► Jag's SUV gets a facelift
► Major cabin upgrade, minor exterior tweaks
► Mild-hybrid engines and PHEV available
When the F-Pace was launched back in 2016, some found it difficult to stomach this SUV being classed as a ‘proper Jag’. It’s hard to argue the firm didn’t need one, though – especially now, when you’ll have seen more of these on the road than either XE or XF saloons.
For 2021, the Jaguar F-Pace is back with a facelift, and while the handsome exterior comes with a few light tweaks, the biggest changes are found beneath the skin.
It looks the same on the outside…
Yes, but that wasn’t the F-Pace’s biggest problem anyway. The rear lights have been slimmed down, the fronts gets J-shaped light signatures and the centre grille is wider and sits flush with the rest of the bumper – which, in turn, is more aggressive with those larger air intakes.
It’s inside where it really matters, though. The F-Pace’s cabin was never off to a great start when it borrowed the XE’s dash, and after five years of being on sale, that interior is in dire need of a spruce-up. Delightfully, if you climb aboard one now, you'll be greeted with the same upmarket redesign as the one fitted to the XF saloon.
You may recognise the steering wheel and rotary climate-control dials from the I-Pace, while other minor touch points can be found on Range Rovers, but it’s the uplifting mix of bright colours and materials that make such a vast improvement on the sea of grey misery that used to live here.
The 11.4-inch curved touchscreen running the latest Pivi Pro infotainment system is quick to respond and the menu layout is much easier to navigate.
The rotary gear selector may have been replaced with a small gearlever with cricket-ball stitching, but the pop-up drive-mode dial beside it is pleasingly tactile to use – especially if you’re familiar with the Terrain Response equivalent found on Land Rovers.
Some of the switchgear feels a bit flimsy compared to some rivals – such as the cruise-control toggle on the steering wheel and the push-pull action of the rotary climate control dials – but these are minor points. At least the biggest issue with the F-Pace has now been resolved and this SUV continues to be as spacious and practical as before.
What about the engines?
Under the bonnet, you’ll find the introduction of a plug-in hybrid P400e model, mild-hybrid diesels and a couple of 3.0-litre i6 engines (also MHEV, badged P400 and D300), replacing the old V6 units. The non-mild-hybrid P250 and 5.0-litre supercharged V8 in the SVR is still here. All come with the smooth, quick-shifting eight-speed auto and all-wheel drive.
We tested the P400 3.0-litre i6 petrol, punching out 396bhp and 406lb ft, and it’s one of those naughty-but-nice options that’s a bit of a guilty pleasure. It’s great if you can afford it, but difficult to justify if you must consider running costs.
Which is a shame, as the bigger engines have always suited the F-Pace extremely well. The 2.0-litre four-cylinders that most buyers go for have been fine, but a bit underwhelming up until now, and even though the new D200 MHEV diesel works well in the XF, we’ll have to wait and see how it fares hauling a bulkier SUV around.
Anyway, back to the P400 – the first thing you notice is the sound. It’s fantastic. Set off at low speeds and you get that deep, low-end hum that isn’t too dissimilar to old-school, BMW engines.
In contrast, the Range Rover Sport fitted with the same engine is muted, laid-back and doesn’t seem particularly keen to rev – a calibration that suits its more luxurious demeanour. In the F-Pace, it’s a bit angrier.
It’s eager to pick up speed and the broader powerband means it doesn’t tail off so much as it heads toward the redline, so performance feels that little more relentless. The noise gets louder, too, making a wonderful higher-pitched note to go with the pace.
And it drives just as well?
Yes. The steering and pedals are responsive and reassuringly weighty, while bodyroll is neatly kept in check for such a tall Jag, but it’s the bigger i6 engines (whether diesel or petrol), with their adaptive suspension that go further and bring out the best in this SUV.
In essence, it’s the same story as before with the V6 engines, as the added pace, body control and bump isolation combine to result in an F-Pace that feels the most polished.
In comparison, the smaller engines can sometimes feel incongruous, as they struggle to haul the F-Pace’s weight and the passive suspension never settles down. Sure, this won’t matter much if you only just pootle about in town, but this P400 R-Dynamic SE on 22-inch wheels and beefier suspension tackles bumps better than a few other F-Paces we’ve tried on standard springs and 20s.
To add to this, you can also configure individual parameters of the P400’s chassis set-up in the i-Dynamic menu, so you can drive around in the sportiest Dynamic mode but slacken the suspension down to Comfort to take the edge off a really lumpy country road.
What if I settle down to a cruise?
Whichever suspension set-up you go for, the ride improves the faster you drive. As with the XF saloon, Jaguar has fitted active road-noise cancelling tech to help quieten things down in the cabin and it works better in here than the XF – but then, the F-Pace is quieter and better for refinement in the first place.
You can sense the noise cancellation counteracting and muting a layer of the frequencies. It's a little artificial, but not a big deal.
Despite this, though, the F-Pace still isn’t the best for road refinement. You mainly hear wind noise on the motorway above anything else, but noise suppression against road noise could be better – a Porsche Macan or Audi Q5 is the way to go if you seek serenity.
Polishing up Jaguar’s SUV couldn’t have come at a better time. Even though the F-Pace always handled well, both the cabin and more affordable powertrains felt a little rough around the edges.
Thankfully, if you want a sharp-steering SUV, the 2021 F-Pace and its updated interior is far more accomplished than before. If you want to head the opposite way and seek maximum comfort, the Audi Q5 may cause drowsiness at first glance, but it really is the refined option.
Spec choice? The newer D200 MHEV will be fine for most, while the plug-in hybrid P400e will help minimise running costs, but if you want the most sporting F-Pace, it’s the same as before really: the bigger the engine, the better. Pick a brawnier i6 unit and its adaptive suspension set-up to best demonstrate this SUV's sporting intention.