The F-Pace’s armoury is well equipped to take on the Porsche Macan

It would be easy to dismiss the Jaguar F-Pace as merely a bland, boring SUV – one of many new jacked-up crossovers, only more premium. But that would be a mistake, as Jaguar’s 4×4 is one of the most accomplished SUVs we’ve ever got behind the wheel of. It rivals the Porsche Macan, both overtaking the Cayenne, for the SUV top spot. It exhibits poise and composure down demanding B-roads and, when threading it through corners, it’s truly involving as the four-wheel drive system perceptibly hunts for grip. We’d even go as far to say that it’s actually fun, even if it isn’t quite as engaging as a well-sorted wagon or sedan.

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A lot of the F-Pace’s athleticism comes from its underpinnings, some of which it borrows from Jag’s sportiest model, the F-type. It doesn’t, sadly, get the sports car’s supercharged V8, yet. But, the V6 engines that are available are decent, especially the 3-litre diesel that suits the F-Pace well.

Performance and 0-100 time

The range topping 280kW, 3-litre, supercharged V6 will reach 100kmh in just 5.1sec, which for an 1861kg SUV is impressive. However, it’s is only fractionally quicker – 0.1sec to be exact – than Porsche’s Macan GTS and the Jaguar’s top speed is limited to 250kmh.

The V6 diesel features twin-turbochargers with the 3-litre unit producing 220kW and a mighty 700Nm of torque. It isn’t as quick as the petrol against the clock, reaching 100kmh in 6.2sec and going on to a 241kmh top speed, but that mid-range turbocharged torque makes it feel the quickest of the range in day-to-day driving.

The F-Pace is also available with a 132kW four-cylinder, 2-litre, turbo-diesel and will reach 100kmh in 8.9sec and top 209kW if ordered with a six-speed manual gearbox and rear wheel drive. Go for the optional four-wheel drive drivetrain with the excellent eight-speed ZF automatic gearbox and you’ll cut two-tenths from the 0-100kmh time, but lose 1kmh at the top end.

The V6 engined models are only available with all-wheel drive and the eight-speed automatic gearbox.

The 3-litre V6 turbo-diesel might not be the most characterful engine, but it’s functional and incredibly flexible. Keep it between 2500 – 4000rpm, which is easy thanks to the plethora of gears in the 8-speed automatic gearbox, and you can make swift progress. Rev it out to its limiter and, although the noise isn’t unpleasant – it’s much nicer than you’d expect from a diesel – there’s not much to be gained in terms of performance.

The top-spec, supercharged V6 might produce some impressive numbers, but it isn’t quite as impressive to use. It needs revving hard to feel the benefits of the power on offer, a task not befitting for an SUV. If you aren’t working the supercharged V6 hard, then the diesel – with its additional 250Nm of torque – is faster from A to B.

The volume seller will be the 132kW 2-litre turbo-diesel, which while not as quick nor as flexible as its six-cylinder relatives it has just enough performance to avoid frustration. The manual may appeal to the die hard driving enthusiasts but the eight-speed auto is more naturally suited to the F Pace.

The F-Pace has a number of driving modes from eco, through normal to dynamic. The throttle map and automatic gearbox’s shift points and speeds are changed dramatically in the sportiest mode.

The F-Pace does not ride like a plush, luxurious, premium SUV; it is no Range Rover after all. Instead, the body control is tense and the ride is relatively firm, but the result of the slightly-less-than-comfortable ride is a very agile machine and remarkable body control.

Turn in hard and the F-Pace stays uncharacteristically flat and level for an SUV. Unless you’re too aggressive with the steering, there’s no understeer, but a little bit of trail braking brings the rear around even more readily. With the nose tucked in you can get on the power early in the corner and catapult yourself away from the exit.

The four-wheel drive system initially favours the rear axle, and you can certainly feel the back tyres dealing with the extra torque. Moments after hitting the throttle – the diesel V6 can need a bit of time to react – the rear begins to push the back around. In slower corners, where the acceleration is more pronounced, the front tyres are called in to help and you start to feel them nibble away at the tarmac.

The tyres chirp and squeal in protest as they struggle to keep the tall Jag on line, but they do withstand a lot of punishment. Turn all the systems off, rely purely on mechanical grip, and the F-Pace feels much the same. However, the rear will give up first; not dramatically, as the front tyres are always called upon to reign in any truly exuberant behavior, but enough to be able to use the throttle to manipulate the F-Pace’s handling attitude.

It might not be as seamless or as sophisticated as the best and most advanced four-wheel drive systems, but the F-Pace’s drivetrain makes it more involving than its rivals. The tangible amounts of adjustability that it serves up aren’t only impressive for a SUV, but it trumps many four-wheel drive sedans and hatchbacks, too.

That’s not to say the handling hasn’t been compromised by its lofty ride-height, though; at the very limits, when you ask a lot of the F-Pace, it doesn’t quite maintain its composure. Large crests taken at speed expose its weight, which is usually so well hidden, and really tight corners do induce a touch more body roll than feels appropriate.

The F-Pace is very impressive to drive though; it’s controlled, involving and very fast. Although Jaguar haven’t completely defied physics, they’ve done a fine job of getting close. Will Beaumont

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