Jaguars were famous, once, for their silky inline sixes and V12s and their uniquely elegant English styling. Nothing else looks like Westminster Abbey, and nothing else looked like an E-Type or XJS, either.
Jaguar lost that aspect when it decided to be more like BMW, Mercedes, and Lexus in the looks department and like everyone else when it decided to shy away from elegant saloons and sexy coupes in favor of the crossover SUVs everyone else is making.
So how to retain the Jaguarness without the looks? Well, the inline-six is back!
What It Is
The F-Pace is a compact-sized, five-passenger crossover SUV that competes with other small and sporty prestige-brand crossover SUVs like the BMW X3, Mercedes-Benz GLC, Infiniti QX50, and Audi Q3.
It comes standard with all-wheel-drive, regardless of engine, and offers a uniquely electrically supercharged inline six-cylinder engine paired with a 48-volt mild hybrid system.
You can also get it with a V8 engine, something almost none of its rivals except the Benz GLC offer. However, the cost of that engine is roughly twice the cost of the as-it-comes F-Pace, with a turbocharged four-cylinder engine.
That one stickers for $49,995 to start—with the new electrically-compressed six, the price rises to $59,395.
With the available 5.0-liter V8 (and 550 horsepower), an F-Pace SVR stickers for $84,600, which is substantially more than the $73,900 Benz GLC 63 AMG. It’s also packing substantially more horsepower than the V8 Benz, which tees up with a comparatively puny 469 hp.
The previously optional mechanically supercharged V6 has been replaced by a turbo-electrically compressed inline-six, paired with a 48-volt mild-hybrid system designed to cycle the gas engine off and on—not so much to increase gas mileage but to decrease the amount of C02 gas emitted, which has become as much an issue for car companies to deal with as complying with gas mileage mandates.
The price of the updated F-Pace also goes up—a lot.
Last year’s base trim 25t (essentially the same as this year’s P250 trim) stickered for $45,200. The new version of essentially the same thing, $49,995. That’s an uptick of $4,795.
The new turbo-electric-hybrid equipped version is also more expensive than last year’s mechanically supercharged V6, without the electric assist.
It’s down on power, too.
The good news is there’s a new and larger 11.4 inch curved LCD touchscreen display.
- Better in the snow than a classic E-Type or XJ.
- Available V8.
- Leaper on the horn button still has Jaguarness.
What’s Not So Good
- A Jaguar crossover is a weird animal.
- V8 is only available if you can afford it.
- Others in the class like the BMW X3 and Benz GLC cost thousands less.
Under The Hood
The F-Pace one-ups most of the others (except the Benz GLC) by offering three engine options rather than the usual two.
The standard engine is a 2.0-liter turbocharged four that makes 246 horsepower; it is paired with an eight-speed automatic and standard all-wheel-drive, which makes up some for the Jag’s higher-to-start MSRP vs. rivals like the X3 and GLC that offer AWD as an extra-cost option.
Unless, of course, you don’t want AWD and would rather not pay for it.
Equipped with its standard engine, the F-Pace takes 6.9 seconds to get to 60, a couple of ticks behind the pace set by rivals like the BMW X3, which can make the sprint in 6.2 seconds.
Gas mileage with the four is 22 city, 27 highway.
Another standard is 8.4 inches of clearance—about twice that of an old E-Type or XJ.
The second available engine is a new combination 3.0-liter turbocharged/electrically compressed straight-six, paired with a 48-volt mild-hybrid setup that allows the gas engine to be regularly cycled off and back on without noticeable transitions.
There are also two versions of this combination.
One makes 335 horsepower; the other bumps that up to 395 horsepower. The first will get an F-Pace to 60 in 5.8 seconds; the higher-output version reduces that to 5.1 seconds.
As with the four, an eight-speed automatic and AWD are paired with this engine as well.
MPG info wasn’t available when this review was written but is expected to uptick by about 3 MPG overall vs. the previous V6’s 18 city, 23 highway.
The third engine is a 5-liter V8 with a mechanical supercharger. It makes 550 horsepower—enough to get this Jaguar to 60 in 4 seconds or less.
It rates 16 city, 21 highway—slightly better on the highway than the old V6.
On The Road
Jaguar has tried to infuse some Jaguarness into the F-Pace by resurrecting the inline-six, which once defined the brand.
This system has the great virtue of eliminating the obnoxiously noticeable stop-start cycling common in cars with stop-start systems, which is practically all of them now. Automakers do this as a way to increase (slightly) gas mileage and decrease (also slightly) the “emissions” (as they are now styled) of carbon dioxide, the non-reactive gas that doesn’t cause smog or breathing problems but which some believe “change” the “climate.”
But people who pay Jaguar money aren’t enthused about the paint-shaker effect of stop-start “technology” as it’s advertised. The best solution would be to nix the system altogether, especially since the gas saved by all that stopping and starting is less than 1 MPG overall, on average. These “savings” are likely washed away by replacing the over-taxed starter battery (and possibly the starter motor as well).
Not to mention the obnoxiousness of the engine noticeably shutting down at every light and pause in traffic, and then noticeably restarting again.
Over and over and over again.
The new system makes these transitions seamless. Unless you are focused on it and looking for it by looking at the tachometer, you will probably not be conscious of the engine going to sleep and then waking up. The 48-volt electrical system is four times as powerful as the usual 12-volt system, and it directly spins the engine’s flywheel for almost immediate, very quiet restarts.
The big downside, of course, is the cost of the system reflected in the uptick in the F-Pace’s MSRP, including the MSRP of the standard engine-equipped F-Pace, which doesn’t have the 48-volt/mild hybrid system.
The cost of all of this and the cost of the government regulations behind it is being spread out across the board.
And not just in terms of what it costs—there is also what has been lost.
The new 3.0-liter turbo-electric drivetrain makes less power than the previous 3.0-liter supercharged engine (380 vs. 335). Even the stronger variant of the new 3.0-liter turbo-electric engine only makes 15 more horsepower while costing more than the old 3.0-liter supercharged engine).
There may be some gas savings — but given the type of vehicle we’re talking about, does it matter unless it’s spectacular? Official numbers for the ’21 F-Pace with the new straight-six/mild-hybrid setup weren’t available when this review was written in early April but are not likely to differ from the 18 city, 23 highway posted by the ’20 F-Pace with the supercharged-only V6.
It might be a 3-ish, or so MPG difference, which is not much of a meaningful difference when the power is down, and the price is up by several thousand dollars.
But then, it “changes” the “climate” less — if you buy that. And if you do, perhaps the cost is worth the expense.
The most Jaguar-ish version of the F-Pace is the V8-powered SVR, which I was able to savor last year. It may be jacked up off the ground by twice as much as an old E-Type or XJR, but it is worthy of the leaper on the steering wheel horn button, which is one of the few relics of Jaguarness remaining in new Jaguars. Almost none are coupes anymore.
Of course, other extremely quick super-crossovers are available, including the AMG (and V8) version of the Benz GLC. The Porsche Macan, too.
But while quickness isn’t a problem, distinctiveness is.
At The Curb
Once upon a time, nothing else looked like a Jag.
It was among the main reasons for buying a Jag. It wasn’t like a Mercedes or a BMW. It was an alternative to them. Sometimes even more luxurious, of course, but with a Savile Row style all its own.
Jaguars have less of that now because it is difficult to make a crossover that doesn’t look pretty much like every other crossover. How do you make a circle look like a square?
The layout defines the look.
While not stylistically objectionable in any way, the F-Pace isn’t stylistically exceptional as the Jaguars of the past like the E-Type and XJs of the classic era were. Those cars were the stuff of wall (and garage) art; sculpture you could drive.
The F-Pace is a great deal more practical because of the layout. A mid-’90s Jaguar XJ sedan had a 12 cubic foot trunk, a tiny relative to the size of an XJ (a full-size sedan, comparable to a Mercedes S-Class or BMW 7 of the same era).
The smaller-overall F-Pace (which was about the same footprint as a current-year compact sedan) has 31.5 cubic feet of storage space behind its second row. The load capacity increases to 69.1 cubic feet, almost six times the available space in the classic XJ sedan’s trunk with them folded.
The F-Pace is very practical, just not beautiful in the way Jaguars once were.
The F-Pace’s new 11.4-inch touchscreen isn’t flat, which adds a touch of uniqueness to this Jaguar though it is a truism that technology is fleeting and looks like “high tech” today may look cheesy or dated ten years from now.
By which time, incidentally, Jaguar and Land Rover (the same company) have stated they will no longer be making anything other than entirely electric vehicles.
This means that models like the current F-Pace are the last of their type, and absent the inline-six engines, it will be even harder to see how Jaguar maintains its uniqueness.
All electrified crossovers will likely look like all other electrified crossovers—same basic shape, same basic motive source, same sound, and the same feel.
The Bottom Line
Is it a Jaguar? Or just another crossover with some lingering Jaguarness?
Eric Peters lives in Virginia and enjoys driving cars and motorcycles. In the past, Eric worked as a car journalist for many prominent mainstream media outlets. Currently, he focuses his time writing auto history books, reviewing cars, and blogging about cars+ for his website EricPetersAutos.com.
Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author.