From £34,4508
Quite pricey, thirsty six-pot F-Pace may not be the most sensible pick of the range, but has refinement and potency to compliment its clear dynamism and enhanced luxury appeal

What is it?

Among all the fresh engine options added by Jaguar as part of the big mid-life facelift on the F-Pace, one of the newest of all looks set to figure quite small in the overall mix of the range.

Jaguar Land Rover’s clever, electric-supercharged, mild-hybrid 3.0-litre petrol ‘Ingenium’ straight six has been brought in to replace the car’s old supercharged ‘AJ-V6’ petrol units; but with an equally powerful, significantly torquier and faster-accelerating P400e plug-in hybrid option now available, too - as well as an updated V8-powered F-Pace SVR, a new D300 straight-six diesel and several cheaper four-cylinder options - you might wonder if this P400 derivative is one more than the F-Pace really needs.

Perhaps that was exactly why Jaguar chose to put journalists in the P400 last week for first impressions of the updated F-Pace, other than for certain practical reasons (the new SVR and P400e PHEV versions arrive slightly later this year). Or perhaps it was for strategic reasons; because increasing this car’s luxury appeal has been the cornerstone of Jaguar’s facelift effort here, with a widely enhanced cabin with plusher and glitzier materials, roomier storage areas and new digital instrumentation and infotainment systems resulting.

What's it like?

The P400 may be a 48-volt mild hybrid, but it doesn’t really drive like any kind of electrified option (the engine’s starter-generator only ever turns the crankshaft during engine restarts). Rather, it’s a car with a fulsome though not overwhelming performance level, and with plenty of richness, refinement and generally impressive drivability about its overall character. A car with distinguishing ride and handling sophistication, too - albeit one out of which you’ll do very well to get 30mpg however you drive it.

The engine makes the kind of power and torque that feels like plenty in this two-tonne family car, without ever feeling excessive. It revs cleanly, and with laudable flexibility and forcefulness. The soundtrack may not be quite as sweet or tuneful as the old AJ-V6’s but it’s certainly smooth and industrious. 

The car’s particularly keen throttle response can actually feel a touch contrived and over-sensitised in the more dynamic drive modes, when the electric supercharger is working to the max; the car surges forward a little too readily when you’re driving in ‘dynamic’ mode  and with ‘S’ mode selected on that new gear lever. There’s more intuitive drivability to find in the car’s other modes, though, and the eight-speed automatic gearbox suffers with only occasional moments of treacly hesitancy before kicking down. In mixed driving, 26mpg is the ballpark fuel economy that our test car returned.

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The F-Pace has been through some mild suspension retuning for this updated version, and the P400 - on its standard adaptive dampers, and even on coffee-table-sized optional 22in rims - rides and handles well enough to give it a clear dynamic edge over its SUV rivals. 

Allowing you to mix supple-yet-controlled ‘comfort’ mode suspension with ‘sport’ settings elsewhere, the ‘Dynamic-i’ custom drive program lets you find a near-ideal rolling configuration for keener UK cross-country driving, with only particularly coarse Tarmac creating noticeable road noise. The F-Pace handles and steers with striking accuracy, plenty of agility and balance, and a distinct sporting flavour; but its athletic dynamic compromise isn’t punishing on comfort or refinement, which isn’t something you can say of its rivals.

The car’s interior update is wide-ranging, lifting the old F-Pace’s standards for material appeal quite a way; and JLR’s new Pivi Pro infotainment system, delivered here on a slightly unusual convex-shaped 11.4in touchscreen, does even more for onboard technology. 

You still get physical heater controls for the car, and an audio volume scroll button placed just next to the gear lever. The new infotainment setup works so much better than the old one did thanks to really simple and clear usability with fixed shortcuts for hopping between menus, and much improved clarity and responsiveness. You can even pair two phones with it via Bluetooth, and wireless device charging is available also.

The extra satin chrome garnish that Jaguar has used around the cabin lifts the car’s perceived quality quite a way. Judged more broadly, the F-Pace is certainly on a par with a BMW X3 and Audi Q5 for luxury ambience, although perhaps not quite for the solidity of feel of quite all of its fixtures and fittings.

Our one word of warning would be to think carefully before ordering Jaguar’s optional performance seats, which our test car had. They offer good lateral bolstering and are comfortable for those up front, except for a slightly short backrest with a fixed ‘integral’ headrest which was too low for this tester, and annoyed by repeatedly poking in the back of the neck. 

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Those same seats have a hard ‘shell’ construction which is a bit tough on the shins and knees of those travelling in the back of the car; and since the F-Pace isn’t the kind of SUV with back seat space you can stretch out in, they might be best avoided for families with adults or older teenagers to transport.

Should I buy one?

Other mid-sized, premium-branded SUVs offer greater practicality; better fuel economy and better value too, needless to say. But, thanks to its enduring driver appeal and that much-improved luxury ambience, this one now seems quite a lot more worthy of a premium price than it ever used to.

If you want a modern mid-sized luxury SUV with a good dose of driver appeal to run off your own buck - assuming you’ve decided you really don’t want a plug-in hybrid option, and don’t mind paying to burn through some hydrocarbons while you still can - this F-Pace should be high on your shopping list.

It’s the kind of model that plenty of car-makers have simply stopped offering; Jaguar itself may not even be able to continue to offer it for too much longer, in Europe and the UK at least, depending on how the great carbon crackdown develops. If you like the cut of its jib, then, best grab one while you can.

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Gerhard 8 February 2021

The journalist may not 'get' this car derivative, but that's no excuse for such a deprecating article. The F Pace shell is no less accessible, versatile or roomy than the X3,Q5,GLC competition, it's actually bigger in some respects as I've checked them all out. 

This engine combination is a good choice for the anti-diesel age and the various options, are simply, options. 30mpg (IRL mpg is usually better than Autocar mpg) is impressive for such a beast and remember: this Jaguar SUV is half the price of an Aston DBX and no less capable...

 

geed 3 February 2021

This car's main market target is the USA, there is life beyond our shores Autocar. I-pace? 200 mile range, this will do ~350. No comparison. Different market. 

dougflump 3 February 2021
The devil is in the detail ..had JLR put more work in honing the look before releasing the F pace they would have had a hit on their hands, the prototype seen in the Coventry car museum looks so much better !and 26mpg for a powerful heavy car is pretty good!