Review: The Jaguar F-Pace SUV Never Stops Trying To Be A Sports Car

No more questions about it, the SUV has very much arrived in mainstream culture.

When the Jeep Grand Wagoneer started getting gussied up, everyone sneered at its $20,000 price tag 40 years ago. When the Range Rover first landed in the U.S. 30 years ago, people gasped at its leather-lined interior and $30,000 sticker. And then 10 years later, there was the Mercedes-Benz M-Class, a $40,000 Mercedes intended to rival the Ford Explorer.

All of which brings us to the Jaguar F-Pace, the first SUV from a company that already has an entire division devoted to SUVs. It sounded silly at first, but the F-Pace is exactly the kind of SUV Jaguar would build.

Which has its pluses and minuses.

Grace over space

Make what you will over Jaguar venturing into the SUV world, but the F-Pace is, in fact, a looker. It doesn’t have to be upright, because that’s what the Land Rover division is for, and that’s to the Jag’s benefit.

Looking straight at it, the front is a little plain, but the rest of the F-Pace is well-sculpted, with careful creases and a generally attractive shape that’s carried from front to rear. Some SUVs suffer from sharp fronts that collapse into nondescript rears, but this one escapes that for the most part. Perhaps it’s the Italian Racing Red paint (a peculiar name for a Jaguar color, but OK) that makes the F-Pace look extra rakish. Also helping matters are attractive 20-inch wheels on this R-Sport model. I’ll get to why those hurt in other places later.

The design flourishes are toned down inside, where ergonomic compromises also come into play. Jaguar’s mainstream models have become a tad staid in the interior department, which is a problem when you have rivals from Audi and Volvo continuing to create inviting cockpits. Going for the R-Sport package does add some color to what would normally be a dark place, although the vast glass roof covers both rows of seats and let some of that January gray Detroit light in.

That’s a good thing because you don’t sit especially high up in the F-Pace and the side windows are rather shallow for an SUV. It’s a sporty driving position, for sure, but I found myself raising the seat higher than I would normally just to get a slightly commanding view of the road.

The seating position isn’t the only ergonomic quirk. Seat memory controls are where you’d expect the window switches to be, the start-stop button is where you’d expect the volume knob to be and the controls for the heated seats take a while to warm themselves up on a cold morning. At least Jaguar’s new touchscreen is a vast organizational improvement over the previous iteration, even if it isn’t the last word in sophistication.

Thing is, if you’re looking at this F-Pace to be the last word in practicality and technological achievements, you’re missing the point.

Pace is the trick #jaguar #JaguarFPace #Detroit A post shared by Zac Estrada (@zacestrada) on Jan 8, 2017 at 10:46am PST

Bursts and bumps

Holy. Crap. This thing is quick.

The F-Pace 35t, a 2017 World Car of the Year finalist, with its 3.0-liter V6 with 340 supercharged horses gets up and going in a hurry. And this isn’t even the top banana: a 380-horsepower version of the engine is the most powerful F-Pace at the moment. Even in its quietest setting, the F-Pace also growls as if there’s a little bit of the F-Type sports car trying to escape the SUV pragmatism. Put it in the most sporting setting and it suddenly makes everyone aware there’s something angry driving by.

That’s all well and good if you’re on a highway or a nice road, but it gets tiresome when you just want to go 25 mph down your street. The F-Pace doesn’t do town speeds, so you may become fast friends with your local traffic enforcer. Obviously, the 2.0-liter turbodiesel four is the way to go if you plan on driving your F-Pace mostly in town.

Opting for a non-R-Sport model also gets you smaller wheels, which might help the jarring ride. It didn’t help that my experience was on Detroit’s cracked pavement, but the F-Pace’s ride never settled down and the big wheels clomped over every surface – to the point that my three passengers at one point had to note how stiff and choppy the whole experience was. Those expecting a relaxing Jaguar experience like the one you get in an XJ sedan will be disappointed. Those who wish their F-Type could fit the family, however, will understand.

Hot thoughts

And if you fall into that latter camp, the as-tested $69,000 price tag for this F-Pace seems reasonable when you consider what a Porsche Macan S costs, or even a well-equipped Mercedes-AMG GLC43. Knock off some of the more opulent extras and the F-Pace 35t can be had for less than $60,000, a bargain.

Think about the level of performance and the number of smirk-inducing stoplight launches you could make with it and one could make a case for picking an F-Pace over the vast selection of more staid alternatives. At times, the F-Pace seduces you like a Jaguar should.

Then your brain kicks in again. The Germans, however, do better interior quality and even the stiff-legged Mercedes sometimes feels more composed than the Jaguar. And lots of other similarly luxurious and sized SUVs do the everyday driver thing better, too.

As much as the F-Pace frustrates, however, it’s on the right track by at least admitting it isn’t the most practical car among its peers or the one to make you feel tough and off-roadish. It’s a sports car that happens to resemble an SUV.

A little more refinement and it could make life for the luxury sport sedan even more difficult.

Photos: Zac Estrada/Carscoops


  • Six Thousand Times

    But it’s not. It’s certainly not Jaguar’s fault for cashing in on the SUV craze but I’d rather they did a XKS/XJ-S grand tourer replacement.

    • Kash

      They don’t make enough cars right now. After their SUV’s they probably will get working on a XK replacement, but just like Porsche they need these SUV’s to afford the XK.

      • Six Thousand Times

        I’m well aware of the difference in what I’d like to see versus what the market wants and what the manufacturers will produce. This is what makes me less and less of an enthusiast every day. Every SUV represents a cool sports car or coupe that I would really like that does not get built.

        • Harry_Wild

          SUV are truck frame body on frame vehicles! Sport cars are unibody low to the ground vehicles. CUV are SUV bodies in a car frame! SUV are heavy since they are trucks. Trucks are design to do work such as hauling stuff, go off road.

        • supermanuel

          They need cash flow to make the XK replacement and they’re certainly not getting that cashflow from the XE/XF ranges. I’d suggest that every SUV/CUV you see IS one step closer to the cool sports car or coupe that you would really like.

          • Six Thousand Times

            No, they’ve already said a new XK isn’t going to happen because the market just isn’t there. People want SUVs.

          • supermanuel

            Yes. I know that SUVs sell. I know that people have them. I have one. The point is SUV’s sell which creates income for car companies which enables them to consider models that would not otherwise have been possible. Please tell me that you’re smart enough to know that’s the point. I said that “every SUV/CUV you see IS one step closer to the cool sports car or coupe that you would really like.”

            The fact that Jaguar can not sell enough XKs to make it a viable model is a shame but it doesn’t mean that they won’t build anything interesting ever again.

          • Six Thousand Times

            Maybe so, but they have said no to a new XK. Really, only Porsche has said they fund their sports cars through SUV sales. Look at the list of good stuff that has died (IDX, Stinger GT4, Code 130R, etc.) I don’t blame anyone for buying an SUV and I certainly can’t fault the manufacturers who give the people what they want. It just is what it is.

  • Kash

    I think the best part about this car is the lack of other people driving one. I have the S model and it’s really a sporty/agile CUV. Even though it’s a supercharged V6 it still sounds really nice, it has this mild grumble actually. I could only imagine what a V8 would do to this thing… I am still waiting for after market parts like clear tail lights to replace the red ones though.

    • supermanuel

      I’m really pleased that enthusiasts like you are buying this car Kash. I would find it hard to resist if I were looking for a new car right now. Hopefully it won’t remain too exclusive for long though, Jag needs the income to develop the rest of the range. I have a real problem with the design and quality of the interiors of the XE/XF and F-Pace though. What’s your experience so far?

      • Kash

        The rear window isn’t the best but spend more than 5 minutes tweaking the mirrors and you’ll be fine. The interior material quality is superior and very Jag, as in it’s very premium, i went for the black and red leather and the leather is soft and very vibrant, there’s no threads sticking up either and even after hauling some large furniture after a quick vacuum it looks brand new again. I’m surprised you have issue with the F-pace’s interior, I’ll agree with you on the XE, especially the base model with its cloth interior (that’s a shame, should’ve been at least the pleather stuff.

        Part of me wants it to stay exclusive, and i think it will to an extent, I don’t think it’ll be a sales leader but it will probably hit 3rd best seller in the segment. Part of me wants it to at least sell well enough to continue on, but no more than that.

        As for build quality I haven’t had any problems yet and I’m getting ready to take it for its first oil change/servicing in about a week. It starts up every morning without issue, even if i let it sit for a couple days. The Activity key is an amazing feature, even if you can’t use it as a full fledge key, it’s still leaps and bounds better than carrying the massive Jag fob in my pocket and I can’t wait for them to offer a fully functioning key, these wrist keys are the future.

        I have the massive 22″ double helix rims and while the ride is super comfy 90% of the time, when the roads start getting really bad the ride does get a little rough, so if you wanna avoid that get smaller ones. the interior is quiet and there’s very little road noise.

        While i said all the same things about my F-type within the first 2 months of ownership, so this car would pull a 180 and become a complete POS. Aask me again at 3 months. Lol. I do get the feeling this thing will hold up far better though, so there’s hope.

        The paint, Rhodium Silver, is stunning, it reminds me of the Carrera Silver Porsche used to hand paint years ago, even after i did a clear full body wrap it still looks gorgeous.

        We also have a GLC43 (that’s my husband’s) and the F-pace really holds up against it, I actually feel that the Jag is a step above the Merc all around. The GLC makes a slightly better sound but the Jag feels quicker, it feels like the people who engineered the F-type were unleashed on the F-pace and the 2 cars feel very related. It’s very much an enthusiast’s crossover and i think a lot of people driving the F-type, the 718, even the 911 will appreciate and enjoy the F-pace, they’d also enjoy the GLC but the 63 version would probably appeal to them far more than the 43 version. I like the 43 we have but it’s not as sporty as I’d hope with it being an AMG model, but since they’re doing a 63 version it only makes sense to restrain the 43 a bit. We see the same thing happening with the C43 & C63.

        • supermanuel

          Thanks for that detailed response Kash. Very interesting to hear that you are so positive about the car so far, reassuring.

          I should clarify, when I say interior I mean predominantly the dashboard. The dashboard in the F-Pace is lifted straight from the XE. It is just too plain for my liking, too ordinary. It wouldn’t look out of place in a small family hatch from Japan. I’m sure I could live with it but I wouldn’t be ‘happy’ with it. The car would have to be brilliant in other ways to compensate for the driving environment.

          My dad had XJs when I was growing up (70s and 80s) and Jaguar became the brand that I most aspired to owning. I really want Jaguar to succeed and produce cars that I could own (actually, lease) but so far I have chosen other brands rather than Jaguar, Mercedes being the favourite.

          I don’t want to be a German car driver necessarily, but I don’t want to settle for anything that feels like it’s 3/4’s of a Merc/Beemer either. You’re experience so far suggests that wouldn’t be the case so I will make sure I get over to my local Jaguar dealer when my next lease runs out in 18 months time.

          • Kash

            Jag has always been somewhat of my guilty pleasure brand and i want them to succeed, I grew up with my dad always having an XJ until the current generation. Great interiors and looks, terrible reliability, but that’s a Jag.

            I like the simple/”bland” interior especially with this being my daily, it’s comforting to get in and not have it be the most over the top interior and it was very easy to get acquainted with and it’s easy to go from my S90 to CTS-V to G65 to this and back and forth. Think about the interior you want to live with day to say, do you want something super complex and somewhat overly designed?

            Unless you’re buying the M/AMG models with the designo/individual interiors you don’t have to worry about this falling short of BMW and Merc.

            Speaking of dealerships, i have a G65 along with this and the people at Jag treat me way better than the ones at Mercedes ever have and I’ve been buying from them for years. Not say Mercedes treats me badly, not in the least, but Jag just treats me better.

          • supermanuel

            Good design isn’t usually complex Kash. Good styling (rather than good design) can enhance the quality of an experience and doesn’t need to impact on usability. Ergonomics are sacrosanct. However, I want the interior of my cars to make me feel good when I get in, especially in my daily driver. I want there to be elements that make me smile, that reward me for choosing the car.

            Sadly, it’s not all about the way something drives anymore- here in UK we spend so much of our time being the queue of traffic or crawling through roadworks that there has to be some other enjoyment. Visual enjoyment is important to me. There is no visual joy on the dashboard of the XE/XF or F-Pace. With a good interior the F-Pace would move from ‘contender’ to ‘done deal’ for me.

            I live in hope that that one day soon I will own my first Jaguar 🙂

          • Kash

            See traffic here in America can be bad but I haven’t been stuck in bumper to bumper not moving traffic in ages. So i do get to enjoy the driving dynamics of my cars more while out and about so i don’t really get the chance to stare at my dashboard for very long unless I’m at a red light or stopped somewhere like a drive thru, and if i’m in a drive thru I’m on my phone. Now if i lived in LA then yeah i’d be in that horrible kind of traffic more often.

            I remember when we were looking at buying the F-pace we cross shopped it with the NX F-sport, Audi SQ5 and the GLC43, I felt the others were just too busy interior wise. The NX was right behind the Jag with its interior because it was pretty simple and toned down but still busier than then Jag’s, the Merc was just so full of buttons and while the Jag has almost as many buttons (probably more actually) it just looked better and seemed like they put more thought into where they put them, same with the Nav screen, it was like the Audi’s but better thought out. I mean yeah we ended up getting the GLC and Jag and to this day I feel the same way about them. I help that gives you some idea as to why i feel the way I do about the car’s interior.

  • badcyclist

    The F-Pace made my top three list, but in the end I never even test-drove one. Too small for what we needed (big dogs), the driver’s cockpit felt too cramped, cheap interior materials, and poor visibility compared to the XC90 and Q7. It is a very nice, appealing car in many respects, and I don’t doubt that it handles as much like a sports car as an SUV can, but it wasn’t for me.

    • alexxx

      which one did you choose?

    • supermanuel

      I’m not surprised the F-Pace didn’t compare to the other 2 cars on your list. It’s about half the size of the Q7 and the XC90, both excellent cars, but in a completely different class.

  • Bob White

    I’m currently shopping for a CUV in that segment. It really is coming down to the F-Pace and the GLC 43. Exterior styling is very attractive on the F-Pace while the interior is significantly better on the GLC 43. The test drive may make things more clear. Engineering and long-term reliability concerns me on the Jag but I will wait to see hard number on this.

    • supermanuel

      I would expect that decision to come down to head vs. heart. Not an easy decision to make- the GLC43 is a brilliant car, expertly executed and with an interior to die for and no reliability concerns. But the Jag is just appealing in a way that is difficult to articulate. Shame about the 90’s Honda interior.

      Have fun deciding.

      • Bob White

        You put it very well, the interior is very disappointing. The hard surfaces and quality of the materials show where they cut costs. In my area, every third car is a MB and would prefer something different.

  • Bob

    I hate the drone of the V6 in this; how’d they get it so wrong after the V6 in the F-Type?