DAVE MOORE: Jaguar's F-Pace - World Car of the Year is practically beautiful

Announced last week as the World Car of the Year, Jaguar's stunning F-Pace crossover may be late to the party compared with other luxury brands, but DAVE MOORE says it's late because its makers wanted to get it right. Job done.

Gosh this is a good-looking car! Even if you'd lived in a media-free wilderness for 50 years, you'd know it was a Jaguar, from the proportions and the musculature to its tautly curvy corner points. It's large, it's lovely and darn me it's practical too. I've a feeling that a modern Inspector Morse would drive one, too, with opera playing on the concert-hall sized sound system and its communication set-up offering Lewis-like guidance and help.

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You don’t normally launch an SUV on a racetrack, but that’s what Jaguar New Zealand did in New Zealand, with coned slaloms and a dragstrip all set up for the new F-Pace.
As the ‘F’suggests, it shares its four and six cylinder engines with the recently facelifted mid-sized XF sedan.

All told there with be turbodiesel fours and V6s, a supercharged V6 petrol unit, fitted to the svelte aluminium-bodied SUV, with three specification levels and so many personalisation items that no F-Pace should ever look like another.

It already doesn’t look like any other SUV, being a genuinely muscular and Jaguar-esque design in a sea of two-box truck-like ordinariness.

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It’s the latest in a raft of new Jaguars, all of which are made from aluminium which make them quicker, nimbler, cheaper to run and cleaner than the steel equivalent and as such the Jaguar line-up is the only complete range to be made this way.

Aluminium used this way also has the advantage of imbuing a car with a lower centre of gravity, which spells top-notch handling and when the F-Pace rounds Jaguar New Zealand’s wickedly-placed cones, it does so with the decorum of a sports sedan - and of course we all know how well Jaguar makes those.

The new F-Pace is on the New Zealand market starting at $95,000, topping out with all the fruit at around $160,000. In between, there’s an array of models, with five seats, sumptuous cabins, industry-leading poise and performance and they represent an important new direction for the company which has never made an SUV before.

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Mind you, as the other half of a company now known as Jaguar/Land-Rover (JLR for short) the carmaker had plenty of SUV and 4x4 experience to tap into.

I predict great things for the F-Pace and the new direction it’s leading Jaguar into, especially as it looks like there will also be E-Pace and J-Pace models in future, based on the XE and XJ sedans.

The thing I find so compelling about the lithe, lissom F-Pace is that its looks and its dynamic brilliance is augmented with serious practicality. For instance, its back seat easily accommodates occupants more than six feet tall, with great legroom, ample foot space under the front seats (despite their electric operation), and, ample headroom considering the roofline and sunroof.

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A middle rear occupant has to consider the driveshaft floor hump and we wish the seatback cushions were less firm, but the load space is massive when compared to the Porsche Macan’s.

As hinted above, the F-Pace is no dynamic slouch; it offers exceptionally sharp on-centre steering precision and great turn-in response. Steering is light, but weights up when you select the ‘Dynamic’ driving mode whereupon the car feels as connected and communicative as a pure sports sedan. The Jag has 50/50 weight distribution and an all-wheel-drive system that stays rear-drive until torque is needed at the front axle.

Body control is excellent, and the structure and steering column feel extraordinarily rigid. Even the ride comfort even on the the car’s sportiest wheels is better than I expected.

The F-Pace is based on similar architecture to that of the XE and XF sedans, including a body structure that uses a high percentage of aluminium.

With its athletic good looks and beguiling driving character, excellent rear-seat and cargo space, and pricing that puts it in the heart of its segment it’s hard to deny the car its World Car of the Year title. In the market, it should—along with the compact-luxury XE sedan—significantly expand the Jaguar brand in New Zealand, I loved it and it’s nice to see that the rest of the world does too!