Jaguar is looking to put the sport back in sports utility vehicle with its updated F-Pace crossover.
The British brand, which has been hit harder than most by COVID-related plant closures, is banking on two powerful new engines to breath life back into its local operation after sales halved between 2018 and 2020.
The new turbocharged six-cylinder petrol and six-cylinder turbo diesel are aimed at buyers willing to pay more for performance.
Jaguar says the petrol turbo six, which puts out a V8-like 294kW of power and 550Nm of torque, is good for a 5.4-second sprint to 100km/h, aided by an electric supercharger that boosts off-the-line performance.
The turbo diesel has less power (221kW) but more torque (650Nm) and Jaguar says it will complete the 0-100km/h sprint in 6.4 secs, while using just 7L/100km.
The engines complement the entry level 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo, which is carried over from the previous model and is roughly a second slower to 100km/h than the diesel.
All are matched to a conventional eight-speed auto and all-wheel-drive.
Jaguar has simplified the F-Pace line-up in response to customer feedback. The previous generation had 16 models but now there are only five. All have a higher level of standard equipment, as well as the R-Dynamic styling pack that lends a sportier feel to the cabin.
The range now starts at $76,244 plus on-road costs for the R-Dynamic S P250, powered by the turbo four. The better equipped SE P250 costs $80,854. From there it’s a big leap to the diesel-powered R-Dynamic SE D300 at $96,194 and the R-Dynamic SE P400 at $98,654.
The range-topper, until the arrival of the popular SVR models in June, is the R-Dynamic HSE P400 at $110,404. The value for money equation is sharper but customers are still asked to pay extra for wireless device charging, a digital cockpit, park assist and a powered tailgate.
All the models have adjustable drive modes for different off-road surfaces, as well as a dynamic setting for dialling up the sportiness. The all-wheel-drive set-up is biased towards the rear for sportier driving on bitumen, but it can distribute torque between the front and rear axles when needed in slippery conditions.
Jaguar has given the look of the F-Pace a midlife makeover, adding new slimmer all-LED quad headlights and LED tail lights to give the SUV a sportier look.
Aside from the new engines, most of the money has been spent inside, where the F-Pace had fallen off the pace compared with newer German rivals.
A new tablet-style 11.4-inch centre screen gives the cabin a more hi-tech look and feel, with better graphics and menus that are easier to navigate. Cheaper models, however, miss out on digital instruments in front of the driver. An optional digital screen adds more theatre to the cabin, changing colours when the driver selects dynamic mode.
Jaguar says extra attention has been paid to lifting the feel of touch points throughout the interior. Soft leather now adorns the top of the instrument panel, the armrests and centre console, while natural-looking open-pore woodgrain and aluminium highlights create a premium feel.
The snug and supportive front seats are finished in rich perforated leather with the Jaguar logo on the headrest.
The F-Pace is still cosy in the rear, and vision suffers from the swooping roofline, but on the whole, the cabin feels comfortable and luxurious.
The Jaguar shines brightest in the bends, though, thanks to a light and strong aluminium bodyshell and suspension that manages to iron out the bumps and wrinkles while retaining impressive composure through corners.
Meaty, communicative steering adds to the driver enjoyment, as does the quick-witted and smooth-shifting eight-speed auto.
The new diesel engine is a gem. Quiet, effortless and refined on the freeway, its serves up plenty of grunt at low revs when asked, barely breaking a sweat when climbing steep hills or overtaking in a hurry.
It’s rare that an SUV is fun to drive, but the Jaguar delivers.
The F-Pace has always been one of the more rewarding SUVs to drive, but now the luxury matches the performance.
JAGUAR F-PACE SE D300 VITALS
Price: From about $105,700 drive-away
Warranty/servicing: 5 years, unl’td km, $2650 over 5 years
Engine: 3.0-litre 6-cyl turbo diesel, 221kW/650Nm
Safety: 5 stars, 6 airbags, auto emergency braking, blind-spot assist, lane-keep assist, radar cruise control, rear cross-traffic alert
Luggage: 755 litres