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A quiet roar and a loud purr

The problem with big cars is that they tend to be expensive to run and terrible for CO2 emissions. Their comfort and space often have to be balanced with bulk and weight. But if you want something with the size and roominess of an SUV, but with the quickness and agility of a sports car, meet Jaguar’s new performance crossover, the 2016 F-PACE.

The Jaguar F-PACE is designed and engineered to be agile, responsive and refined, combining the best of Jaguar’s tradition of making stylish performance automobiles with the modern versatility that only cutting-edge technology can provide. With an innovative aluminium frame and a powerful yet efficient V6 engine, the F-PACE has the functionality and comfort of an SUV and the lightness and ease of a much smaller vehicle. We borrowed one for a week and had a damn hard time giving it back.

ROOM TO MOVE AND SURPRISINGLY EFFICIENT

First of all, this thing is huge. Well, not huge like a two-tonne truck so much as roomy like a tiny apartment – five seats with enough room for both lanky types and toddlers in bulky car seats, plus a boot loaded with strollers, sports stuff and reusable shopping bags stuffed inside other reusable shopping bags. There’s no kitchenette though. But it’s comfortable, with a different little electronic switch to cater to every kink in your back and an ultra-precise AC system to appease the most temperature-controlling among us.

But, unlike most big cars, it doesn’t drive like a small house. It’s surprisingly light and responsive, zipping in and out of traffic with an easy agility. That’s probably due to a combination of Jaguar’s Lightweight Aluminium Architecture – which the F-PACE is the first performance crossover to utilise – or the surprisingly efficient 280kW V6 engine (which is ‘supercharged’ too, so gets to 100km/h in five-and-a-half seconds if you need that kind of thing, but that probably uses a lot more gas) and can achieve CO2 emissions of just 139g/km.

THE LOOK

Jaguars have always had a distinctive aesthetic – European, but distinctly British. There’s something refined and subdued about them. They’re sporty, without being racy. And although its shape and style is completely modern, the F-PACE retains the classic Jaguar lines and accents. If the classic Jags of popular imagination look a little like Sean Connery’s James Bond, the F-PACE is Daniel Craig’s Bond – bigger, harder and a little more rough-and-tumble.

“By remaining true to our design principles the all-new F-PACE is immediately recognisable as a Jaguar,” says Jaguar director of design, Ian Callum. “It offers all of the interior space you would expect – and more – but because of our disciplined approach to surfaces, proportions, and purity of line, we have designed what I consider to be the most balanced, most attractive vehicle in its class.”

NO HANDS! NO KEYS! (WELL, KIND OF)

Before we even drove it, the first thing that surprised us about the 2016 Jaguar F-PACE is that there’s no key. Well, there is a key, but it doesn’t have to be put anywhere in particular, which may not be ‘new’, but if it’s been awhile since you’ve driven a car with this year’s date on the registration, it’ll be new to you.

You can unlock the car by reaching into your jacket pocket and pressing a button. Take your seat, press another button and the car starts. It takes a little getting used to, especially on the other side where you just press the same button and get out. And, if you're an adventurous type, Jaguar can provide an 'activity key' – a battery-less, waterproof wristband that unlocks the doors for you so you don't have to have the keys flapping around in your shorts while you run through the woods (or whatever it is you do).

The same hands-free convenience works with your phone too. Once you’ve paired your phone via Bluetooth, you can make calls, read texts (but you probably shouldn’t respond to them until you arrive), and listen to your favourite podcasts, all without taking your phone out of your jeans. And whatever you’re listening to stops when you close the door and then starts again from the same spot when you start the car again.

And if you want to do more than just listen to whatever you were already listening to, you can operate everything through the InControl Touch Pro connectivity system, with a 10.2-inch touchscreen and a user interface and navigation system that’s intuitive enough to make sure you keep your eyes on the road.

SAFETY FIRST (AND EASY PARKING TOO)

Not only has the F-PACE been engineered to satisfy the world’s most stringent safety standards, its Autonomous Emergency Braking system, which features a pedestrian detection function, not only keeps you safe, but the people around you too. (Full disclosure: We didn’t, of course, come close to hitting anyone so didn’t see this feature in action, but take Jaguar’s word for it.)

And its cutting-edge stereo camera front and back helps you squeeze in and out of the most difficult of parks. Get too close to a wall or another car and the car beeps at you at an ever increasing pace, keeping you on your toes. And when you put it in reverse to parallel park, it automatically lowers the driver’s side rear-view mirror so you can get as close as possible to the footpath, which is especially useful when parking right next to the outdoor tables of a cafe. We got into parks so tight, they were almost Tweetable.

Jaguar F-PACE, we’ll miss you.

This article has been sponsored.