A wary toe. That’s how the introductory line suggests Jaguar is entering the SUV arena, and the reasoning is sound enough: were Jaguar more confident it could sell an SUV, it would have tried it years ago.

There are reasons why it hasn’t, of course. This is a company that – although written large on the radar of UK car buyers and enthusiasts – is a minnow alongside the German firms that its cars rival.

Their products sell by the hundreds of thousands and contribute to sales of more than a million a year for each company. Jaguar sells fewer than 100,000 cars a year in total. Or has, until now.

The F-Pace is the car that’s meant to change that. It’s a car that puts the future of Jaguar estates under threat but it’s also one that, frankly, no executive car maker can be without – even one that has a separate arm dealing entirely in executive SUVs.

There’s an argument that this is one of the reasons for Jaguar’s SUV tardiness. Will a Jaguar 4x4 nick sales from a Range Rover 4x4? It’s a possibility but, as the VW Group does with Volkswagen and Audi (and soon Skoda and Seat too), it’s a chance you take.

At least you get the profit either way, rather than somebody else. And the F-Pace’s ethos is wilfully different, on paper and in the drives we’ve had so far, from anything else that rolls out of a Jaguar Land Rover facility. It’s a Jaguar, which means it’s a sporting SUV, we’re told – as much as one is possible.

It’s a tall car with a modicum of off-road ability, but for those who like driving. That’s always a slight contradiction, but ever since BMW launched the X5 in the late 1990s, it’s one we’ve managed to get our head around.

We’ve tried all F-Pace engine variants so far in one way or another, but the one tested here counts most: the 2.0-litre diesel that will constitute the biggest number of sales.

Top 5 Family SUVs

  • The Land Rover Discovery Sport
    The new Land Rover Discovery Sport is the successor to the Freelander

    Land Rover Discovery Sport

    1
  • BMW X3
    A huge improvement over the old model and now among the class leaders

    BMW X3

    2
  • Volvo XC60
    The Swede's XC60 compact SUV is a rival for Range Rover's Evoque

    Volvo XC60

    3
  • Range Rover Evoque
    The Range Rover Evoque is available as a three-door, pictured here, or a five-door

    Range Rover Evoque

    4
  • Here is the 2.2-litre CRDi Kia Sorento KX-4
    Kia's seven-seat Sorento SUV is now in its third generation

    Kia Sorento

    5

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