2021 Jaguar F-Pace First Drive Review: How to Grin From Ear to Ear05/28/2021
The bestselling vehicle for Jaguar, the British marque long known for its luxury cars, is now an SUV: the F-Pace. And while “F-Pace” might not be a household name, most people would immediately recognize one as a Jaguar—and feel a pang of envy as it drove by.
That’s because the F-Pace is quite the looker, and has been since its launch for 2017. Unfortunately, any excitement you felt usually faded when you climbed inside the cabin, where the quality of the materials and overall ambiance didn’t live up to the luxurious promise of the sheetmetal. Time spent fighting with a glitchy infotainment system only added to the disappointment.
None of this is news to Jaguar Land Rover, which was very aware of the F-Pace’s shortcomings. So while the Jaguar lineup has contracted with the loss of the XE sport sedan and must make do with no new nameplates until the brand goes all electric in 2025, its leadership is striving to make the existing portfolio as competitive as possible.
The F-Pace Gets Even Better Looking
That means big upgrades for the F-Pace for the 2021 model year. The exterior has a new vented hood, slim LED quad headlights and taillights, and a new grille and bumpers. The 2021 Jaguar F-Pace P400 R-Dynamic S we drove was a bright and cheerful Bluefire Blue with the $2,000 upgrade from 19-inch five-spoke wheels to a set of satin gray 21-inch 10-spoke wheels.
More important, the interior received some love. The cabin is almost completely new and is a much nicer place to spend time. The overdue update sprinkles higher-end materials and details throughout, including a Jaguar leaper embossed on the leather headrests, open-pore wood accents, aluminum trim, and a lot of Alcantara, including the headliner.
Well-bolstered heated sports seats are standard, and the F-Pace we sampled had 14-way-adjustable units covered in Siena Tan Windsor leather, a $2,925 option. The pattern on the upholstery is both modern and elegant, while the design of the front seats themselves—particularly the opening below the headrests—is just plain cool. The seats are comfortable, but note that the seatbelt is not height-adjustable at the shoulders, which means the belt can dig into shorter drivers’ necks. Cargo nets on the seat backs are helpful for second-row occupants, who also enjoy an adequate amount of room.
Silky Smooth Inline-Six
We already drove a 2021 Jaguar F-Pace SVR with the 550-hp 5.0-liter supercharged V-8; the P400 R-Dynamic S we drove has a refined 3.0-liter turbo- and supercharged I-6 that integrates with Jaguar’s first mild hybrid system. The powertrain generates 395 horsepower and 406 lb-ft of torque, with output routing through an eight-speed automatic transmission and to all four wheels as standard. The performance makes it a worthy peer of the Mercedes-Benz GLC300 and Mercedes-AMG GLC43.
The driver grips a redesigned leather steering wheel with R badging and chrome paddle shifters. It is as pretty a wheel as you will find, but its rim could use some additional padding. The new shifter is swaddled in Alcantara microsuede with attractive contrast stitching; its form looks odd until you wrap your hand around it, at which point its favorable ergonomics emerge. Unfortunately, the shifter is situated in front of the cupholders, making it almost impossible to not make contact with tall coffee mugs or water bottles when you want to select a gear.
The updated F-Pace is noticeably quieter inside, with little noise intruding on your zen; credit Active Road Noise Cancellation, which still allows enough engine sounds to be satisfying—don’t worry, we’ll resist the urge to say it purrs.
We like the drive select mode that now sits flush until you give it a push, at which point the etched metal rotary dial pops up. The modes are clearly delineated, too. In Comfort, the chassis’ responses and the accelerator programming are softer and smoother than in Dynamic, which noticeably turns up the volume, throttle sensitivity, and aggression—you feel the transmission shifts in the seat of your pants.
That said, even while the engine provides oodles of power, its delivery is linear and smooth, and the F-Pace overall is never too wild or neck-snappingly uncouth. Case in point: The only time the suspension felt too stiff was when we skittered over a set of railroad tracks in Dynamic mode. While our Michigan drive route was far from undulating, the brakes and steering both felt highly responsive and accurate insomuch as we got to test them.
On the safety front, the 2021 F-Pace includes blind-spot assist with rear traffic monitoring, an exit monitor that alerts passengers of an approaching car or cyclist before opening the door, and a 3-D surround-view camera. Adaptive cruise control is a $1,325 option but one most people can’t live without.
Jaguar’s lane keep assist is not among the better systems we’ve experienced. In the F-Pace, it was better at detecting lines on the left than on the right, but even still, it often came dangerously close to crossing the line before issuing a jerking steering correction—and sometimes it just blithely traversed the line anyway, tossing a late warning vibration in its wake. At other times, the system added corrective steering tugs when action didn’t seem to be necessary. More tweaking is needed here.
Hugely Improved Infotainment
But perhaps the greatest prior source of frustration, the infotainment system, has taken a big leap forward. There is a larger 7.0-inch screen in front of the driver, and the 11.4-inch curved Pivo Pro central touchscreen is divided into three display areas to show navigation, audio, and device information simultaneously. The new screen is almost 50 percent larger, much brighter, and is nicely integrated so that none of it sticks up above the dash.
The system is designed to operate like a smartphone and banish the memory of JLR’s previously horrible systems to the dustbin of history. JLR says it’s up to 15 times faster and provides greater ease of connectivity, an array of apps, and capable of over-the-air updates. With AI, it learns your drive routes and suggests alternate routes when it detects a problem.
The new center console incorporates wireless charging and additional stowage space, including a hidden spot underneath to stash a wallet or phone or extra keys. It isn’t big enough for a purse, and accessing the space can be a bit unwieldy, but we always welcome more out-of-sight storage. In terms of outlets, the center console houses ports for power and USB (both A and C). Our particular model didn’t have any USB ports in the rear cabin, but other trims offer two outlets.
How Much Does the 2021 Jaguar F-Pace Cost?
The outgoing 2020 Jaguar F-Pace had 12 derivatives ranging in price from $46,350 to $81,750. For the 2021 model year, the F-Pace is reduced to five trim levels: P250 Standard, P250 S, P340 S, P400 R-Dynamic S, and the SVR. Pricing ranges from $51,145 to $85,750. Our evaluation vehicle started at $66,350 and was optioned up to $82,245. Extras include the $2,110 Hot Climate pack that adds four-zone climate control, a cabin ionizer, and cooling to the lockable glove box. The $2,220 Premium Upgrade Interior package illuminates the metal treadplates, upgrades the leather, and adds an oyster headliner. There is a decent amount of standard equipment, of course, including the touchscreen, satellite radio, a panoramic roof, heated front seats, and many of the safety systems.
Pricewise, the F-Pace slots above smaller competitors such as the BMW X3, GLC, and Audi Q5, but it comes in less than more style-forward models such as the BMW X4 or the Porsche Macan. With a simplified lineup, improved dynamics, striking styling, and an interior finally worthy of splashing this kind of cash, the 2021 F-Pace just might find more homes.
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