I drove a $63,000 Jaguar F-PACE SUV to see how it compares to the $72,000 original -- here's the verdict

Matthew DeBord/BISuch a great looking ride.
  • A few years ago, we enjoyed the then-all-new JaguarF-PACE SUV so much that we named it a BI Car of the Year runner-up.
  • We recently had a chance to sample the 2018 F-PACE 30t Portfolio LE, which is a less expensive version with a smaller engine.
  • The Jaguar F-PACE 30t we tested prices at $US63,000.
  • It can go from 0-60 mph in under six seconds and has a turbocharged four-banger that cranks out 296 horsepower.
  • The 30t goes up against the BMW X3, the Mercedes GLC, Audi’s Q5, and the Range Rover Evoque.
  • In its segment, the F-PACE really stands out.

The F-PACE is the first-ever SUV from Jaguar. We got our first taste of this new big cat in 2016, and we were so smitten that we name the F-PACE a runner-up for Business Insider Car of the Year.

Enter 2018 and another crack at a slightly different trim level of the F-PACE. In 2016, we sampled a vehicle that had a 3.0-litre, supercharged V6 under the hood, making 380 horsepower. More recently, we borrowed a 2018 F-PACE 30t Portfolio LE. It can go from 0-60 mph in under six seconds and has a turbocharged four-banger that cranks out 296 horsepower.

This version of the SUV is a good example of what Jag is engaged in with its overall business strategy. For a long time, Jaguar occupied an odd space in the luxury firmament, kind of below the Ferraris of the world but above the BMWs. That changed a few years back when Jaguar jiggered its pricing to be more in the heart of the premium market. Mind you, the 30t isn’t cheap. But it isn’t as dear as some other high-end SUVs that are on sale.

Would we remain awed by the F-PACE? Read on to find out.

The F-PACE, designed by Jaguar’s Ian Callum, is simply the most beautiful SUV on the road. Our COTY runner-up was the “First Edition” trim level, and the colour was an alluring Caesium Blue. Only 275 were built.

Hollis Johnson

Now here’s the 2018 F-PACE 30t in classic British Racing Green. Same design, just a little less blacked out.

Matthew DeBord/BI

As I’ve noted before, an SUV is a rectangle with wheels, so to make one look this sharp is truly an aesthetic achievement.

Matthew DeBord/BI

The F-PACE pulls it off, with a design that’s elegant, aggressive, sporty, and yet purposeful.

Matthew DeBord/BI

The vehicle really is spectacular addition to the Leaping Cat brand, which had been previous noted for its superb sports cars.

Matthew DeBord/BI

No leaping car hood ornament, however. Fans of such things will have to be content with the rear badging.

Matthew DeBord/BI

As with our previous F-PACE, the 30t came equipped with a waterproof activity band that allows the driver to leave the keys in the car when pursuing outdoor adventures. the band makes use of the proximity sensor to unlock the vehicle.

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Some subtle flash on the fender.

Matthew DeBord/BI

So how do we feel about the name? We still don’t like it much. But we’ve gotten used to it.

Matthew DeBord/BI

The 30t configuration knocks about $US10,000 off the price tag of the more upscale, powerful F-PACE we tested in 2016.

Matthew DeBord/BI

Cargo space is impressive. I had no difficulty using the F-PACE to attend to my various suburban-dad duties.

Matthew DeBord/BI

The interior was simply gorgeous. British Racing Green is a favourite colour of mine and coupled with Sienna Tan “perforated Windsor” leather seats, it was a real winner. (The seats are heated and cooled.)

Matthew DeBord/BI

The panoramic moon roof was rolled into the price tag. In fact, our $US63,000 tester came with no options outside the Portfolio LE package.

Matthew DeBord/BI

The rear seats, as is the case with most SUVs in this segment, were comfortable and had their own climate controls — but the legroom wasn’t vast for adults.

Matthew DeBord/BI

The driver is presented with a leather-wrapped steering wheel, outfitted with the usual bevy of buttons to control vehicle functions; and a digital-analogue instrument cluster.

Matthew DeBord/BI

The power from the four-cylinder turbo is piped through an eight-speed transmission. The rotary shift knob rising on startup and retreats when you shut the SUB off. Note the glossy wood trim, as well.

Matthew DeBord/BI

The 10-inch TouchPro infotainment screen is, naturally, touch controlled. The system is easy to use, and although we’ve experienced some glitches with it in the past, I had no issues this time around.

Matthew DeBord/BI

The typical luxury-SUV connectivity is present. The F-PACE provides a wifi hotspot, Bluetooth device pairing is easy, and there are USB/AUX ports to fall back on.

The GPS navigation protocol has always worked well for me, and the 825-watt Meridian Surround Sound audio system was luscious, playing SiriusXM satellite radio, earthbound radio, or my own media.

So what about that smaller engine?

Matthew DeBord/BI

It pleased me. Fuel economy is adequate — 22 mpg city/27 highway/24 combined — and while there is a very slight amount of turbo lag, that can be overcome with a little throttle modulation.

Matthew DeBord/BI

The automatic transmission can be switched into manual mode and one can shift using the paddles behind the steering wheel (I didn’t actually do much of this because the eight-speed did a good job on its own).

Drive modes are Eco, Dynamic, Normal, and a foul-weather option that can optimise the all-wheel-drive system to deal with rain, snow, or ice.

So what’s the verdict?

Matthew DeBord/BI

Still the same gorgeous F-PACE, of course – even more so in Brit Green. Hubba!

So, a joy to behold. But also a joy to drive, with that less stout engine?

In a word, yes. The 0-60 mph sprint passes in under six seconds, so the 30t feels plenty quick. So quick, in fact, that would I’d argue its 296-horsepower turbo four punches above its weight. It comes off a 300-plus motor.

Into the corners, the 30t offers less burliness than the supercharged V6, but it remains perfectly composed. In addition to beauty, this Jag offers sporty capabilities and, most likely, pretty solid offroad performance. On bad road conditions, the AWD drive system suggested surefootedness, but I didn’t press matters.

The 30t provides the most powerful four-cylinder setup for the F-PACE, so if you can’t accept it, you’ll need to pay another $US10,000 to move up to a V6 model.

In its segment, the F-PACE really stands out – but the segment is crowded. BMW has the X3, Mercedes has the GLC, Audi has the Q5, and even corporate stablemate Land Rover has the Range Rover Evoque.

The F-PACE commends itself with style and sportiness and a pleasingly British take on the sporty SUV. There’s no reasons that utes have to be, you know, unattractive. The F-PACE has never been. And the 30t proves that Jaguar, formerly something of an upper-range luxury brand, can price this all-important vehicle (SUVs are hot sellers these days) to compete, and compete well.

The verdict, therefore, is that the F-PACE 30t is worth more than a look. It’s worth a second, third, fourth, fifth, and 10,000th look. Because if you get one, that’s what you’ll be doing when its parked in your driveway.

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