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First drive: 2021 Jaguar F-Pace P400

Nick Francis

03 Feb 2021

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The Jaguar F-Pace has always been one of the more enjoyable SUVs to drive, with handling dynamics closer to that of a car than many of its rivals. The 2021 model has been given a thorough refresh of the interior and in-car tech: but has that put it to the top of the class?

When it comes to driving enjoyment the Jaguar F-Pace has never been lacking: it handles far more like a car than most SUVs, which puts it in a class with models like the Porsche Macan. Where the Porsche has always edged the Jaguar is the interior, both the design and the all-important infotainment system. The Macan’s cockpit-like focus on the driver and fuss-free but thoughtful design appealed more than the F-Pace’s slightly cold and boxy layout. The bigger problem was the F-Pace’s infotainment system, which couldn’t hold a flame to that of the Macan’s in terms of functionality and resolution. As we know, for many people the infotainment system is the first thing they judge a car on.

Jaguar isn’t stupid, so it comes as no surprise that the facelifted 2021 F-Pace has focussed on these two areas above all else. There are some minor exterior updates but it still looks every inch the F-Pace Ian Callum originally designed in 2015, and that’s a good thing indeed.The new F-Pace also receives a suite of fresh engines, which includes three mild hybrid diesels, one mild hybrid petrol and a plug-in hybrid which offers a claimed electric range of up to 33 miles. We’ve been driving the P400 mild hybrid R-Dynamic SE, which uses the six-cylinder 3.0-litre mild hybrid petrol engine, good for 395bhp and a Macan-baiting 0-62mph time of 5.4 seconds.

We’ll start inside, because that’s where most of the magic has happened. Customers who like a Jaguar to feel, well, like a Jaguar will not be disappointed. While the old model seemed to have forgotten it roots and went for a clean and stripped-back design, the new F-Pace’s cabin is a luxury design studio of open-pore wood, aluminium, black gloss and deep, plush leather. Everything is much more tactile and soft to the touch than before, and colours are broken up in the right places to prevent it from being an ostentatious assault of cowhide. All of the switchgear has been swapped out, with an entirely new driver control panel, the centrepiece of which is a large drive selector wrapped in leather with stitching inspired by a cricket ball (very Jaguar).

Attention to detail can be found throughout, including on the etched edgings of the aluminium rotary dials for the drive mode selector and climate control. Mercifully, these also keep the business of setting the right temperature or activating the heated seats well away from the infotainment system. All of the controls are easy to reach and pleasing to touch, the new F-Pace far is more driver-focussed than ever before. The perforated leather seats are comfortable and supportive and offer a good driving position and view of the road. Visibility is generally good, although the thick B-pillar does slightly interfere with checking your blind spot.

Jaguar’s decision to design and build its own infotainment system has always seemed an odd one, especially when you look at rival brands like Volvo which opted to stick to what it is good at – making cars – and farm out the tech bit to Google, which knows a thing or two about that sort of thing. The decision seemed especially flawed in light of the fact Jaguar Land Rover’s infotainment system was way behind the standard you would expect of a premium car. Rather than give up, JLR has pushed on and designed the all-new Pivi Pro system, which has found its way into the 2021 F-Pace.

The difference between the old system and the new is night and day. The new Pivi Pro has a devoted power source which means it doesn’t take an age to boot up once the car is turned on, aping the instant functionality of a smartphone. The sat nav is ready to go before you are and it comes with embedded apps like Spotify, as well as Apple CarPlay as standard. It also comes with two embedded modems so it can perform over-the-air software updates, keeping you out of dealerships for system refreshes. Jaguar says 90% of common functions can now be performed in two clicks or less.

Not only is the functionality vastly improved but the screen itself is 48% larger, using 11.4-inches of curved glass which is three times brighter than before and has been chemically treated to resist fingerprint marks and make them easier to wipe off. The system is incredibly intuitive and easy to use on-the-move. The 12.3-inch digital driver display is sharp and clear and offers a broad range of customisation, and it comes as standard in the SE and HSE models.

So great news when it comes to the interior. On the inside the F-Pace is now well and truly on a par with SUVs from Mercedes-Benz when it comes to the styling, and build quality more than equals that of BMW and Audi. But what of the outside? As we mentioned, not a whole lot has changed. The F-Pace still looks streamlined and sporty, with its raked rear roofline tucking under a small spoiler. The bonnet has been revised, with a larger power bulge and a gentle slope down to a bigger, diamond-detailed grille. It looks visually wider thanks to bigger air intakes, and the chicane LEDs first seen on the I-Pace have been added at the back. All models receive slimmer LEDs at the front which can be optioned with pixel technology.

On the road the F-Pace has lost none of its handling prowess, with body roll at a minimum in corners and a keenness to turn in. The steering is weighted nicely although isn’t exactly endowed with traditional feel, but it obeys inputs with precise eagerness. For such sporty handling the payoff is inevitably a harsher ride, this isn’t the SUV you want for mindless bumbling around town because. Driving the P400 reminded us how good a six-cylinder engine can sound, everything seems to be four-cylinder these days, and the engine pulls keenly from the low rev band, helped by the electric supercharger powered by a 48v motor, although it's hardly noticeable.

The 2021 Jaguar F-Pace really has few weak spots. Before it was a case of ‘nearly but not quite’ and it wasn’t a huge surprise that its German rivals enjoyed bigger sales. Prices now start at £40,860 which places it firmly against the Mercedes-Benz GLC, BMW X3 and Audi Q5, and around £7,000 cheaper than the Porsche Macan. It offers more flair inside than the Porsche and drives almost as well, and it’s certainly a more engaging driving experience than the Audi or Mercedes.

Model: Jaguar F-Pace P400 MHEV R-Dynamic SE

Price as tested: £57,410

Engine: 3.0-litre 6-cylinder turbocharged petrol MHEV

Power: 395bhp

0-62mph: 5.4 seconds

Top speed: 155mph

MPG: 28.8

CO2: 221g/km

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