20s, not that the ride is notably flawed as it is, especially for a performance ‘S’ variant.

Another minor quibble we have is the engine sound. It’s glorious, but we keep wondering why Jag hasn’t fit that distinct pop in between upshifts like in the F-Type that has the same powertrain. We think this would further boost the F-PACE’s appeal even if a little gimmicky.

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2016 Jaguar F-PACE S 35t – THE VIDEO

2016 Jaguar F-PACE S 35t – THE VERDICT

For a first attempt at the SUV market, the F-PACE ticks many important boxes that premium SUV buyers want, including offering a properly luxurious interior with high-quality materials, lots of personalisation options, and high wow-factor when fitted with the wide touch-screen and on-board apps, and the fully digital instrument cluster.

For us though the best element is that it’s a real Jag. You can see it in the design and you can feel it behind the wheel. It goes like a stunned cat with this supercharged V6 option, and it’s also well-balanced and very enjoyable to drive. If you’re in the market for a BMW X3 or Mercedes-Benz GLC, we encourage you to check out the F-PACE options as well.

PROS:
– Supercharged V6 performance and soundtrack
– Eye-catching Jaguar design – sexiest SUV in the class?
– Refreshing interior compared with German rivals
– Large cargo area (650L)
– Technologies; optional Leisure Activity key/wrist watch, digital dash, drive modes

CONS:
– Optional 22-inch wheels tarnish dynamics
– Chunky pillars, low A-pillar
– Not ANCAP tested

As always, if you’re thinking about buying a new car don’t forget to click here to speak with our car buying specialists.

Brett is the editor and founder of PerformanceDrive. He's obsessed with driving, having played with Matchbox cars until he was tall enough to drive a real one. After initially working as a mechanic, Brett earned a degree in journalism and entered media as an editorial assistant at Top Gear Australia magazine. He then worked at CarAdvice.com.au. His dream is to live next door to the Nurburgring in Germany.