2021 Jaguar F-Pace first drive review: Don’t let the wrapper fool you


A lot goes into building a luxury SUV. You need a tastefully designed cabin with upscale materials. Classy exterior styling is a prerequisite, too, as are powerful and refined drivetrains, plus all the latest tech. Since it debuted for the 2017 model year, the Jaguar F-Pace has checked most of these boxes — yet it never really rose to the top of its segment. Rivals like the Audi Q5, BMW X3 and Porsche Macan have led the way, but this British marque isn’t sitting in park: The Jaguar F-Pace is substantially updated and significantly improved for 2021.

The good news is this refreshed F-Pace is better than its predecessor in nearly every way, though you may not think much has changed based on the wrapper. There are redesigned bumpers at both ends, the hood is a little different and three fresh paint colors join the palette. There are new wheel designs, too, and a smattering of small tweaks. My sporty R-Dynamic tester looks sophisticated and mildly menacing slathered in deeply saturated (and redundantly named) bluefire blue paint.

Fortunately, there’s much more to report inside the 2021 F-Pace, where everything is new save the glovebox. This comprehensive redesign really pays off as the new digs are simply beautiful. The dashboard is more attractive and cleaner than before, with open-pore wood veneers or real aluminum accents. In this R-Dynamic model, nearly every surface is covered in soft, rich-smelling leather and the technology it offers is leaps and bounds ahead of what was available in the outgoing F-Pace. Even the gear selector, embellished with cricket ball stitching, is new.

The front seats are supportive and should be comfortable for many hours at a stretch. Like the dashboard and door panels, these chairs are wrapped in supple cow hides, though they also feature prominent bolsters, wings that stick out at shoulder level. These protrusions help support your torso while cornering, but they can also jab you in the shoulder blade when you turn to grab something from the passenger seat.

There are miles of room in the F-Pace’s accommodating backseat. Six-foot-plus adults should have no trouble getting comfortable and staying that way while traveling in this Jag. But despite these real benefits, the vehicle has two ergonomic oddities. First, the door panels are thick, at least a handbreadth across, which seems like a waste of space. Second, the sills are really wide, requiring you to step over them to get in or out of the vehicle, which gets annoying.

By far the biggest changes made to the F-Pace for 2021 are found inside.

Craig Cole/Roadshow

Eliminating unwanted racket, active noise cancellation is standard in the F-Pace, ditto for the refreshed Jaguar XF sedan and updated Range Rover Velar. Curiously, 2021 is the first year Jaguar Land Rover is implementing this serenity-enhancing technology and in this application it does an admirable job keeping the interior tranquil by cancelling out tire, wind and powertrain ruckus.

The centerpiece of the F-Pace’s new dashboard is a standard 11.4-inch display that’s three times brighter than the outgoing model’s 10-incher. This touchscreen is home to Jaguar’s new Pivi Pro infotainment system, which is powered by BlackBerry (yes, that BlackBerry). Not only is this multimedia array gorgeous, with clean, elegant graphics and a dead-simple user interface, it’s also plenty responsive, a claimed 15 times quicker than the automaker’s old Touch Pro infotainment system, which was a disorganized mess. With Pivi Pro, common tasks take two taps or less to complete. The system also supports Apple CarPlay as well as Android Auto, plus it allows you to simultaneously have two phones connected via Bluetooth. Beyond all that, the F-Pace can be had with a crisp and colorful 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster as well as a head-up display.

Giving drivers more for their money, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert is standard across the range. You also get an ever-helpful 360-degree camera system, a fancy Meridian stereo, heated front seats, automatic high beams, keyless entry, a wireless charging pad and more. This Jag provides loads of great features right out of the gate.

The F-Pace’s new Pivi Pro infotainment system is beautiful and responsive. 

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Four gasoline-burning engines are offered in the 2021 F-Pace. A 2.0-liter turbo-four serves base duty and supercharged 5.0-liter V8 gives range-topping SVR models supercar-rivaling acceleration. Between these powertrain bookends, two flavors of 3.0-liter I6 are offered. Both engines are turbocharged and electrically supercharged, plus they benefit from a 48-volt mild-hybrid system, which helps improve acceleration, provides regenerative braking and smooths out stop-start events. The base version of this six-shooter provides 335 horsepower, but the variant found in R-Dynamic models pumps out 395 hp and 406 pound-feet of torque. An eight-speed automatic transmission is fitted across the range, sending torque to all four wheels through a standard all-wheel-drive system.

That uplevel I6 is plenty punchy, hustling the hefty F-Pace to 60 mph in around five seconds with a top speed of 155 mph. Smoother than satin sheets, this engine is a joy to flog, even if it doesn’t feel quite as potent as its output numbers suggest. Helping this Jaguar SUV leap forward when you bury the accelerator, the gearbox is prompt and polite, shifting when you need it to and doing so without calling attention to itself. Expect 20 mpg city and 26 mpg highway in this version of the 2021 Jaguar F-Pace. Combined, it’s rated at 22 mpg.

The F-Pace’s powertrain is nicely sorted and other aspects of its dynamics are as well. The steering is tight and sporty without being jittery or kicking back when you encounter large surface imperfections. My tester rolls on stylish, two-tone aluminum wheels (a $2,000 option) that measure 21 inches across. Despite their large diameter and the relatively low-profile Michelin tires (265/45R21s if you’re curious), the F-Pace’s ride quality is totally livable. Yes, it’s on the firm side, but it’s by no means abusive. The tires and suspension keep the body well controlled without sacrificing refinement. The only noticeable dynamic disappointment is the brake pedal, which is a little squishier than I’d like.

The upgrades made to this Jaguar SUV for 2021 make it more competitive than ever.

Craig Cole/Roadshow

Simplifying things, Jaguar retooled the F-Pace’s model structure. In 2020, a whopping 12 derivations of F-Pace were available; it’s been pared down to just five. This handsomely updated luxury SUV starts at $51,000 and change for an entry-level variant with the four-cylinder engine. Naturally, the journalist-special R-Dynamic version tested here is considerably richer, checking out for $82,245 (including $1,150 in delivery fees), a ritzy sum that’s inflated by a smattering of options including the $2,110 Hot Climate Pack, $2,220 Premium Upgrade Interior Pack, $2,925 14-way sport front seats and a handful of other goodies.

Without conducting a formal comparison test, it’s hard to say whether the updated Jaguar F-Pace is more appealing than segment-leading rivals like the Q5, X3 and Macan, but it’s still a damn good luxury SUV that’s manifestly superior to its predecessor.