Jaguar F-Pace VS Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class
- Supermodel looks
- Even more super engine
- More practical than you might think
- Suspension can feel harsh
- Lacks rich exhaust note
- Options as far as the eye can see
- Better in every way than the A45
- Terrific front seats
- Relatively restrained looks
- Expensive servicing
- Some interior bits are cheap
- Getting old
New cars are all about sacrifice, right? If you want something sporty, then be prepared to suffer through storage space limited to your internal organs. If you want something practical, then you can kiss the idea of driving something stylish goodbye. And if you want something that can move lots of people, then you might as well head on down to your closest Crocs retailer now, as you clearly value practicality above all else.
But what if you want all three of those things, and all at once? Enter, then, the Jaguar F-Pace.
That Jaguar’s sexy SUV is easy on the eye is a given (I mean, just look at it), but with a supercharged V6 lurking under that shapely bonnet, this S 35t version is not short on performance either. And with oodles of room in both rows of seats, and a boot big enough to swallow an Ikea catalogue’s worth of flat-packed nonsense, it’s pretty damn practical, too.
So what’s the catch?
|Engine Type||3.0L turbo|
Buuuuuuuur, parp, buuuuuuuuuuuur, parp. Anyone who knows anything about cars immediately recognises the sound of a 45-engined A-class derivative. It's the sound you hear in a tunnel as old mate blasts past with a giant carbon-fibre wing atop his hatchback. It's the sound you hear at 3:00am on a summer morning (if your suburb has no speed bumps, of course).
Sure, the GLA compact SUV is probably a slightly unexpected source of all that noise. But then, Merc's Ingolstadt rivals stuffed Audi's stupendous five-cylinder engine into a Q3 to make the hugely improbable RSQ3, so why not do the same with their skirts-lifted A-Class?
To be honest, my expectations for this car were low. So do I owe Mercedes a grovelling apology? Or can I still claim the moral high ground after a week of GLA 45 "ownership"?
|Engine Type||2.0L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Premium Unleaded Petrol|
Stylish, practical and a hoot to drive fast, the F-Pace S 35t fills so many briefs it could be an underwear model. It could be louder and more comfortable, though, and the options list can be terrifying.
Jaguar F-Pace or Range Rover Velar; what's your pick? Tell us in the comments below.
My wonderful wife, who is not really into this kind of car, admitted to me in a quiet voice that she really liked the GLA45 as long as it was in Sport + mode. And I have to agree. While I'm very fond of the ridiculous Audi RSQ3 (that turbo five-cylinder sounds amazing), I think I'd stump up the extra for the GLA.
Importantly, it can be comfortable, it can be quiet and it's a better fit for most humans than the A or CLA. It is getting on a bit and could do with a further clean-out of the poor ergonomics, but in what is likely its final year on sale, it's still a belter.
Has Peter finally lost it? Can the GLA45 be the best of the A-side 45 trio? Tell us what you think in the comments below.
No doubt about it, the F-Pace was the best-looking SUV on sale (in fact, our very own Richard Berry declared it as such). But that was until the arrival of its Range Rover sibling, the drop-dead gorgeous Velar.
But even now, it would have to be battling it out for second position. Viewed front on, its wide and 3D-effect grille is framed by J-shaped DRLs and this domed bonnet that hints at the F-Pace’s performance potential.
Side-on, massive 20-inch alloys are wrapped in Pirelli P-Zero rubber, while the view from the back captures the dual exhaust tips, roof-mounted spoiler and a sharply raked rear window.
In the cabin, the materials aren't quite up to the standards of newer JLR product (we’re looking at you, Velar), but it’s a very clean, very modern feeling space. The single screen in the centre of the cabin is big, bright and easy to use. Soft touch materials (though they feel a touch old-fashioned ) cover the dash, and the steering wheel is wrapped in lovely leather.
There’s some nice design flourishes, too, like the polished silver elements in the door panels, but it’s not as tech-laden as some of its competitors.
The GLA45 isn't a looker, but then, none of the GLAs are. There's a certain blobbiness to it. A bit of Teletubby mixed with...um, another Teletubby. It's not ugly, it's just not particularly attractive. The 20-inch wheels do much to lift the appearance and negate the effect of the raised ride height compared to the A45/CLA45.
The body kit stops just short of lairy, which is heartening. So if you want to stand out, venture out into the aftermarket world.
Inside was a mild surprise. The last time I drove a CLA 45 I used the word "gaudy". While the GLA isn't amazingly better, the texture of the Alcantara replacing the brushed metal-look plastic, or the carbon of the option pack, was much more pleasant. The brightwork in the cabin is still a bit odd looking, and it's still overcooked with its red detailing, but it is an otherwise beautifully built and well-detailed interior.
Something this good looking shouldn't be this practical. It'd be like flipping Brad Pitt's head open to reveal two cupholders, or discovering Angelina Jolie comes with 745 litres of luggage space. The F-Pace might not be the most practical offering in the segment, but it can carry more stuff and people in more comfort than anything this pretty probably has any right to.
Up front, the cabin is airy and spacious. There are two cupholders hidden beneath a sliding cover, plus another secondary (though quite small) storage bin that separates the front seats, home to the F-Pace’s USB and HDMI inputs, as well as a 12-volt power source. There’s room in each of the front doors for bottles, and quite a large glove box, too.
Climb into the back seat, and there is plenty of room to stretch your legs. Sitting behind my own (178cm) driving position, there’s about 15cm of clear air between my knees and the seat in front. Likewise, there’s plenty of headroom, despite the (optional) sunroof eating into the space a bit.
There's plenty of room across the back of the car for three passengers, but legroom is going to be an issue for the middle rider, with a double whammy of a raised floor section combining with jutting out climate controls, both of which will impact legroom.
Backseat riders can make use of their own climate controls, as well as two 12-volt power sources. A pull-down divider separates the back seat, and is also home to two cupholders. There are two ISOFIX attachment points, one in each window seat in the back.
The auto-opening boot reveals a 508-litre storage space (down from 650 litres in other markets, thanks to inclusion of a space saver spare here), but dropping the 40/20/40 split-fold back seat from the easy-reach controls in the boot will approximately triple that volume.
There’s a 12-volt power source in the boot, as well as luggage hooks. The speed-limited space-saver spare is hidden under a flat load shelf in the boot.
The front seats are utterly brilliant and feel as good as they look. On first acquaintance they may feel under-padded, but once you've adjusted them to your liking, you never want to leave. The AMG cars also feature one vast improvement over a normal GLA - the ergonomic disaster of a column-mounted shifter is removed, with a console-mounted shifter added where a small cubby once lived. It's so much better, although the Park button is oddly difficult to press.
When luxuriating in those snug front seats, you'll have access to two cupholders and door-mounted bottle holders, as well as a console bin (where the USB ports are) and a tray under the climate controls. Rear seat passengers will find legroom tight but headroom good, even with the huge sunroof.
The GLA's boot holds an entirely reasonable 421 litres, rising to 1235 when you drop both rear seats.
Price and features
As always, the devil is in the detail here, with the F-Pace S 35t's $104,827 list price dwarfed by a monstrous options list that shot our test car's as-tested figure up by almost 50 per cent, to $149,717.
Resist the list, however, and you won't be going home empty handed. Outside, you'll find 20-inch alloys, a sport-flavoured bodykit, LED headlights with J-shaped DRLs, red brake calipers and a powered boot all as standard.
Inside, you'll find leather and suede seats, dual-zone climate and a soft-grain leather steering wheel. Tech is covered by an 8.0-inch, navigation-equipped touchscreen that pairs with an 11-speaker Meridian stereo - but there's no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. A second, 5.0-inch colour screen is housed in the driver's binnacle.
The GLA 45 lightens your wallet by no less than $89,211 - more than double the GLA 180 front-wheel drive, and about $5000 more than the bonkers (and ancient) RS Q3.
Packed into the GLA's kit bag are 20-inch alloy wheels, a 12-speaker stereo, dual-zone climate control, comprehensive safety gear, reversing camera, keyless entry and start, front and rear parking sensors, electric and heated front seats, sat nav, auto LED headlights, auto wipers, leather trim (some real, some not), auto parking, powered and heated folding mirrors, a massive sunroof and dynamic dampers. There's no spare tyre, just a tyre-repair kit.
The multimedia system is Mercedes' COMAND unit and it is as user-unfriendly as ever. It does, however, power a very decent stereo, and also offers Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
Thankfully our car was bereft of both the carbon-fibre package ($990) and the aerodynamics package ($1990).
Engine & trans
The headline act here is the thumping supercharged V6 that helps give this performance-focused F-Pace its smile-inducing personality.
The 3.0-litre engine produces 280kW at 6500rpm and 450Nm at 4500rpm, sending its power to all four wheels via a slick eight-speed auto transmission. Those numbers translate to a 0-100km/h sprint of 5.5secs (not bad for a 1.8-tonne SUV), and will push the F-Pace on to a 250km/h top speed.
That engine pairs with a torque vectoring system borrowed from the F-Type, which can apply gentle braking to the inside wheel when cornering, helping the F-Pace stay glued to the driving line. A 'Configurable Dynamics' system (which isn't the sexiest name) also allows you to cycle through driving modes, adding weight to the steering, sharpening throttle response and tuning the gearing to its sportiest setting.
AMG's fabled 2.0-litre turbo four lurks under that higher bonnet, still kicking out an improbable 280kW and 475Nm. Drive reaches the road via Merc's own seven-speed twin-clutch transmission and all four of its wheels.
All that power and grip translates to a 4.4-second dash to 100km/h for the slightly tubby (over 1600kg) GLA, but just between you and me, anything under five seconds feels scorchingly quick.
Well, there's always a flip-side to prodigious power, and that is inevitable pain at the bowser. That said, Jaguar claims this go-fast F-Pace will sip 8.9L/100km on the combined cycle, which isn't too bad (though if you drive it the way you will definitely drive it, you can expect that number to climb considerably).
Emissions are a claimed 209g/km of C02, and the F-Pace is home to a 63-litre tank.
The official combined-cycle figure suggests the GLA45 will consume 7.5L/100km. Obviously that figure is largely irrelevant, and not just for the usual reasons, but because you don't buy a GLA45 to potter about in. I got, uh, 12.5L/100km, so you can imagine how much I was enjoying it.
As you might expect, you'll need to feed it 98RON.
The mark of a genuinely sporty SUV is that you can forget you’re driving an SUV at all, and even the lightest touch of the F-Pace’s super-sensitive accelerator teleports you into a low-slung sports car.
The power on offer from that thumping V6 is so ample that, in day-to-day driving, you’re only feathering the throttle, with the the tiniest of inputs enough to get you up and moving, while a millimetre more unlocks enough punch to overtake with ease.
But flatten the pedal and the F-Pace lunges forward with startling pace, accompanied by this strange soundtrack (less a guttural grumble, more an orchestral hum) from under the bonnet, both of which serve to whisk you away from the boring world of practical SUVs, at least while you keep the pedal pinned.
The suspension isn’t perfect. In its harshest setting, you can really feel the bad bits of road enter the cabin, and even in its softest settings it can be caught out by badly broken surfaces. It is not as comfortable or as cosseting as some luxury SUVs can be, and the sporty, figure hugging seats are less comfortable on longer drives. But that’s a price I’m willing to pay.
The flip-side, though, is that the F-Pace feels always dynamic. There’s very little roll in the body, the steering is sharp and direct, and it feels far more low-slug than it actually is.
Sportiness is only part of the story, and at city speeds the F-Pace is an easy drive. The vision out of every window is fabulous, there’s ample room in the back seat, and it's really more fun - and more dynamic - than something this practical deserves to be.
One downside, though, is that it’s easy to catch the attention of the traction control. If you’re turning while going over a speed bump, for example, or accelerating too hard from a standing-start corner, the nanny will step in, sucking power away from your right foot for a couple of noticeable seconds before letting you get back on your way.
When the 45-badged cars first launched, they were something of a revelation. BMW's turbo six-cylinder fans sniffed at the 2.0-litre's staggering outputs and all-wheel-drive chassis, but this car really captured the imagination. The GLA45 might be slightly unexpected, but it's better in almost every way as a daily driver than the A or CLA.
For a start, its higher ride height seems to translate to a much better ride quality. Anything on 20-inch wheels should have an appalling ride, but the GLA45 manages to be firm yet comfortable. Put the other two in Race mode and you'll need to up your private health insurance extras to include osteo, physio and whatever "o"-ending specialist fixes your back.
The improved ride quality meant I was far happier to chuck this car around. While it doesn't have the same ultimate overall performance of the lower cars, it's far more comfortable whether you're on it or just driving around. The front seats are supportive and comfortable, and the steering is excellent.
As for the engine...well, it still farts like toddler during a moment of silence at a funeral, but you can't deny its technical brilliance and huge power outputs. I remember the CLA45's engine as being a bit highly strung. Perhaps I couldn't separate the overall high-strung nature of the car from the engine, but I felt the same engine in this car wasn't as jumpy.
The way it propels this car into triple figures is tremendous fun. It's not as charismatic as the Audi five-cylinder, perhaps, but that doesn't matter in the end - it's properly fast, attached to a better chassis and offers a cabin with a driving position fit for humans.
The F-Pace S arrives with front and rear parking sensors, a reversing camera and six airbags (front, front-side and curtain) as standard, all of which joins more advanced safety equipment like AEB, 'Lane Departure Warning' and cruise control with a speed limiter.
The GLA comes with nine airbags (including driver's knee), blind-spot sensors, lane-departure warning, lane-keep assist, forward-collision warning and mitigation and driver-attention detection.
The F-Pace S is covered by a three-year/100,000km warranty, and will require a trip to the service centre every 12 months or 26,000km. Jaguar also allows you to prepay your service costs for up to five years or 130,000km, with a service plan currently priced at $1800.
The Mercedes standard warranty is three years/unlimited kilometres with roadside assist to match. Service intervals are a very reasonable 12 months/20,000km.
The company also offers capped-price servicing - first service is $576 but the second and third are a whopping $1152 each. Three years will set you back $2880.