Mountain Wheels: Jaguar F-Pace is still one of Britain’s most impressive SUVs

Jaguar’s now-iconic F-Pace SUV, one of an earlier wave of high-lux sport utilities, continues to blend superb detailing with a somewhat more understated range of engine choices.
Courtesy photo

If you’ve read this column over the years, you remember a period where it might have seemed like every third story was about fabled English carmaker Jaguar — the big reason one in three cars in Summit County is now a distinctive British race car.

Well, sadly, my influence didn’t exactly turn out that way, but I certainly do miss the days of far-flung adventures in both Jaguar and partner brands Land Rover and Range Rover.

It was with an excited air of the new that I enjoyed my first Jaguar drive in over three years, spending some quality time with the refined F-Pace SUV. In a way, when the F-Pace debuted in 2016 it was the progenitor of a new generation of equally unlikely, more exotic luxury SUVs — which have become a dime a very, very, expensive dozen, ranging from the Aston Martin DBX to the Lamborghini Urus.

Jaguar remains a special, somewhat early adopter and whether or not this large and heavy lux-box really connotes traditional Jaguar motoring values, who knows. Especially as the same might also be said for everything from the Porsche Cayenne to the upcoming Lotus Eletre EV, all of which sorta look like the F-Pace, as well.

F-Pace is pleasant, yes, and certainly still imposing in its scale. In the F-Pace S model I drove, it was also pretty damned fast when it wanted to be, with power now provided by a turbocharged and supercharged 3.0-liter inline-6, putting out 335 horsepower and 354 pound-feet of torque (a 246-horsepower 2.0-liter turbo is the smaller option).

If you feel somewhat boost-impaired by those numbers, maybe you need to get in line for the special-edition F-Pace SVR Edition 1988, which gets a 550-horsepower supercharged V-8 engine.

Unlike that specialized monster, mine was not $110,000 — you can get into the F-Pace S for just under $60,000, and it was $73,420 with massaging seats, 21-inch wheels and premium displays, still cheaper than your average high-end, full-size pickup truck.

Better than any boring F-150, it’s an actual Jaguar, a company whose roots in 1935 Coventry, England, are now celebrated in scriptwork in the cabin. It carries a leather-heavy feeling of luxury and grace that you’re probably also going to pay about double for in a Lincoln, so — again, points to Jaguar.

The curious fact that Jaguar’s press materials on the F-Pace literally date back to 2018, the last time I drove the vehicle, suggest that not much under the extra-polished surfaces and engine compartment have changed in this 2021 model.

The central shift mechanism and console have been updated; what once was a sort of iffy little shifter is now a much broader and pleasant-feeling control. Like the rest of the land/range rover family, the move to immersive and impossibly black touchscreen video displays and controls has arrived; key elements fade to black when the vehicle is turned off, and everything is very easy

The nice thing, even by Rover standards, is the relative simplicity and straightforward elegance of the entire design. You are not overwhelmed by a million knobs and buttons, but instead gently but firmly planted behind a massive, chrome-centered, two-tone leather steering wheel with absolutely gigantic aluminum shift paddles. About the only shortfall is a rolling mesh cover for the massive full-cabin sunroof, which might be better used in cloudy England, and not scorching summer Colorado days.

My feelings of the overall sportiness of this 335-horsepower machine may have also changed in more recent tangles with 600-horsepower beasts of roughly the same size, but the heft of vehicle has certainly not changed, despite being just over 4,300 pounds.

It feels and rides heavily, especially on those giant 21-inch tires, and getting full off-the-line boost from that engine requires some trickery on the driver’s part. I found it necessary to scroll the F-Pace into Dynamic driving mode to disable an auto-stop and hill-hold setting that literally produced a one-second delay on every enthusiastic acceleration.

One overall off-road setting and a very discrete hill-descent/automatic off-road speed control button suggest the F-Pace is not advertised for dirt duty, unlike its Rover siblings. My memories of test drives long ago suggest it could still do about 90% of what a Discovery was able to do; I left that for an online influencer to try out this time.

Cornering is also somewhat precipitous unless planned well in advance, but when timed well, the F-Pace will carve gracefully. Even the lane-keep system is gently subtle, unlike the yank-and-pull of other modern vehicles. And yes, pedal down, it will fly like a Jaguar is supposed to fly.

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