What's it like?
Our drive is in an R-Sport trim model with 20in alloys wheels, and it rides very well over the bumps and undulations of British B-roads. The 2.0-litre engine comes mated exclusively to the eight-speed automatic gearbox and with four-wheel drive, so there’s no rear-wheel-drive manual option to really attack these roads. However, the worthwhile £160 option of Jaguar’s configurable dynamics adjustable dampers does help you to make the most out of bends.
You can firm up the dampers in Sport mode, and with this body control is very good - on par with the class’s best - but the eight-speed gearbox feels a little hesitant to act when the motor is worked hard and can therefore hamper the experience. Downshifts in particular can take about half a second to respond, and while you might be inclined to cut an SUV some slack in this department, the car’s arch-rival, the PDK-gearboxed Porsche Macan, shows how high the bar has been set.
This new engine is more responsive than Jaguar’s older four-cylinder petrols and when pressed can accelerate the car from 0-62mph in a respectable 6.8sec. Next to the F-Pace’s more frugal diesel options, the petrol is clearly best suited to town driving, but point the nose at an open stretch of tarmac and the unit happily revs freely too, although it never reaches the point of feeling particularly quick.
Unlike the diesels, it lacks mid-range grunt – even the four-cylinder diesel has 37lb ft more - so is not so suited to hard motorway work. In its defence, the story is much the same with the four-cylinder petrol Macan, illustrating that the issue is a symptom of the type, rather than this specific unit.
There is one standout benefit of the new engine when charging along at pace - its lighter weight. It gives the car a nose that resists understeer even more and makes the four-wheel torque vectoring more noticeable when powering through a corner. Like the Macan, the F-Pace does a great job of impersonating a hot hatch when trail braked into a bend, resisting body roll and even lending its back to tighten the line with small slides. But as soon as you get back on the power you’re reminded that the lump up front could do with a bit more torque, confirming that this engine will offer its best in less sporting environments.
Should I buy one?
The timing of the Ingenium petrol engine’s arrival in the F-Pace range couldn’t be much better, as public perception of diesels – particularly in urban environments – is at an all-time low. People nervous of impending tax hikes and pricier parking permits may be drawn to a small capacity petrol engine that gives respectable fuel economy and has just about enough poke to be entertaining.
But for those wanting an effortless mile-muncher, the F-Pace’s diesel units – especially the most potent V6 - remain the ones to go for, while the hot V6 petrol is still the driver’s choice. Which is good news, really, because it proves that Jaguar’s latest engine has plugged an empty gap in the line-up, rather than treading on the toes of any existing options.
It serves to make the F-Pace a more comprehensive rival to the Macan, and extends the line-up to better compete with more conventional SUVs such as the Audi Q5.
Jaguar F-Pace 2.0 i4 250 R-Sport auto
Location Warwickshire On sale Now Price £44,460 Engine 4 cyls, 1997cc, petrol Power 247bhp at 5500rpm Torque 269lb ft at 1200-4500rpm Gearbox 8-spd automatic Kerb weight 1760kg 0-62mph 6.8sec Top speed 135mph Economy 38.2mpg (combined) CO2/tax band 170g/km Rivals Porsche Macan, Audi Q5