WHEN Jaguar announced it was entering the SUV arena there were gasps of disbelief amongst the company's legion of fans - after all this was a car maker associated with sleek, streamlined and elegantly designed sports cars with performance to match.
But the fears were allayed when the F-PACE was finally unveiled. Yes, it was higher and bigger than other Big Cat models, but it still possessed all the fire-power and thrilling driving dynamics that were so vital.
That was back in 2016 and now there is an addition to the line-up in the shape of the D300 Sport which boasts handling ability akin to a hot hatch.
The five-door F-PACE is powered by a 3.0-litre 300hp V6 diesel engine matched to an eight-speed automatic gearbox and can complete the 0-62mph dash in a very respectable 6.4 seconds, topping out at 150mph. According to official figures, the car can deliver a combined 35.2-37.9mpg under stricter WLTP testing with carbon emissions of 170g/km.
And it looks the business too with its muscular lines, privacy glass, twin exhaust pipes, panoramic roof and 22-inch alloys.
But the 300 Sport also has a whole host of model-specific design cues to help it stand out in the F-PACE range. These include dark satin grey accents on the gloss black grille's surround, the front bumper valance, side window surrounds, mirror caps and door finishers. There are gloss black roof rails, 300 Sport branded black brake calipers, plus 300 Sport grille and tailgate badging.
Move inside and the 300 Sport emblem is embossed into the seat headrests, carpet mats, along with the branded soft grain leather heated steering wheel. So there's no mistaking which model this is then.
Comfort levels within the F-PACE are excellent with fully powered soft leather sports seats to help find that perfect driving position. And once settled there's a whole host of techno treats to explore, including a 10-inch Touch Pro infotainment system, full smartphone connectivity via Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, Bluetooth, sat nav, a Meridian sound system, a DVD/CD player, Wi-Fi hotspot, DAB radio and lots more besides.
And when it comes to performance, this 300 Sport model lives up to the big build up. Out on the open road the acceleration through the gears is blisteringly quick with steering wheel mounted paddles for extra driver engagement. The road holding is akin to a sportier hatchback with oodles of grip into bends and, despite its high-sided styling, there is no sign of body sway into sharp corners.
The driver can switch through different drive modes called Dynamic, Comfort, Eco and Rain/Ice/Snow that alter the manner in which the car responds and reacts, with Dynamic proving the most exciting out on the country lanes.
On fast-moving motorways, the F-PACE quickly reaches the national speed limit and it's worth keeping a watchful eye on that speedo as the car has so much more to give. There is minimal noise intrusion from the engine or road surface at higher speeds, but there is a little wind sound from the large side mirrors.
The car is also nice and agile in busier town centres where the elevated driving position results in good all-round visibility, although the rear window is fairly narrow due to the sloping rear-end design of the car.
Back seat passengers have ample sPACE to stretch out and the F-PACE is a practical choice too with a boot capacity that ranges from 650 litres to 1,740 litres with the split-folding rear seats dropped flat. Elsewhere there are cup holders front and rear, a lockable glovebox, a drop-down sunglasses compartment, door pockets, nets in the seat backs and a deep central cubby box where the USB, micro sim and 12V socket outlets are located.
As one would expect, the car is packed with safety kit to protect occupants and pedestrians alike along with a range of driver aids to help prevent accidents happening in the first place.
And it's worth noting too, that this car has AWD so it will keep you moving no matter what mood swings Mother Nature goes through.