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2017 Jaguar F-Pace 2.0 D review

The F-Pace SUV has been deliberately honed to love the concrete stuff. Cancel that cheque for the XE or XF saloon

Mention JLR in the automotive world and many would be quick to point out that Jaguar is all about sports cars and saloons while Land Rover (and its Range Rover nameplate) is at its best with SUVs. Thus, no stepping on each other's feet.

But such idealism certainly can't exist anymore in the cut-throat business of making cars these days, especially when SUVs are making up 50% of sales of many luxury brands in numerous markets around the world.

Which is why Jaguar wasted no time in coming out with its first SUV called F-Pace (not to mention the slew of new ones coming like the E-Pace baby and all-electric i-Pace).

And since Jaguar is related with Land Rover, 4x4 know-how is just available at its doorstep. The upshot for Land Rover would be no other than economies of scales, explaining the recent rollout of the all-new, F-Pace-based Range Rover Velar.

That said, you could probably assume that the F-Pace wouldn't mind getting its hands dirty like how a Land Rover could happily do. But the thing is, Jaguar's pioneering SUV isn't really anything like that.

If you start from the looks, the F-Pace is clearly a Jag. While the front grille and lights looks very similar to those on the XE, XF and XJ saloons, the rear lamps immediately remind you of the F-Type sports car. It may feel a little bland for an SUV, but Jaguar is probably not thinking of adventure in the F-Pace.

The same goes for the inside where the fascia (and its infotainment screen), console and door panels are reminiscent of those in the four-door Jags. Which isn't a bad thing, though, because simplicity sometimes translates into fine ergonomics (despite switches for the electric windows placed high up on the driver's side).

Speaking of details in the interior, the F-Pace is a slight disappointment. While the leather in this Portfolio-specced test car feels genuinely upmarket, there are some rough edges inside like those cheap-feeling door bin plastics that would be more acceptable in mass-market cars.

Size-wise, the F-Pace sits somewhere in between the BMW X3 and X5 meaning that cabin room isn't an issue. In fact, legroom for rear passengers in the F-Pace feels nearly as long as in the X5, while its reasonably spacious boot can be extended by folding the rear backrest in three parts via switches in the boot.

Because of a generally high window line and low roof, the F-Pace's cabin won't immediately feel as airy as in either the X3 or X5, nor is the driving position as commanding.

But that's what makes the F-Pace feel like a car, especially with that view of the humped bonnet dominating the driving experience most of the time. Perhaps, Jaguar's adage about its SUV is right to a certain degree: you sit in a Jag, while you sit on a Land Rover.

But the moment you drive off in the F-Pace, it feels like an SUV. No, the driving view isn't extraordinary, as said earlier. But you can feel its raised height via that longer suspension travel usually found in SUVs at low speeds. At the same time, the F-Pace's steering feels unusually beefy for a 4x4.

Chassis has been tailored with asphalt in mind. 

But as speed builds up, the F-Pace begins to truly show its car-like behaviour. The steering remains crisp, the ride feels well-controlled and its cornering abilities are nearly akin with the XE and XF. The F-Pace is sold in Thailand with all-wheel-drive system that biases drive to the rear wheels in normal conditions. No off-roading gear is available, with only hill-descent control being the prime aid.

The F-Pace certainly doesn't drive as an SUV like the Land Rover. But no matter how accomplished the F-Pace feels on the sealed tarmac, it somehow lacks the solid grip and cohesive handling of the Porsche Macan -- an SUV that still stands out as the sportiest one to drive.

Powering the Thai-spec F-Pace is the 180hp 2.0-litre Ingenium diesel-turbo (not the older 2.2-litre counterpart from Ford) mated to eight-speed automatic transmission. These stats might be inferior to those found in the X3 or Mercedes-Benz GLC, both using similarly sized four-pot diesels albeit more power. But as the F-Pace's body is fashioned with aluminium in the Jag fashion, it somehow compensates for its bigger body it has to carry around.

Which means that the engine in the F-Pace isn't short on grunt. Like in most other modern-day four-cylinder diesels, there's a nice blend of oomph, fuel economy and refinement in real-world driving. Our only quibble is the occasional driveline shunt in slow-moving traffic.

Has Jaguar succeeded in making an SUV better to drive than those models from mainstay luxury brands in Thailand? You could say so, and this gives good reason to deflect from Audi, BMW, Mercedes and Volvo.

But as a buying proposition, the F-Pace may not be logical as Jaguar doesn't build cars in this region to evade high import duties applied on completely built-up vehicle shipped from outside Asean. For less than five million baht, you can get the bigger X5, GLE and XC90, all with some other things to boast about be it plug-in hybrid tech or seven-seat practicality.

But if you have clearly set your mind on a Jag, the F-Pace is the possibly the one worth contemplating. With a price range of 4.7 to 6 million baht, the F-Pace is more desirable than either the XE or XF.

Sure, saloons are theoretically better to drive, but the F-Pace does a job almost as good without really suffering from any dynamic sparkle. No wonder Jaguar doesn't prefer to call the F-Pace as an SUV (they say: sporty crossover) when it is actually one.

The driving environment feels car-like just as in the XE and XF saloons. 

There's ample of legroom for rear passengers. 

Luggage room goes in quite deep; rear seats can fold in three bits. 

Diesel engine could have been smoother at low speeds. 

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