We’re guilty of occasionally overlooking Jaguar these days, particularly in the luxury crossover space that’s crowded with dozens of options from every premium brand on the market. But even if Jaguar’s F-Pace SUV isn’t the quickest, the bestselling, or the most high-tech player in its class, it’s far from forgettable. In fact, it’s been much improved for the 2021 model year, gaining a range of enhancements and a new optional inline-six engine.
We’ll get the bad news out of the way first: That new engine did not perform as well as the supercharged 3.0-liter V-6 it replaces. We tested the more powerful, 395-hp P400 configuration—there’s also a 335-hp P340 version—and it trailed the previous 380-hp F-Pace S by a half second both in its sprint to 60 mph (5.5 seconds) and through the quarter-mile (14.0 seconds at 103 mph). Partially to blame for the new car’s dulled acceleration is an extra 343 pounds, with some of that extra weight surely coming from the more complex inline-six’s turbocharger, electric supercharger, and 48-volt hybrid system. The hybrid setup did at least help with fuel economy, with our test car achieving 27 mpg in our 75-mph highway test—1 mpg better than its EPA estimate and 5 mpg better than the old supercharged V-6 managed.
The new inline-six, which is mated to a standard eight-speed automatic transmission, also boasts a silky power delivery and a pleasant exhaust note. It doesn’t have the distinctive snaps, crackles, and pops of the outgoing V-6, but its more refined character is a better fit in the F-Pace and it goes a long way toward making this SUV feel more modern and luxurious. What’s more, the updated model is considerably quieter than the last F-Pace we tested. We recorded a subdued 68 decibels of noise at a 70-mph cruise and 79 decibels a full throttle, reductions of 2 and 3 decibels, respectively, over the former S version—suggesting that extra sound-deadening material could be another cause for the new model’s increased curb weight.
You sit rather high up in the F-Pace, with a commanding view over the hood. Unlike the smaller Porsche Macan, which can easily be mistaken for a sports sedan from behind the wheel, this Jaguar never lets you forget that it’s an SUV. But it remains quite good to drive for a high-riding crossover, with a confidence-inspiring sense of stability, accurate steering, and firm damping that commendably balances ride and handling.
All P400 F-Paces come with the sporty R-Dynamic appearance package, a look that suggests tires grippier than the Michelin Latitude Tour HP all-seasons on our F-Pace’s 21-inch wheels, which delivered a so-so figure of 0.85 g around the skidpad. We were disappointed by the squishy brake-pedal feel and long 183-foot stop from 70 mph. Although the P400 version’s extra power and R-Dynamic kit suggest that it’s meant to be sportier than the lesser P250 and P340 models, outright performance isn’t really the priority here.
The F-Pace’s natty cabin, which has been updated for the 2021 model year with generous applications of leather and other nice materials, is a major draw. Our test car’s Siena tan upholstery looked and felt rich, and the optional performance seats are supportive and comfortable. Jaguar’s latest Pivi Pro infotainment system features an attractive 11.4-inch curved screen mounted prominently on the dashboard, and it’s a big improvement over previous Jaguar systems in terms of graphics and usability.
If you think that extravagant option prices are limited to Porsche’s lineup, take a look at our test car’s extras that added nearly $16K to its $66,550 base price; the lesser P250 model starts at $51,345. The performance seats cost $2950, the 21-inch wheels were $2000, and adaptive cruise control commands $1325. The list goes on. All this pushed our F-Pace’s as-tested figure to a steep $82,245, at which point you’re nearly to the $85,950 entry point of the V-8-powered F-Pace SVR—not to mention in the territory of far-quicker and more serious performance SUVs such as the $77,895 BMW X3 M Competition and especially the updated $81,250 Porsche Macan GTS. The F-Pace, however, does boast a much larger back seat and more cargo space than the better-driving Porsche.
Those competitors may be a better choice than the new Jaguar F-Pace if you’re relying only on the logical part of your brain. Yet we’re still drawn to this Jaguar’s shapely design, fashionable interior, and engaging driving experience. The F-Pace is an iconoclast’s choice among luxury SUVs, with rather small sales numbers that translate to relative exclusivity on the road, which for some may be worth paying a little extra for.
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