Jaguar has created its first crossover SUV, the F-Pace, that aims to offers the size and comfort of a larger car while still delivering the driving performance and luxury you'd expect from a Jag. Jaguar calls it a practical performance car.

The F-Pace joins a busy market where crossover vehicles are cropping up from many manufacturers. Competition from the Porsche Macan, Audi Q5 and BMW X3 – all more established in this range – makes it an uphill struggle... which is something this 4x4 should be well suited to handle, right?

Extras like a wearable keyless entry bracelet and smart InControl Touch Pro infotainment system should give this a technological edge over the competition. And starting at £35,000 it's a lot of car for the price, clearly undercutting the £43,000 Porsche Macan.

We took the F-Pace onto the road to see if Jaguar's first crossover SUV is here to leave the competition behind.

Jaguar has built the F-Pace to straddle the line between luxury, comfort, and sports performance – something that's difficult to do in a large SUV. It certainly looks the part with a blend of aggression, high ride prowess and plenty of space.

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Looking at the F-Pace front-on, that aggressive look of a Jag is not lost on the larger build. The grille is grand while the bonnet behind is powerfully angular. This is accented by the iconic J-blade shaped LED headlights which give a futuristic feel to the face. It doesn't look wide despite offering plenty of room inside.

From the side the car looks tall enough to be classed as a capable SUV but still has enough of a haunch to deliver a look of performance. Sitting on 22-inch alloy forged wheels, a first for Jaguar, is just the icing on the cake. Although if you want winter tyres from Jag then you'll be limited to 20-inch wheels – which come on most models other than the First Edition line.

The rear features the F-Type brake lighting with those iconic eye-like tail lamps. The rear screen is small for a sporty finish but large and well placed enough to work effectively while driving – and there's an optional rear camera should you need that too. The twin chrome tailpipes, which sound great, help make the car look even more sporty.

With 15-years of aerodynamics research this car benefits from a drag coefficient of just 0.34, impressive for an SUV. This is needed to make sure all the weight of this car doesn't slow it down - but more about that in the handling section later.

Get inside the cabin and you're met with all the luxury and comfort you'd expect from a Jaguar. Central to the dash is the 12.3-inch virtual instrument cluster plus 10.2-inch central touchscreen to the side featuring InControl Touch Pro for interactions.

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This is all surrounded by leather and a suede-like ceiling for a cosy yet functional finish. There is very little plastic to be found and there aren't too many buttons as Jaguar clearly isn't afraid of allowing touch controls to offer plenty of options. We're probably a bit more afraid though: using a touchscreen while driving isn't as safety conscious as the likes of BMW's dash-based control in our view, plus the deep menus on the digital screen can get distracting if you're on the move. However, the Jag's wheel has enough buttons to do pretty much anything you could need while driving.

The driving position feels low enough to give a sporty character, but the designers have managed to give a high ride view that you'd expect from an SUV. We're not going to try to understand how it works, but it does.

The rear seats offer plenty of legroom, deliver the widest rear space in the class, and there's ample headroom too. It doesn't feel like the rear was an afterthought, as even the rear seats have electrically reclining options. That space continues into the boot where there's a hefty 650-litre luggage compartment with auto tailgate.

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The final point has to be made about that gorgeous Cesium Blue exterior pain job. Sadly it's only available on the £65,000 First Edition models, the sold-out limited edition 2,000 run that you won't be able to buy. So here's hoping Jag lets that paint pot lose again in the near future.

Under the hood of the F-Pace there's enough power to throw this sizeable car about. The top end S line, starting at £50,000, features a 3.0-litre V6 petrol engine that's supercharged to offer a 0-62mph time of 5.5-seconds thanks to a hefty 380bhp. There are also 300bhp 3.0-litre V6 diesel (same price) and entry-level 180bhp 2.0-litre Ingenium diesel engine options - the latter being not-so-hot, as we found in the XE R-Sport model.

We took out the 380 model initially. This is the same engine as used in the F-Type and therefore has a lot of the glorious sound of that sports car. In F-Pace form it isn't as tuned and the exhaust isn't as loud, but it still has enough snarl to make revving a lot of fun. That said if you switch out of sport mode it purrs gently enough to make long drives comfortably quiet. Put your foot down in normal mode, though, and most of the power is still there (just with more lag).

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Onto handling. Thanks to a magnesium front-end carrier, steel doors and composite tailgate, there's a near perfect 50/50 weight distribution. That makes for a balanced handling and performance experience. The lateral stiffness is 50 per cent greater than that of the Porsche Macan, claims Jaguar, which results in tight handling. In the real-world that translates to a lot of fun.

We threw the F-Pace about and it just kept hanging on. Sure, all the automated power doesn't leave you feeling that directly in control, even with traction control off, but it's still fun. This car lets you feel like you're racing as it clings onto corners as though on rails. For some it might feel too safe but for most it will provide fun without too much of the risk. Going downhill, in the wet, on a hairpin and we got a wheel to spin a bit once but without any real loss of road position.

Thanks to the Integral Link rear suspension the F-Pace is still able to absorb bumps for a comfy ride. Yet somehow manages to offer tight enough steering for a hair-raising drive. Jaguar is the king of steering though, just as we said of the XE R-Sport.

READ: Jaguar XE R-Sport review

The F-Pace is built for all conditions, meaning it offers all-wheel-drive to handle off-road situations. Not that most will take it off the tarmac. But it's well equipped there thanks to Intelligent Driveline Dynamics, as developed for the F-Type, so car can essentially handle as a rear-wheel drive machine most of the time. It knows when power needs to be moved to the front for grip and applies it as necessary.

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This is a brilliant way of offering a driver's experience while also keeping the car safely on the road and maintaining fuel economy. It's accessible for anyone but there to take those who need it that extra bit further into a thrilling driving experience.

A good example of this balance is All Surface Progress Control mode. This controls throttle and brakes for a smooth pull away, while all you do is steer. But for those who want a bit more control there's Low-Friction Launch which maps the throttle – so even when using the pedal the driver is assisted by the car to avoid slip. Of course there's manual mode too for those who want total control.

These layers of control are brilliantly balanced to appeal to everyone depending on the situation or mood. We loved the All Surface Progress Control for a really steep off-road climb and descent where we didn't even need to touch the pedals – it was so easy it felt like cheating gravity.

If you do head off the beaten path, the Adaptive Surface Response system, first developed for the XF, can be used to deliver power intelligently. There is even a mode for gravel and deep snow, should you find yourself caught out. We went off-road onto some steep grass verges and loose gravel surfaces and the car handled them with ease.

Dynamic settings can be adjusted from the screen, thus allowing you to switch dynamic control on or off. So if you want sport mode for tight handling but don't want the car revving so high, you can turn the engine to normal mode, for example.

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One of the rare and unique offerings of the F-Pace is its Activity Key, that comes with the £39,000 and above spec models. This is a wristband that's totally waterproof and uses RFID transmission. Leave your main keys in the car and they will be deactivated so the car is only looking for the band to unlock and wake the vehicle. The nice thing here is it's so light to wear that you don't notice it, so even when practising sport it can be left on without thought. So you can pull up to a beach, leave valuables in the car, jump in the sea and feel truly free. A wonderful accolade for such a simple little device.

The optional heads-up display (HUD), unlike traditional offerings, uses lasers. This means the image that bounces back off the window and, therefore, should be brighter and clearer. Team Pocket-lint is in contention about this: in the F-Pace we agree it's colourful and visible in sunlight, whereas in the XE R-Sport we found it mediocre and the data – it shows speed, speed limit, gear and sat-nav turn-by-turns – too crammed together. The UI is really nice, it just needs some work yet.

The F-Pace is smart enough to spot pedestrians using front-facing cameras, which means the car will brake for you should it need to. Luckily we didn't need to find out how well this worked, although the forward braking warning and lane-keep assist helped a few times, especially when enjoying adaptive cruise control.

The cubby box unit is kitted out for connectivity with two USB ports, a 12-volt socket, and HDMI for streaming video to the main car display. Even the rear has two more 12V sockets and two USB ports so everyone can be connected with power, enjoying the car's 3G Wi-Fi connection. We found the car's aerial to find strong signal even when our phone had none at all.

Customisable screens with pinch-to-zoom and swipe controls work like a tablet, but even faster. The split-screen is useful to keep navigation on one side while the passenger can look up other data or control music on the rest of the display.

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Navigation gives a Google Streetview-style visual of the destination and will even check fuel against the route to let you know if you can make it in one trip. You can share the journey data, like arrival time, over messaging to others, directly from the app. The nav is also smart enough to pull in a route you found on the app in your phone, allow you to send it to whoever you're visiting and it will then text them if you get stuck in traffic.

The InControl Touch Pro platform still sports over 20 apps but this could be even more impressive in the future as Jaguar opens its car sensors to developers.

Overall, the InControl system is a big and welcome step forward compared to Jaguar's setup of old. For speed, clarity and premium feel, both BMW's Pro Media system and Audi's MMI+ still better it though – and work via a rotary controller which we think is safer and preferable to touchscreen when on the move.

First Impressions

To own a Jaguar was once a luxury reserved for the few who could afford it. Even then it meant either opting for extravagant luxury or raw sports power. Now in the F-Pace, Jaguar has discovered a way to offer everything it is good at all in one package – and one that's relatively affordable in its class.

The F-Pace enters the busy market of crossover vehicles with a complete package. It can work for those seeking a functional and spacious SUV, while also offering the power, handling and fun of a sportier machine – all tied together with future-proofed tech that's a big step beyond older Jag tech installs.

Of course for every feature – like that throaty 3.0-litre V6, or extras like 22-inch rims and the Active Key – you'll need to shell out extra for the higher-end specification. But for someone wanting the Jag badge and much of the luxury, comfort and reliable handling you'd expect, the entry-level price will get you more than enough to impress.