The Jaguar F-Pace absolutely rocks our world. This SUV is a masterclass whose strength will power the brand’s rapid evolution. New market segments and new sales records will keep coming rapidly with cars as strong as the F-Pace in the big cat range.
How could Jag’s first-ever SUV out-do the premium entries from BMW, Mercedes and Lexus right out of the gate?
It comes down to driver engagement, value and style. We’ll continue to touch on these themes throughout this HD Review and its standard headings of Exterior, Interior, Performance and Price.
Kicking things off is this very speedy HD video review of the car in action!
HD Drive Video
The style of the F-Pace is beyond excellent. This truck is beautiful in a way that few SUVs have ever been before. Versus Porsche and its cronies, the F-Pace is gifted right off the bat: its design can be purely road-focused thanks to its corporate Range Rover siblings. All those Rangies balance on and off-road ability throughout their engineering and design.
But the Jag is road-optimized from day one. This means that even with standard AWD and all-weather grip, this F-Pace is low and lean. Evidence of this stunning focus in the design is easy to find. It rides with SUV clearance, but has wrapped alloy bodywork painted to the base of the sills, and around every fender edge. Contrast this with the Macan and especially the Cayenne. Even the sportiest of those models still wrap the lower body in black plastic edges. The design benefits of this are clear as day from up front or around back, too.
Ultra-chopped overhangs front and rear are gorgeous and eye-catching. The nose closely mirrors the new XF in pictures — but not as much in person. Yes, the gorgeous J-shaped LED DRLs, LED low and highbeams and LED indicators are near clones to the XF sedan.
In photos, it is hard to grasp how much taller the F-Pace nose is than the slinky XF, though. In the flesh, there is big height in the middle bumper and lower intakes. All you know when you see this F-Pace from up front for the first time?
This is an SUV unlike any other. No awkwardness in its grilles like the Porsche crossovers so far. Nope, the F-Pace has the same purity of a long-hood, vertical-face like the best cars always do. Its oval grille sits smartly at the edge of the hood, with most of its details darkened and dechromed — even on this mid-spec 35t R-Sport model versus the F-Pace S black pack we snapped over the summer.
Even with these traditional silver 20-inch alloys versus the trendiest — and available! — dark wheels, the F-Pace has a timeless beauty that quickens the pulse every time you see it.
F-Pace S – Walkaround
The design of the F-Pace stays focused on its super-truck mission around profile and in back. The roof is low, the glasshouse is slim and the proportions are visibly rear-drive. The sloping roof continues to a sharp point at its trailing edge — making what might be a normal SUV spoiler-ette into what feels like a functional aero piece at the top of the tail.
The rump itself is bitesized. Check out the completely tucked-away rear bumper. The sleek F-Type lamps in back are ultra slim and discreet. They encourage you to drink in its macho stance and huge rubber paws all around.
Near-zero rear overhang (especially versus the the XF, curiously) makes the F-Pace always look and feel ready to sprint.
The entire result is an SUV with the beauty and essence of a pure sports car.
Sure, many SUVs have claimed this in the past. But the Jaguar F-Pace actually delivers — on hard track corners as much as the daily commute.
The cabin of the F-Pace is ultra-modern in the best ways. But some of its modernity makes for a bit of a learning curve for new owners. Basically, the TFT touchscreen of the InControl Pro and the adaptive instrument cluster are a huge next-gen move versus any Jag or Land Rover ever before.
The fundamentals are so perfect that you will be happy to learn its controls over the first week together. The driving position is flawless. It lets sporty drivers get as low and reclined as they dare. You can really get your bum on the floor, seat reclined deeply and steering wheel telescoped farrr out to meet your grip. This is a major difference versus objectively similar-sized SUVs from other brands. Lexus makes no SUV as comfortable for fast drivers. It is hard to even mention the RX as a rival to the F-Pace for sporty drivers. It is a marshmallow fluff by comparison, even though they both ride great. The Lexus RX as well as the Acura MDX and Lincoln MKX are just as easy to get in and out of, but nowhere near as good once seated.
Even the Lincoln’s 22-way power seats are woeful versus the Jaguar’s range of adjustment. Support? Forget it. The F-Pace’s seats are not beautiful to look at versus some oversized BMW thrones, but the comfort and support on long drives — and especially around corners — makes them grow on you like Spanish moss.
[You’re the Oak tree in this scenario. =]
Your acorns (passengers) are similarly cosseted and ensconced in the machine. Those ultra-low sills and ankle-friendly access down below are unlike any SUV we’ve sampled. But the flipside is a slightly low upper roof, particularly in back. The low roof is worth it to us for its style and center-of-gravity reasons, but is different than the RX Lexus of MKX Lincoln. Think BMW X6 access in back versus X5. Dip your head and you’re in. Once inside, there is medium legroom but actually plentiful shoulder, hip and headroom. The rolled corner of this alloy roof and its slim rear windows make the view outward a bit constrained from the back. Same for getting in and out. The F-Pace is less of a limo than some five-seat rivals, but it is pure and focused. Just like the rest of the truck!
Power recline for that back seat is lovely (and optional) to enhance long-range napping comfort. The trunk is pretty roomy and impeccably finished. Leave it to Jaguar to make cargo-rails along the floor, or the sunshade up top your luggage, feel classy.
Visibility from the front, alternatively, is excellent and the F-Pace is confidence-inspiring enough to make a racer out of any driver.
Point the ultra-compact and thick steering wheel and *boom* you are there. This is great when driving fast on narrow country roads, but just as much of an asset around parking lots and in bad weather.
The F-Pace is alive in your hands from the first turn. This truck feels LIGHT yet also STRONG as F.
The incisive steering bite is only your first clue at how fun and frisky the F-Pace is at speed. Driving slow or quickly, the F-Pace delivers more rewards than a broken slot-machine. Four drive modes let you choose the firmness of the steering and the eight-speed automatic’s mood, while the twist-knob PRND-S controller lets you get sporty with the transmission map separately.
Our happy place was the Dynamic ‘race’ mode, in Drive versus S — mostly so the car didnt bounce off its rev limiter so much. It is tempting to go in Dynamic and S for the snappiest moves on throttle, but this means you need to snick the upshift paddle behind the steering wheel as the revs climb.
The sonorous, straight-six and E-Type-like growl means we regularly forgot to upshift. The eight cogs are best left to their own skills in strong acceleration.
That operator-error issue aside, the shift paddles of the F-Pace are hardwired to this world’s-best automatic transmission from ZF. We relished snicking off a few downshifts on corner approach. In “D” mode, the F-Pace will upshift for you at redline — no worries there.
The pedalbox is slightly more compact than Porsche and Mercedes sport-trucks, and a bit less premium in feel. A top-mounted accelerator pedal is slightly harder to modulate well versus the premium, floor-mounted units in those Germans. You learn quickly how to push the F-Pace’s buttons, though.
Plop your entire boot over the slim throttle, mash it to the floor and hang on for the zing to 60-mph in just above 5 seconds. The throttle teaches you how this car likes to dance.
It wants to be chucked around by its neck scruff. The pin-sharp steering is feelsome and precise like the best ballerina in mid-intensity driving. Dead-ahead accurate but also EAGER like no other SUV on turn-in. Especially in “Dynamic” drive mode, which quickens but also adds weight to the steering wheel.
But for the first time in years in any AWD SUV, the F-Pace also loves an ole’ Scandinavian Flick. The nearly-all-rear bias of the Instinctive AWD system will drift the tail around with great pleasure.
Even while on the limit of rear grip, the F-Pace is unbelievably in-control. Those front wheels engage and take torque almost telepathically. Yet no amount of front grip in the F-Pace lessens the pure, flawless rear-drive chassis feel and balance.
How is all this possible?
We wonder that as well. The F-Pace is the lightest and nimblest SUV we’ve ever driven, even including rear-drive BMW X4s or Infiniti QX70/QX50’s with just RWD. It is uncanny how perfect the F-Pace feels around corners.
A hugely impressive detail in this? The truck never feels ‘hollow’ or brittle or tinny, as the new F-150 and some other aluminum-intensive models tend to. The F-Pace’s rigidity feels vastly superior to the Porsche Macan or Cayenne — without feeling like its wearing “cement boots” as many of these rivals tend to.
Versus the front-drive-based SUVs and crossovers like the Lincoln MKX or Lexus RX? There is no comparison. The Lexus is immediately less rigid (as you learn over big potholes when its entire platform judders) and the Lincoln always feels like it’s “pulling from the front” versus pushing from in back.
Simply said, the F-Pace is the most joyful SUV we’ve ever driven. All this with 340HP — down from the 380 ponies available in the F-Pace S.
All this is well and good, Tom, we hear you thinking to yourself. But it should be with these $100k looks and ultra-premium details.
Here is the bombshell, and what clinches the F-Pace as the Car-Revs-Daily.com SUV of the Year.
This F-Pace 35t R-Sport stickers from $55k, and up to $62,295 with the Comfort pack and $3200 Tech package. These are both worth having.
The Tech pack upgrades the touchscreen to a 10.2-inch capacitive (swipeable, ultra-responsive) unit, and the gauge cluster to a full Range Rover-spec 12-inch TFT unit. You also gain SSD navigation versus HDD (quicker) and a bump to the 825W Meridian audio. A few presets in the Meridian’s sound settings make a huge difference versus their ultra-premium audio systems sampled previously. Now a move from piccolo-melody audio sharpness to backstreet SUPER BASS is just a tap away. We loved its pure, rich and enveloping wall of sound.
We obviously fell face-first into the F-Pace’s charm on first sight of the very-beautiful white model we first met. Only a brief drive in that F-Pace S left our interest levels high, if not overflowing.
But this subtle grey F-Pace 35t R-Sport really turned the kettle to 11. Boiling love for the truck means we cannot help but gush with praise.
So much fun to drive, yet also so calm and flawless when you’re in a mellow mood. So comfortable and quiet and smooth on even rough roads. Yet also flickable around corners like an MX-5?
And then you have its Bentayga-sexy lines outside and its astoundingly awesome value equation.
Yes, this might be Jaguar’s first-ever SUV. But short of the F-Type, we’ve never had more fun driving a Jaguar.
And that is where the F-Pace really wallops its dime-a-dozen X5 and GLE rivals. Those ‘fatty magoo’ trucks all corner and accelerate like they are defying physics somehow, doing the impossible and hurling themselves at the horizon mercilessly. The F-Pace makes a fast launch and fast corners effortless — a true ‘aluminum monster’ that is hell-bent on beating the super-premium German SUVs at their own game. (Pls forgive the “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia references above).
So it’s aluminum. So what? The XF and F-Type feel good and light, yes. But not shockingly more-so than rivals. Somehow, being an SUV makes Jag’s swap to alloy versus steel make perfect sense. There must be no other way to feel so light and so solid with 8+ inches of ground clearance.
Test drive the F-Pace ASAP to feel this magical lightness for yourself.
Tom Burkart is the founder and managing editor of Car-Revs-Daily.com, an innovative and rapidly-expanding automotive news magazine.
He holds a Journalism JBA degree from the University of Wisconsin – Madison. Tom currently resides in Charleston, South Carolina with his two amazing dogs, Drake and Tank.
Mr. Burkart is available for all questions and concerns by email Tom(at)car-revs-daily.com.