A fast, luxurious, all wheel-drive SUV that can get you where you're going in style, but handle a spot of off-roading too. That'll be a Land Rover, right?

Not so fast. Stablemate Jaguar has been working on a little something of its own. It's called the F-Pace, and it's got every chance of beating Land Rover at its own game.

Take some signature Jag styling, a serious helping of in-car and safety tech, more interior space than practically any other car in its class, and bolt it all to a brutal 3-litre, supercharged V6 petrol engine. It's a recipe that's guaranteed to make an impression.

The F-Pace is more than the sum of its parts, though - as I discovered with Jaguar on the windy mountain roads of Montenegro.

Mean machine

It's a lot taller than the Jags you're used to seeing cruise past you on the motorway, sure, but just look at it - there's no mistaking the F-Pace for anything but a Jaguar. There's even some F-Type lineage going on at the rear. 

That mean grille up front, gorgeous brake lights on the back, and that swooping bodywork all make for an imposing image when you've got one approaching in your rear view mirror. Jag's launch had been going for weeks by the time I arrived, but I still got plenty of admiring looks when behind the wheel.

Don't get too attached to those massive 22in black alloys, though, or the brilliant Caesium Blue paint - those are reserved for the limited run First Edition model, which is already sold out worldwide. At roughly £54,000 it wasn't cheap to begin with, but adding on tech toys and extras bumps the price to an eye-watering £72,000.

There'll be time to talk tech later. First - that engine. It's not as aggressive or throaty as a V8, and it's up to personal taste whether you prefer the supercharger's high-pitched whirring over the dump valve pop you'd get from a turbocharger, but it's still a seriously potent powerplant for a car this big. Pumping out 375bhp, it'll hit 0-62 in a little over 5 seconds, and will keep going all the way up to 155. 

There's more than enough grunt on tap to overtake most of the people you're sharing a road with, although most people will probably end up with the slightly slower (though more economical) 2-litre turbodiesel.

Kickdown through gears could be a little quicker from the 8-speed automatic gearbox, but I only really noticed it on bendy B-roads, where you'll have a lot more fun with the paddle shifters.

I didn't expect it to grip as well as it did around Montenegro's vicious hairpin bends, and Jag's engineers have done a stellar job getting rid of body roll. This isn't just an XF undeneath - as much as 85% of the parts are brand new for the F-Pace.

Ain't no stoppin' me now

So it's got the power and handles well enough to make B-roads fun when you've not got a cabin full of passengers, but what about getting those wheels muddy? You'd expect the F-Pace to do well here, considering Jag shares a factory with Land Rover, and happily it doesn't disappoint.

Naturally, the only way to test how it handles off-road was to drive up the kind of Montenegran hills that skiiers and snowboarders would be flying down in the winter months. The snow might have melted, but the uneven, muddy surface would still pose a challenge.

Jaguar's all-terrain progress control system got me up and down in one piece; it's pretty much identical to the one you'll find in most Land Rovers, where you set the speed and the car matches it automatically, distributing power to the four wheels as they gain and lose traction. Sure, it's slightly unnerving to point your car down a ski slope and take your foot off the brake, but it worked flawlessly.

Low Friction launch comes in handy when you're on snow or ice, too, getting you moving without any awkward wheelspin. Jag is pitching the F-Pace as an "active lifestyle" car, but even if your off-roading ambitions only extend to flooded country lanes and overflow carparks at the village fete, you won't have to worry about getting stuck.

Heart of the beast

Settle down to cruising speed and it's easy to forget exactly how many horses are under the hood. The F-Pace interior is like any other Jag, which means luxuriously finished, comfortable at practically all speeds on any surface, and just an all-round pleasant place to be.

It's not only the ride height and driving position that make the difference either, although both are ace. Instead it's the tech toys, which are overflowing for both driver and passenger.

Ditching the physical dials for a digital dashboard makes a big difference, especially when you drop from Drive into Sport mode and everything lights up in a mean shade of red. It flashes up satnav directions as you approach junctions or turns, so you aren't distracted by a map and don't have to keep glancing over to the centre console.

Behind the scenes, there's plenty of safety tech too. Cameras mounted around the car keep track of what the driver in front is up to, sounding off an alarm if it spots them braking but you haven't reacted yet. Expect lane departure warnings, traffic sign recognition, and a reverse parking cameras to get in and out of tight spaces. The F-Pace isn't massive, by any means, but I was still happy to have the cameras on hand to avoid the talk of shame with Jaguar's PR over how their very expensive car got scratched.

It's an optional extra, but I'm a big fan of the heads-up display, too. It sticks you speed and any upcoming sat-nav directions right in your line of sight on the windscreen. Even better for driving on the continent, I could set the HUD to show my speed in kph, but keep the digital dashboard in mph.

Key to the action

Wearable tech has been a big focus this year, with the fitbit-sized Activity Key letting you put that colossal boot space to good use. Swimming, scuba diving, canoeing or kayaking might not be go-to weekend fun for most Jag owners, admittedly, but you're covered when it's time to get wet.

Instead of hiding your car keys and risking your ride getting boosted, Activity Key deactivates your blipper and locks the car from your wrist. You then throw your regular key into the glove box, safe in the knowledge that even if someone smashed their way in, the key wouldn't actually start the engine.

The wristband locks or opens your doors with a tap on the tailgate, and starts the engine if you hold it near the ignition barrel. It's completely waterproof, so it can go pretty much anywhere you do, and as it's bolted to your wrist you're free to grab a paddle, do get on with whatever extreme sport Jaguar expects F-Pace owners to be indulging in.

You've got the Touch

It's JLR's InControl Touch Pro infotainment system that sits pride of place in the middle of the centre console. The 21:9 aspect ratio isn't exactly typical, but it's put to great effect here, splitting the 10.2in touchscreen to a main area (typically for the sat-nav) and a secondary panel for things like phonebook contacts, music controls, or even the weather at your destination.

There's a built-in mobile data connection, so you're always connected, and it can even act as a wireless hotspot for up to 8 devices. You'll have a hard time maxing it out with only space for five people, but it's definitely welcome for those long journeys.

A quad-core CPU runs the show, and there's an SSD behind the dash for storing hundreds of music albums, so you've always got something to listen to. It's all controlled with multitouch gestures, just like an iPad or Android tablet, and feels super-fast compared to other in-car systems I've tried recently.

JLR has about 20 home-grown apps, which can fill you in on news headlines, share your arrival time through a text message (automatically updating your friends if traffic means you're going to be late) and hook up to your smartphone. You can plan a route inside the house, then send it from phone to car and have it ready to go before you step outside.

Oh, and there's a web browser on board too - perfect for reading your favourite gadget website when you're waiting for your passengers.

Jaguar F-Pace early verdict

Jaguar needed to pull off something special to move its first SUV out of Land Rover's shadow, but I think it's managed to do that with the F-Pace.

It's stunning to look at, both inside and out, with a serious amount of power and the handling to cope with almost any type of road or terrain. Snow, sand and gravel aren't a problem, and it brushes off steep climbs or descents too.

Fully equipped, there's more tech inside than a branch of Currys, and (while we can't see many owners actually making use of it) it's got neat extra touches like Activity Key that could make it the perfect adventure car.

Plus, for a while at least, it's got an air of exlusivity. Motorways might be filled with BMW X5s, Audi Q5s and Porsche Macans, but you'll still stand out in one of these - even if you can't get your hands on that beautiful blue paint.

Tech Specs 
Engine
2995cc supercharged V6 petrol
Transmission
8-speed automatic
Power
375bhp
Torque
320lb ft at 4500rpm
0-62mph
5.1s
Top speed
155mph
Economy
31.7mpg
CO2
209g/km

Where to buy Jaguar F-Pace first drive: