As a kid, the coolest cat I remember was Top Cat or T.C to his close friends. Sporting a Mauve pork pie hat and waistcoat, he and his gang of alley cats (Benny the Ball, Choo-Choo, Brain, Fancy-Fancy & Spook), ruled Manhattan from their home base in Hoagy’s Alley, pulling high-jinx and tormenting Officer Charlie Dibble nearly every episode. It was all innocent fun (even the theme tune still brings a smile to my face) as T.C led his gang of lovable rogues from one scheme to another, outsmarting everyone as they went. Several decades later and I have just met another cool cat, not a cartoon character this time, however, the Jaguar F-Pace 25D R-Sport is equally as smart and very, very talented.
It’s been a good, no strike that, it’s been a great year for the Jaguar F-PACE. Picking up awards for both World Car Design of the Year for its good looks (and its drag coefficient of 0.34) and World Car of the Year for, well, everything else. With a choice of Diesel or Petrol engines and range of five different styles each designed to suit specific owner demands, it’s a performance SUV from a brand with a strong racing pedigree, a prestigious British marque with a hint of rogue about it.
With such a large variety of options, you’d think that that was all she wrote, but it would appear that just like TC, the F-PACE still has a couple more tricks up its sleeve.
The new 25D R-Sport has been created to fill that sweet spot between their grunty V6 petrol and the torquey 2L diesel, it essentially ups the power without sacrificing the efficiency or CO2 gasses for that matter (153g/km). The 2L 4 cylinder twin turbo diesel engine produces 177kW of power with a huge 500Nm of torque and will get you from 0-100kph in a mere 7.2s – that’s quick enough for a sedan, let alone a large 5 seater SUV!
With its award-winning design credentials, the body, of course, remains as is. It still has its assertive front end, with a dominant grille (complete with satin chrome surround) and sharp crease lines that align itself easily with the F-TYPE family that it associates. The nose also features Jaguar’s signature ‘J’ Blade daytime running lights, and that menacing headlight overhang.
However, since the model I had was the R-Sport spec, my SUV had a distinctive lean towards a more athletic kerb appeal. Unique front bumpers with larger air intakes and side power vents. Body-coloured door claddings with satin black finishers, gloss black window surrounds and it’s all connected the to the road with tidy 19” alloy wheels.
Heading into the driver’s seats I was greeted with metal R-Sport tread plates and an R-Sport steering wheel – all very flash. The cabin itself has the upmarket theme I was expecting from a brand such as Jaguar. The line on top of the dashboard gently curves from door to door making you feel more cocooned, and accents of high gloss blacks and chromes are everywhere. One thing of particular note is the volume dial on the centre console, it clicks like a dial on a safe – see, it’s the little things that keep me entertained.
On the subject of entertainment, the 25D’s 8” touchscreen projects Jaguar’s InControl suite. The sounds are powerful, easy smartphone connection with apps and the Navigation is very clear (as is the reversing camera).
The rest of the interior is very utilisable. Depending on family size and what you are looking to transport, the 40:20:40 rear seat configuration is very adaptable and can be controlled from the rear, it has a low loading height, a wide boot opening and (with all seats flat) an expansive space of 1,740 litres to play with.
On the road, its lightweight aluminium architecture feels solid and firm but not teeth judderingly so. It’s responsive in its cornering (the smart Torque Vectoring Technology helps out here too) and strong under brakes – which is reassuring. In normal driving mode, the 8-speed auto gearbox is slick and smooth, almost sedate, however, I did spend much of my time in ‘Dynamic’ and Sport – The F-PACE’s purr is greater there.
The F-PACE is big enough to handle the family or ‘gang’and comfortable for long runs or tours, but it’s also manageable enough to fit down side streets and alleys. It’s hard to be clear why; but this SUV seems to have an intuitive feel about it, both from a driving and driver’s point of view. Again it’s the little things, like the cubby hole for the smartphone is central and under the dash (not behind you or too small to fit bigger screens) and all the controls are positioned well. Mind you, I still have trouble with the position of the electric window buttons (they are up near where my elbow rests).
With his quick thinking and smart mouth, T.C was the ‘Indisputable leader of the gang’ and ‘the most tip top, Top Cat’. From an F-PACE point of view, with 500Nm the 25D has more than enough torque/talk to get it in and out of trouble – and with 5.8L/100km Efficiency it can go the distance when it comes to ‘walking the walk’. Depending on your personal preference, it may not be the leader of the pack but it’s more than certainly a welcome member of the gang – Benny the Ball would be proud!