The CX-17 Crossover Concept from Jaguar was unveiled two years ago on this very day and it took the world by storm, and not just because it was the company's first attempt at a body type which its sister company Land Rover has mastered over decades. Now the production ready version of the crossover concept has been unveiled right before the Frankfurt Motorshow and in flesh it seems the wait has been worth it. You can at once tell that its got the soul of the F-Type sports car and hence the name 'F-Pace'. But really, a Jaguar crossover? Well, why not? Porsche did it and succeeded, Bentley is about to do it in a few hours, and even Rolls Royce will do it in the near future. The crossover and SUV body forms are but an eventuality for luxury car makers. Having gotten that out of the way, here's what the F-Pace is like in flesh.
Developed solely by a congregation within JLR called the 'F-Section', the F-Pace is the 3rd car based on Jaguar's new Lightweight Aluminium Architecture following the XF and the XE. With it, Jaguar aims to gather attributes from other cars in the portfolio like the F-Type's stunning design and performance, the XE's value and accessibility and the XF's technology and brand image, and top it with the practicality offered by the crossover body type. Having said that, more than 80 per cent of the parts on the F-Pace are brand new. No other manufacturer uses aluminium as extensively as Jaguar because despite its evident benefit of weight and strength, aluminium is extremely hard to shape and work with. The body panels need to be stamped at once because aluminium isn't as malleable and it can only be stretched to a certain extent. The minimum radius you can achieve at the edges is 12mm. So I like the fact that Jaguar persists with aluminium and has learnt and adapted to overcome these challenges. And 33 per cent of the aluminium used is recycled. The result is that the entire body structure weighs in at less than 300kgs - roughly the weight of the body structure of a Fiat 500L.
The design has very obvious similarities to other Jaguar cars, especially the F-Type, but Jaguar Design director Ian Callum is anything but apologetic about it. The first design mandate for the team was to make it distinguishable as a Jaguar from 200 metres away. The one dimension that is the most unfamiliar for Callum and Jaguar cars is the height of the vehicle. They also wanted to keep the overhangs as short as possible and push the wheels to the corners. They managed an overhang of just 834mm at the front while catering to crash norms thanks to the use of high strength Magnesium in the front end. The bulge on the bonnet is reminiscent of the 1968 Jaguar XJ while the taillights are akin to ones made famous by the F-Type, and the E-Type before it.
The silhouette of the F-Pace has been designed with the intention of achieving sports sedan like aerodynamics and a drag co-efficient of 0.34. Unlike theAudiQ5 or even the Porsche Macan, the F-Pace looks longer and shorter. Ian Callum insists that the long bonnet is not as much due to the longitudinal gearbox as much it was a design mandate. The F-Pace also manages a class-leading wheelbase and ground clearance of 2874mm and 213mm respectively. The choice of tyres have a very large range - from 18 inches all the way to huge 22 inch wheels, but the ride height doesn't alter too much as the side wall height is larger for the smaller tyres. Jaguar also claims that the Pirelli tyres have excellent sidewall protection and are also snow rated.
On the inside, the Jaguar F-Pace is surprisingly simplistic. It doesn't quite have the flamboyance of the F-Type or the richness of an XF. Instead the focus has been very heavy on improving practicality of the cabin. Jaguar has worked very hard to create a large number of storage areas - 13 in number. The ergonomics have been optimised for maximum space of which there is plenty in both rows of seating. It has a legroom of 944mm and knee room of 65mm in the second row - almost identical to the Audi Q5, and that's impressive. The rear seats are higher by 10mm than the front to allow the rear passengers a better view of the front. The front seats can be adjusted in as many as 14 different ways so finding that right driving position will not be an issue. Bootspace stands at an impressive 650 litres and that can be expanded to 1740 litres with the second row dropped.
There are of course a few design cues and lines however that have been retained from the interiors of the CX-17 concept as well. The F-Pace's instrument cluster is a handsome 12.3-inch, full colour, TFT screen which can be customised completely to display exactly the information you want it to display in four different themes. It also features a four colour lazer head up display. On the centre console, the F-Pace boasts of what's claimed to be the world's best infotainment system - with more processing power than a Boeing 777. It's called the 'n Control Touch Pro' and it makes the F-Pace what Jaguar reckons is the most advanced car they've built. It features a Quadcore processor, a 100GB Solid State Hard drive, 1Gb/s ethernet which can connect as many as eight devices at once using a WiFi hotspot, a 10.2 inch touchscreen and a 825Watt 17-speaker Meridian music system. But it is really the software that's most impressive. It doesn't have the sort of gesture recognition that we've seen on the new BMW 7 Series but it has unrivalled smartphone connectivity. You can access the climate control, start the engine, lock the car - all from an app on your smartphone or even a smart watch. It also has a social media integration coupled with voice recognition so you can tweet while driving, not that we advise you to.
The navigation is also extremely intuitive and not only does it have a street view feature but it can also send someone your ETA once you feed in the location. But the highlight has got to be the 'Activity key'. Say you're out on the beach, or the swimming pool: What do you do with the key? Well, Jaguar have debuted a wearable band, waterproof to a depth of 20 metres, that doubles as a key. You simply leave your car keys inside, walk to the back of the car and touch the Activity Key to the J- letter on the rear badge. It locks the car and disables the normal keys. Afraid of break-ins or malfunctions? The band uses the tried and tested RFID technology that keeps your credit cards safe. Once you come back from your swim, you simply repeat the process, the car unlocks and your key is active.
Let's get to the heart of the matter - the engine, drivetrain and chassis. The F-Pace's most efficiency-conscious version will get Jaguar's Ingenium 2-litre diesel engine that you've seen on the XE. The 180PS engine is capable of an impressive fuel efficiency figure of over 20 kilometres on a single litre of diesel. There a more powerful diesel available too in a V6 configuration that's capable of 300PS of max power and 700Nm of max torque thanks to two turbochargers. But if that that's not enough for you, how does a supercharged, 380PS, V6 petrol, that reaches a 100kmph in a shade over 5 seconds, sound to you? Jaguar claims they have managed to make the F-Pace's cabin quieter than the Macan's by about 6 decibels. All three engines will be mated to the familiar 8-speed automatic torque convertor gearbox.
The F-Pace was designed to bea rear-wheel drive configuration with all-wheel drive capabilities. That's one contradiction to Jaguar's emphasis on practicality as you'd imagine a front-wheel drive to be more efficient and a better layout for interior space management. But Jaguar didn't want to compromise on the dynamics of the F-Pace and hence it was always meant to be rear-wheel driven. The all-wheel drive system uses a chain driven transfer case which is just eightkilograms heavy. There are a host of electronics on board as driver aid like Intelligent Driveline Dynamics or IDD (Jaguar lingo for Traction Control), All Surface Progression Control or ASPC (Jaguar's rendition of Land Rover's Terrain Response), Adaptive Surface Response or ASR, and 12 other camera based driver assistance safety systems.
The Jaguar F-Pace is steered by an E-PAS system which is the same unit as on the F-Type. Underpinnings on the F-Pace are double wishbones with bonded bushes and strengthened lower arms - these ensure the F-Pace is 35 per cent stiffer laterally than the Porsche Macan. It also uses passive monotube dampers with Jaguar's adaptive dynamics which allows you to electronically optimise the dampers and adjust the suspension in fourways. Now unless we drive the car we cannot vouch for Jaguar's claims about the F-Pace's dynamics but considering the fact that the same team is responsible for the F-Pace's dynamics, as the F-Type's, its safe to assume that it won't disappoint.
Jaguar admits that the closest competition to the F-Pace is the Porsche Macan but it also aims to match, if not better, the practicality and space offered by larger SUVs like Audi Q5 and even the BMW X5. Priced in the UK at 44,000 GBP, the F-Pace is a hefty 11,000 pounds cheaper than the Macan and roughly 3,000 pounds more expensive than the entry level Q5. 2015 is being hailed as the 'Year of the Cat' - Jaguar's transformational year and the F-Pace is of monumental importance in achieving that. And I cannot wait to drive it. Bertrand D'Souza, can I please call dibs?
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