There£€™s an old adage among motoring journalists that the worse the car the more exotic location it will be launched in. Think Ladas in Monte Carlo, Peroduas in Portugal. Jaguar launched its new F-Pace sports utility in very poor Montenegro, once part of former communist Yugoslavia. Make of that what you will, but I have been driving some in the more likely surroundings of the Cotswolds.
And one thing is sure, the F-Pace will become the fastest selling Jaguar ever because this time Jaguar is building something the public want rather than what it thinks it should make. Of course, the F-Pace should have been built years ago. The Porsche Cayenne arrived in 2002 and Jaguar was considering 4x4s before that but felt they did not suit its image.
The Cayenne become a cash cow with sales outpacing the 911 and Boxster sports cars and even led to the smaller Porsche Macan. Such is the demand for taller cars with some rough road ability that Bentley and Maserati have joined the club and Aston Martin and Rolls-Royce won£€™t be far behind.
Even when brash Ford owned Jaguar and Land Rover it didn£€™t have the nerve, and probably the cash, to embark on the investment programme that has been followed by JLR£€™s Indian owners, Tata. The F-Pace is a big car; wider than a Lamborghini Huracan, so there£€™s plenty of space for people and a big, 650 litre boot.
Rear seat access is a bit tight though and the car£€™s shape means parking sensors are vital. It£€™s going to be chaos outside schools at drop-off and pick-up times. Prices start at a keen £34,170 and there£€™s a choice of two turbocharged diesel engines with 177 or 295bhp or a snorting 375bhp V6 petrol engine ripped from the F-Type.
But even the 2-litre diesel I tried came in at £40,360 and optional kit pushed the price to £44,770. The F-Pace is available with cartoonishly large 22in wheels that will appeal to the bling generation but even on these huge rims the ride was surprisingly acceptable most of the time.
All models are rather firmly sprung though and the wide tyres can kick up a most un-Jaguar like din. It isn£€™t a sports car but the F-Pace is sportier and more agile to drive than a Land Rover so the two shouldn£€™t fight for sales.
Left to its own devices the eight-speed automatic gearbox can get confused and a pal had a close call trying to nip out of a junction. But take charge with the paddle changes on the steering column and it£€™s a more responsive proposition.
The 3-litre turbo diesel S (£51,450) on £1,600 extra 22in wheels felt a big bus and not that involving to drive despite configurable dynamics mode. Its Ford-Peugeot engine sounded quite gruff but delivered deceptively rapid performance.
Using Jaguar£€™s own engine, the 2-litre diesel R-Sport on 20in wheels (£1,200 extra) felt the best balanced of the cars I drove and if you select sport mode for the gearbox and the dynamics control it really comes alive if you take it by the scruff of the neck but drive it with precise inputs.
Fuel consumption dropped to 32mpg though compared to the official 53.3mpg and neither car has an inspiring engine note. I think you would need to go to the expense of adaptive suspension (£960) to make it feel£ as nimble as a Porsche Macan and that would help the low speed ride on poor surfaces.
The dashboard isn£€™t that attractive and a bit low rent in places but overall it£€™s a good cabin.
Verdict The Jaguar so many have been waiting for. A winner.