Time to let in the cold light of day where it really counts. On previous test drives, we’ve driven the F-Pace on its clever optional adaptive dampers, but never with the passively damped suspension that comes as standard with R-Sport trim, which is how a large proportion of F-Pace owners will specify the car.
The optional 20in rims and low-profile tyres of our test car added challenges for the damping and steering systems that they could evidently have done without. But overall, the F-Pace delivers here.
It’s simply a keener, more poised and more precise car in which to take a bit of enjoyment from your journey than any other SUV in the class.
Which, of course, it cannot be without also imposing a bit of compromise. The suspension does feel firm and makes for a ride quality that’s a bit un-Jaguar-like at times: jittery, bouncy and underdamped through sudden undulations and – on those 20in rims, at least – a bit clunky and abrupt over broken surfaces. Other SUVs are notably more comfortable.
But we mustn’t castigate Jaguar here for not having made just another Discovery Sport or GLC, and we won’t. Because when you sweep the F-Pace into a corner, it turns more immediately than all of its rivals, grips harder, pivots its hips a bit and has a neutral cornering balance about it.
It does almost everything it needs to in order to distinguish itself as a true driver’s car. However, the F-Pace deserves slightly qualified praise as a driver’s car for several reasons. The first you’ll have read about in the preceding section. Secondly, the steering is evidently a work in progress. The ZF electromechanical rack must be working harder here than when we encountered it in the sublime-handling XF, and you can tell.
There’s much less contact patch feel available than in the XF, a slight sense of elasticity, friction and fuzziness to its response off-centre and a disappointing shortage of centre feel that can make the car a tiny bit wayward on the motorway. The steering needs greater development, in other words – and, from Jaguar, you can rest assured that it’ll get as much.
It’s only when you start to really throw the F-Pace around that you appreciate what it inherits from the F-Type sports car.
The car’s DSC system is fully switchable, as it is in all Jaguars, and its grip is balanced in order to allow some lateral slip from the rear axle. So where most 4x4s are a bit soft and steadfastly stable, always and in every circumstance running out of adhesion at the front wheels first, the F-Pace’s chassis will respond with a fairly languid outward sweep of its rear wheels when you deliberately unload the mass from them on turn-in.