► Jaguar’s refreshed F-Pace SUV joins our fleet
► Ben Oliver is your guide to life with one
► What makes it different to other SUVs?
My idea of how much a car ought to cost seems to be stuck back in the early noughties. In my head, a mid-spec Ford Focus 1.6 is still about 14 grand, and I issue an involuntary inward ‘HOW MUCH!?’ every time I read the list price of a newly launched model.
But the Jaguar F-Pace always seemed like acceptable value, even to me. You can have this big, unquestionably premium SUV for a touch over 40 grand, though few will order one in bum-basic spec, or part with cash for one. Helped by decent residuals and despite a generous spec, the car we’re testing here can be yours on a PCP for less than £500 per month, which seems tolerable even by my parsimonious and outdated standards.
That perception may be aided by another erroneous notion. The F-Pace is pitched and priced against the BMW X3, Audi Q5 and Porsche Macan. But I – and maybe a few of you too – have always seen it as sitting somewhere between those cars and the X5 class: partly because it’s longer than its rivals, but also because it’s Jaguar’s biggest SUV, with a ferocious flagship performance version in the SVR. So you’re paying X3 money for a car the neighbours might easily mistake for an X5 rival.
It has also just had a midlife refresh, which gives us reason to run this one as a long-term test car. The exterior revisions, including narrowed headlights and a broader grille, improve its stance and road presence, and make it look even more like an X5/X6 rival than before. Inside, the heavily revised cabin feels cocooning, beautifully made and intelligently laid out.
It includes JLR’s excellent Pivi Pro infotainment system with its big, 11.4-inch central touchscreen, but still just the right amount of physical controls.
And there’s a bunch of new or revised engines, led by the 398bhp P400e plug-in hybrid. CAR is long-term testing that engine in the Range Rover Velar, so we’ve chosen an F-Pace with the new 201bhp D200 four-cylinder diesel with a 48v mild-hybrid system.
This keeps the price down (the plug-in starts at £59k) and is likely to be the sweet spot of the range for most buyers for a few years yet, with claimed combined fuel economy in the region of 42 to 45mpg, but still with an 8.0sec 0-62mph time and a top end of 130mph.
The upgrade over the slightly anaemic D165 engine and basic trim level brings the price up to £48,500, but R-Dynamic SE trim adds a bunch of desirable stuff, including sportier exterior styling, 20-inch rims, 16-way powered sports seats, a powered tailgate and keyless go.
Jaguar added £4440 of options to this car, led by a fixed panoramic roof at £1275, Firenze Red metallic paint at £740, the black exterior pack at £650 and the Meridian sound system at £840. Charging so much more for metallic paint has always seemed like a stealth wealth tax on supposedly luxury cars, but the other options seem well priced, and I wonder if that cocoon of a cabin might feel claustrophobic without the panoramic roof.
These long-term tests ought to set out to discover something that can’t be gleaned from a first drive. We already know that the F-Pace is one of the sharpest-handling SUVs in its class, and a fine way to convey four adults with a reasonable amount of their luggage in the 613-litre boot. But I’m curious to discover whether something that sits firmly towards the ‘sports’ end of the sports-utility axis can cope with active family life as well as elegant weekends away.
And I’d also like to find out whether being a Jaguar actually adds anything to this very competent car’s appeal. My ideas about price might be weirdly atavistic but my view of Jaguar isn’t. This car is modern Jaguar. The F-Pace is comfortably Jaguar’s biggest-selling model, and despite being hit harder by the pandemic in percentage terms, the brand’s three ‘Pace’ models still outsold the saloons by two to one. You can bet that trend will continue, particularly as the brand electrifies.
But when most people’s choice of Jaguar is (for now) a diesel SUV, what does the brand actually stand for? Could you ‘white label’ an F-Pace: stick any badge on it and want it just as much, and see it sell just as well?
With Land Rover still selling more than three times as many cars as Jaguar, and rather more history with the SUVs they now both overwhelmingly make, JLR’s new boss – and possible future owners – might well be wondering the same.
By Ben Oliver
Logbook: Jaguar F-Pace R-Dynamic SE
Price £48,500 (£52,940 as tested)
Performance 1997cc turbodiesel four-cylinder, 201bhp, 8.0sec 0-62mph, 130mph
Efficiency 42.2-45.6mpg (official), 37.6mpg (tested), 163-177g/km CO2
Energy cost 18.1p per mile
Miles this month 956
Total miles 6162