David Motton

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Let's get to grips with Jaguar's hotly anticipated first SUV and find out what tow car ability it has, and if it's a practical choice for your holidays

Overview

For Jaguar, the F-Pace is a whole new chapter.

It’s the first SUV in the company’s history, and has proven to be the fastest-selling Jag ever.

The range starts with the 180PS 2.0-litre diesel, an engine we’ve already driven in the Land Rover Discovery Sport. The most powerful engine variant is the 380PS 3.0-litre supercharged petrol.

In between – and hopefully combining acceptable economy with swift performance – is the 300PS 3.0-litre diesel tested here. And we are very excited to see what tow car ability it has!

This 3.0-litre diesel F-Pace will have to make a very compelling tow car to justify its price-tag, especially when the more a•ffordable 2.0-litre diesel will be powerful enough for many caravanners.

Towing

The F-Pace’s spec sheet has most of the features we look for in a high-end tow car.

It has a beefy diesel engine with enough pulling power to cope with any sensible match, and frankly plenty of less-than-sensible ones, too.

Plus it has a healthy kerbweight of 1884kg, so there’s a wide choice of caravans even if you take a belt-and-braces approach to outfit-matching and follow the 85% matching guideline.

The legal maximum is 2400kg, although we wouldn’t recommend towing a tourer weighing more than the kerbweight even if you have years of experience. Last but not least, it has four-wheel drive to deliver its power effectively.

To put it to the test, we matched the Jaguar to a Swift Conqueror 645, with a Mass in Running Order of 1615kg. That’s an 86% match for the F-Pace.

Some cars have enough pulling power for towing. A few have far more than you really ever need. The 3.0-litre diesel F-Pace is definitely in the latter category.

The first thing that strikes you is just how little throttle is needed to accelerate briskly. Push the pedal harder and the F-Pace absolutely flies, pulling the Swift from 30-60mph in just 7.3 seconds.

The manner of its pace is every bit as impressive as the speed itself, with smooth and quick gearchanges from the automatic ’box (there’s no manual option). Even when the engine becomes more vocal at high revs it rests easy on the ears.

There are paddles behind the wheel so that drivers can take charge for themselves, although the eight-speed auto does such a good job they’re an indulgence rather than a necessity.

There’s something very satisfying about towing with a car that has a surplus of power, but of course stability matters far more than outright pace.

At the motorway limit the F-Pace is serene. You know you are towing because you can see the tourer in your mirrors, but there are few other sensations to remind you. The Jaguar simply tracks straight and true, without the slight bobbles and wobbles felt in many tow cars.

With one proviso, it handled our manoeuvres at the test track just as well. The hill-start posed little real challenge, with the electronic parking brake holding car and caravan still then releasing smoothly. The Jaguar pulled to the top of the 1-in-10 slope at low revs with no sign of wheelspin, even on a damp hill.

The lane-change was also well within the F-Pace’s abilities; the Jaguar changed direction quickly, with little lean and lots of grip. Although the caravan moved around behind it, the Jaguar wasn’t pulled off line.

The only disappointment was the braking test. The Jaguar took 13 metres to stop car and caravan from 30mph. That’s excused to some extent by the very wet track surface, but we recorded a shorter stopping distance the same day towing the same caravan behind a Ford Edge.

So-so braking in heavy rain is the only thing standing between the F-Pace and a five-star score for towing. In other respects it’s right up with the best SUVs we’ve towed with.

Everyday driving

Without a caravan behind, the Jaguar F-Pace is even more enjoyable to drive. With so much power and torque it’s very quick indeed in a straight line, but the engine is just as happy to settle into the background when you are driving more gently.

There are two systems that work in tandem to tailor the car’s behaviour. Jaguar Drive Control alters the throttle and gearbox responses and adjusts the weight of the steering.

In the most aggressive mode there’s a lot more heft to the wheel, and greater sensitivity to the throttle. In tamer settings the car is easier to drive smoothly, but still more than lively enough for most everyday driving conditions.

S-spec models, such as our test car, also come with Adaptive Dynamics, which alters the suspension damping. It works brilliantly.

The sportiest settings deliver handling to beat any SUV, with the possible exception of the Porsche Macan. We’d need to drive them back to back to be sure, but from memory, the lighter Macan changes direction with a little more eagerness.

The more relaxed suspension settings deliver a surprisingly compliant ride. In fact, ride comfort is remarkable when you consider that our test car came with optional 22in alloys (an eye-watering £1600). We suspect that cars riding on the standard 20in alloys would be even more supple.

Those big wheels and tyres generate quite a bit of road noise, but otherwise the Jaguar F-Pace is quiet and refined at motorway speeds. It really is a superb car for solo driving.

Space

Now we know what tow car talent the F-Pace has, we need to know if it is practical, too. We are pleased to report that there is plenty of space for a family of four and their luggage.

The driver sits closer to the floor than in most SUVs, giving a position that’s partway between a typical 4x4 and the low-slung seating of one of Jaguar’s saloons. There’s enough adjustment to the seat and wheel to keep drivers of most shapes and sizes comfortable.

The dashboard and steering wheel look sporty, but in truth the standard of finish lags behind that of an Audi Q5 or Mercedes-Benz GLC. The Merc in particular has a more upmarket feel to its cabin.

There is plenty of space in the Jag, though, with more rear legroom than you’d find in the Q5, the GLC or the Macan. There are air vents between the front seats to keep those in the back supplied with chilled or warm air, as well as a 12V socket and two USB ports.

However, despite the Jaguar’s size and width, the rear seats are more comfortable for two rather than three because the tall and wide transmission tunnel gets in the way of the feet.

Boot space is very generous. The 650-litre luggage capacity is 100 litres larger than a Merc GLC’s, for example.

With it being a 4x4, you do have to lift heavy items quite high to load them, but otherwise the F-Pace is a good alternative to a big estate car.

With the rear seats folded (easily done using levers on either side of the tailgate) there’s a slight slope to the load floor, but the space increases to 1740 litres.

Although a better four-seater than a five-seater, the Jaguar F-Pace makes a very practical 4x4.

Running costs

In this guise, the Jaguar F-Pace is a very expensive car. The list price is £52,300, and What Car? research suggests that discounts will be hard to come by. Compare that with £45,942 for a Porsche Macan Diesel S.

As capable as the 30d AWD S is, there’s better value further down the F-Pace range. Prices for the 180PS (178bhp) diesel start from £35,020 for the rear-wheel-drive manual, and the cheapest 4x4 auto costs £38,710 with the same engine.

If you do decide to reach all the way to the bottom of a very deep pocket, F-Pace S buyers enjoy a long list of equipment as standard.

Safety kit includes autonomous emergency braking, trailer stability control, six airbags, whiplash protection, a lane departure warning system and mounting points for two Isofix child seats.

In terms of luxury touches and technology, there’s an 8in touchscreen, front and rear parking sensors, a rear-view camera, in-car Wi-Fi, a DAB radio, a 380W stereo, dual-zone climate control, satellite navigation and more.

For such a fast and heavy car, fuel bills should be bearable. You’ll need a light right foot to get near the official combined economy figure of 47.1mpg, though. We saw a reasonable 25.4mpg while towing.

What Car? predicts that the F-Pace will be worth 51% of the original price after three years and 36,000 miles. That’s much better than most new cars, but some way off the 63% that the Porsche Macan Diesel S should hold on to.

Technical specs

Engine size2993 cc
Kerbweight1884 kg
85% KW1601 kg
Towball limit100 kg
Maximum towing limit2400 kg
Power296.0 bhp
Torque515.0 lb ft
Official MPG47.1 mpg
CO2159 g/km
30-60mph7.3 seconds
30-0mph13 m

Verdict

It’s been a while since we enjoyed towing with a big SUV this much.

Any worry that the F-Pace would be a Land Rover with a Jaguar badge can be dismissed. The F-Pace drives like a true Jag.

Putting the question of value to one side for a moment, the 3.0-litre diesel makes a superb tow car.

It had so much in reserve when towing a 1600kg caravan – both in terms of performance and inherent stability – that as experienced tow car drivers we wouldn’t hesitate to pull closer to 100% of the kerbweight. The only black mark in the towing portion of our test was the so-so wet-weather stopping distance.

As a solo drive, the F-Pace is up with the very best SUVs. With the adaptive suspension, the balance of ride and handling is just about as good as it gets.

This is a car that’s comfortable on the motorway, relaxing in traffic, and a hoot to drive when the road clears.

The Jag is practical, too. Adults can travel in comfort in the back of the car and luggage room is excellent. In fact, other than the lofty height of the boot floor, the F-Pace is just as practical as any large estate.

However, having towed with the less-powerful 180PS 2.0-litre diesel engine in the Land Rover Discovery Sport, we know that this unit is comfortably up to the job of pulling large single-axle caravans. And it’s considerably more economical and cheaper to buy than this version.

But if the 3.0-litre diesel S version is within your budget, you won’t regret buying it.

Conclusion

Pros

  • The 3.0-litre diesel engine is effortlessly powerful
  • Stability when towing is first class
  • It's great to drive, with or without a caravan in tow
  • Cabin and boot space are both excellent

Cons

  • It's not cheap!
  • Cabin quality doesn't quite match that of its rivals
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