Montenegro is known for three things; It’s home to the most beautiful women in the world, highest number of contracted assassins and the most engaging roads you have ever seen. Just the perfect conditions for sampling Jaguar’s first Sports Utility Crossover, The F-PACE.
I know what you are thinking, why would Jaguar hop into the SUV bandwagon yet it’s cousin Land Rover ably represents the family in this sector?
It is predicted that nearly half of all car sales in the next decade will consist of Sports Utility Vehicles. Already niche rivals like BMW, Mercedes and Porsche are ripping huge profits primarily due to SUV sales, which brings me to the question, why F-PACE?
After a brief hop from Farnborough in the UK, we arrived at Montenegro’s second largest airport Tivat, in a private charter flight, full of my fellow scribes from all over the world.
We were whisked away to the start point of the event at a ferry. As we boarded the ferry, we were first treated to a spectacular view, a dozen F-PACE SUV’s flush parked on both sides of the deck.
Think of the F-PACE as the ‘Daniel Craig’ of the vehicle world – it’ll take care of ‘Queen and Country’ while eliciting the kind of cravings usually the reserve of randy adolescents.
The front profile is distinctively Jaguar; the upright grille, rectangular headlamps with the J-signature Day Time Running Lamps instantly evokes memories of the new XE and XF. The side profile illustrates the design team’s desire to create an athletic look and feel. Bulging fenders and bonnet brings it’s butch and aggressive feline nature. At the back, there are elements of the F-TYPE, particularly the tail lamp profile.
Step inside and instantly experience British contemporary luxury in its finest form. Extensive use of suede and stitched leather on various surfaces highlights the premium nature of the vehicle.
The bolstered seats which are electrically adjusted for comfort, are quite comfortable and supportive. There’s loads of head and leg room up front but taller passengers will find it a bit squeezed at the back.
Granted the digitized instruments look great, adapting their visuals to different drive settings– sport, economy and comfort– and the large 10.2-inch touch operated infotainment widescreen, is a big improvement on the previous unit developed by Jaguar.
Jaguar will offer four engine derivatives in the F PACE, starting with the frugal 4-cylinder Ingenium petrol and diesel units plus the two Sterling 6-cylinder Supercharged petrol and twin blown diesel units.
My top pick was the 3.0-litre supercharged V6. Its sharp throttle response and throaty mid-range exhaust note sounded amazing especially as we roared through the numerous tunnels; we giggled and laughed all the way like a bunch of excited lads.
The torque-rich 221kW turbo-diesel V6 was easier to squeeze out performance from and was my pick of the two heavy-hitters.
It delivers heart-wrenching 700Nm of raw pulling power from as low as 1700 RPMs!
Ride and Handling proposition
Despite it being benchmarked with the Porsche Macan, it offers a balance between ride comfort and precise handling, something the Macan is short of.
It was my turn to experience the F PACE after the lunch break. The route included ascending to the top peaks of the Mountain range, which were by the way covered by fast melting snow. It became a race against time-machine versus nature!
As I hammered the F-PACE on the twisty mountain road, mild body roll is evident when turning into sharper corners with the adaptive dampers set to the firmer ‘Dynamic’ mode.
It’s a beast through open, sweeping corners, where it chews up long journeys with ease. Push it hard and you experience mild understeer. To counter that, the F-PACE has an intuitive rear wheel biased, All Wheel Drive system that constantly measures grip levels via the All Surface Control System and corrects understeer by activating Torque Vectoring by Braking, to correct the understeer.
Suspension set up
The F-PACE’s ability to soak up bumps, imperfections and keep all occupants in the lap of luxury is almost without peer. As we cruised downhill, the road surface changed from tarmac to murram.
The front Double wishbone and rear integral link unit with adaptive dampers, work in tandem to ensure a dynamic and supple ride in the F-PACE. As we wound up the drive experience and approached our 15th century inspired accommodation at Sveti Stefan, I couldn’t help but think how capable the F PACE is on any surface. Brilliant job Jaguar.
Dripping with Technology
Soon after check-in, it was dinner time, sampling the best Montenegrin delicacies while we discussed how the drive was with Jaguar executives. I happened to sit next to the person in charge of in-car connectivity.
He did mention the F-PACE has more than 12 driver assistance functions, including Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB) with pedestrian detection as standard.
Jaguar’s InControl system provides a 360-degree approach in relation to connectivity. It connects the occupants to the internet via a Wi-Fi hotspot, secures the vehicle via InControl Secure, which alerts you of vehicle intrusion, arms the vehicle and tracks and traces it via GPS.
Wearable technology makes its debut the F-PACE, as you can check the vehicle status remotely and even crank the engine via the Jaguar mobile app and unlock the vehicle using the Apple Watch. Too cool!
Day two of the drive experience saw us driving touring the national park, which had alpine vegetation all the way to the top. As we stopped for a coffee stop, we sat down and had a very heated discussion; is the F-PACE the silver bullet for Jaguar?
In my opinion, Jaguar’s first crossover may not set a new benchmark in the luxury SUV segment, but it’s still a very accomplished vehicle that will undoubtedly bring new customers into the fold.
Unlike its competition, it indeed offers everyday practicality and still has the soul of a sports car.
Overall It was an amazing experience and as the Bombardier CRJ took off, I appreciated Montenegro’s challenging geography; Jaguar really wanted us to experience the unusual, the F-PACE!