Car launches are usually quite predictable affairs. You wake up early in the morning, have a bite to eat, then hop in a car and drive on a scenic route the car company has preprogrammed into the satnav.
But the launch of Jaguar’s new F-Pace was a little different, Jag wanted us to experience the F-Pace ‘Active Lifestyle’, so we flew out to Montenegro for a weekend of luxury, driving, and activities to complement this all-purpose SUV.
We flew in a private jet to Tivat in Montenegro and waiting for us on the runway were seven XFs.
These XFs were supposed to transfer us to the hotel, but traffic was bad, so someone at Jaguar wisely decided it would be faster to go by boat.
We diverted to a local harbour, where I expect some money changed hands, and two boys which didn’t look older than 16 took us on a scenic, yet rapid, tour of the Montenegrin coastline.
We arrived at the hotel, greeted by a Caesium Blue F-Pace First Edition glistening in the sun. Which brings us nicely to...
The F-Pace is a strong, muscular looking car. We think it looks stunningly aggressive. It’s like an F-Type which has had an allergic reaction… but in a good way.
Just spend a minute to appreciate it:
It’s clearly got that - cringe-worth-marketing-term coming up - modern Jaguar DNA - the grill shape, the “J” signature headlights, and tail lights very similar to those found on the F-Type.
There are some clever design elements too. The wheels, although 22”, still have a thick tyre wall to defend the alloys from curbing, and the “power bump” on the bonnet is an efficient use of space.
There are also some attractive lines and curves on the side to make it appear shorter than it actually is, and the front wheel arch / a-pillar position gives it sports car-like proportions.
It’s a big thumbs up from us.
There is one aspect of the design we’re not so keen on, and that’s the glass plate behind the badge on the front grill. This houses and protects the radar and camera-smarts. It’s a minor blemish in an otherwise solid design.
One final point has to be made, and it’s about the outstanding Cesium Blue paint - it's only available on the limited “First Edition” model which has now sold-out… Didn’t snap up one of the original 2,000 cars? You’ll have to settle for a less special colour.
After a quick look around the F-Pace, we had the option to drive the car or go for luxury spa treatments, so I dumped my bag in my hotel room (which is bigger than most London flats) and hopped into a car… of course.
We got into a top end F-Pace S which comes packing a 3.0-litre V6 petrol engine. This engine is supercharged to produce 380 PS, which powers it from 0-62mph in a time of 5.1 seconds.
That’s fast, especially for a car this size.
There is also a 300bhp 3.0-litre V6 diesel and entry-level 180bhp 2.0-litre Ingenium diesel option - the Ingenium isn’t as exciting to drive, but it’s much more frugal returning 57.7 mpg.
The V6 petrol is borrowed from the F-Type, starting it up sounds mean, it gurgles and pops just like the F-Type, but quite a bit quieter so you don’t annoy the neighbours.
The F-Pace makes use of plenty of aluminium, steel doors and a composite tailgate, which gives it a 50/50 weight distribution.
Jaguar claims the lateral stiffness is 50-percent greater than that of the Porsche Macan. This, combined with the weight distribution gives the F-Pace beautifully balanced handling and makes it great fun to drive on twisty roads.
There are really two modes for the F-Pace - Drive or Sport (there are a few tunable settings, but dynamic engineers wanted to offer as little options as possible, otherwise people tend to ruin the car they’ve spent years setting up).
In Drive the F-Pace is relaxed, quiet, and glides over potholes. The steering and throttle response is forgiving, it’s a very comfortable car to drive.
In Sport mode the F-Pace noticeably changes, the steering is more weighted, the throttle response is sharper, and the exhaust sound is much more ‘fruity’. What’s impressive is that although the suspension firms up, it still doesn’t become an uncomfortable ride.
Does it drive like a sports car? No, of course it doesn’t. It’s too heavy, you really feel that when accelerating and braking, but it is one of the sportiest SUVs out there, and we’d like to see you squeeze two kids, camping gear, and a canoe into an F-Type.
The F-Pace is built to be practical as well as sporty, so it should be able to park in a muddy field and not get bogged down, at least.
All models offer all-wheel-drive to handle off-road situations (although you won't be taking this on the Moab, but it will stand up to the overflow car park at a horse show). It makes use of the Intelligent Driveline Dynamics first developed for the F-Type, which quickly and unobtrusively moves power between the front and rear wheels.
We did a small amount of off-road driving at a ski resort (with the snow melted), using All Surface Progress Control mode to ascend and descend a wet and muddy slope without touching the throttle or brakes once.
There’s also Low-Friction Launch, which we first tried in the Jaguar XE. This mode allows the driver to set the speed they want using a control on the steering wheel, then lets the car do the rest. We’ve tried this on a skid pan with zero friction and it works like magic. Very useful for icy British roads.
The interior is luxurious and comfortable, just as you’d expect from a Jag. But it doesn’t feel like you’re sitting in your grandad’s armchair, it feels modern and sophisticated.
You’re surrounded by leather and suede. The very little plastic which can be found in the cabin feels premium (think Lego rather than and Mega Bloks). The interior design is quite understated and a lot less fussy, than, say, a Range Rover Evoque. It also feels spacious, which is great.
The driving position is quite low - you feel that you’re sitting inside the F-Pace (not on top) but you still have good visibility all-around.
The rear seats offer plenty of space (leg, head and arse) and even have the option to add electrically reclining backs. That space continues into the boot where there's a vast 650-litre cavity.
Apart from being luxurious, the cabin is also packed with technology with two main points of interaction - a 12.3-inch virtual dashboard and the excellent 10.2-inch InControl Touch Pro central infotainment screen.
The InControl Touch Pro is the real star here - the system offers multiple customisable home screens with apps and widgets, and tablet-like multi-touch controls. The widescreen is fully utilised with split-screen apps, allowing you to keep navigation on one side, and music controls, or driver data on the other.
Navigation is rock solid using Here maps, with multiple additional features, such as Streetview-esque images of your destination, and even a setting to make sure you have enough fuel for your journey. The system also allows you to share your arrival time via text, but the real intelligent feature here is that it’ll also automatically update that contact if you get stuck in traffic… that’s pretty amazing, right?
The InControl Touch platform boasts over 20 apps, all written in HTML5, but Jaguar is expecting this to expand soon as they open up sensors to developers.
Other optional tech includes a bright and clear laser HUD, pedestrian sensing front cameras (which, luckily, we didn’t need, but we did almost hit a donkey - that’s a story for another time), adaptive cruise control, 3G Wi-Fi hotspot (which is great, as it uses the car’s large antenna to find signal when your phone can’t).
And, for early adopters out there, the F-Pace also has an Apple Watch and Android Wear app which allows you to start and preheat the car, record journey times, check if the windows are open, or sound the alarm (if you can't find it in the car park).
The F-Pace is essentially a PC World on wheels, it’s packed full of tech, which worked surprisingly well over the weekend.
We spent the night in an amazing hotel-come-private-island, then drove to a National Park in the centre of Montenegro where we tried some off-road driving.
After the heading up an off-season ski slope with no problems whatsoever, we strapped a canoe to the top of our car and headed to the nearest body of water.
Driving down the side of a mountain, on a single track road, through clouds so thick you can’t see 30 metres in front of you, with a canoe on the roof is one of the coolest things I’ve ever done.
We made it out of the clouds in one piece and arrived at Perast and the Bay of Kotor. This gave us a chance to test out the Activity Key.
That's an image of me and Luke from Pocket Lint being absolute bosses at canoeing.
What is the Activity Key exactly?
It’s a Fitbit Flex sized wearable that allows you to lock your smartphone and car keys inside the vehicle, go surfing, or in our case, canoeing, wearing your activity band, then return to your car and unlock it with all of your valuables still safely inside.
The Activity Key uses RFID technology and is activated by holding the boot release button for two seconds, then touching the band against the “J” on the Jaguar designation.
It’s a useful option, especially if you spend a lot of time adventuring, like us at T3.
At first, it was difficult to judge the F-Pace. Do you compare it to a sports car? In which case, it's not as fun to drive. Or do you compare to an SUV? Where a Land Rover Discovery Sport is more practical. In the end, you just have to evaluate it as its own thing, and we loved the Jaguar F-Pace.
It's fun to drive, surprisingly practical, and most importantly of all, packed with useful and well thought out technology.
- Best SUV from greenest to meanest