Why The Jaguar F-Pace Is More Than A Weekend Drive

After seeing how the Cayenne gave Porsche a license to print money, it would seem as though every other high-end auto manufacturer is clamouring for a high-end SUV to call its own. Bentley’s Bentayga and the upcoming Rolls-Royce Cullinan sort of make sense, as luxury limos are supposed to be massive. But when Lamborghini makes something like the Urus, and even Ferrari is saying it’s got a truck in the pipeline, it’s safe to say that the high-end luxury-sport SUV will be a thing for a while.

Also playing in this space, and at a (significantly) more affordable price, is Jaguar and its F-PACE. Stemming from the Jaguar Lightweight Aluminum Architecture—the same architecture that underpins the Jaguar XF and Range Rover Velar—the F-PACE can legitimately claim to be born from the DNA of sports cars and off-road vehicles. But does it excel at either?

The short answer is no. But then again, no one is buying one of these things in an attempt to dominate the Nürburgring or Dakar. They just want a machine that can haul the kids during the week and take on a twisty road on the weekend. And for that, the Jaguar F-PACE does just fine.

Jaguar recently tossed us the keys to the sportiest member of the F-PACE family: the 380-horsepower, supercharged F-PACE S, sprayed in Jaguar’s brilliant Caesium Blue and sitting on optional blacked-out wheels. With its sculpted silhouette, muscular haunches, and hunkered-down stance (well, as hunkered down as an SUV can be), the F-PACE successfully brings that Jaguar “look” to the SUV space. It’s not huge, per se, but there’s something about the F-PACE’s design that gives it a massive presence, making it feel as though it stands much taller than its 65-inch height.

That sleek shape is technically sophisticated, too. For example, each of its sides is formed from one solid chunk of aluminum, helping lighten the overall package for optimized performance. And sure, the all-wheel drive system has settings for dirt, snow, and deep gravel, but seeing as how it’s sending all the power to the rear by default, there’s no denying that this thing was built for the street.

When the gas is mashed to the floor, power gets shunted to the wheels that need it, helping the supercharged F-PACE churn out a 0-60 time of just 5.1 seconds. That’s respectably quick — so why does it feel like something is missing?

If we had to take a guess, we’d say it’s the sensation that’s missing. The F-PACE can hustle and get around the bends well, but there’s no getting around the fact that it weighs nearly 3 tons with a driver and passenger. Jaguar may have some stellar engineers, but even they can’t break the laws of physics, so you feel this SUV’s mass with every input.

Also missing from the experience is the noise, that sweet sound that delighted us with our time in the F-TYPE SVR. The F-PACE’s engine note is coarse, and just sort of…there. Speaking of the engine, some more torque would be nice as well. This thing doesn’t need to be fast, but it should feel powerful, and some additional low-end grunt could help this SUV feel lighter on its feet. And while the F-PACE allows one to fine-tune things like steering response, throttle mapping, and suspension dampening, there’s not a whole lot of reward for switching things from the “standard” setting, which honestly is good enough. Not that most F-PACE buyers would care, anyway; the well-appointed cabin keeps things feeling sporty. The signature “heartbeat” start/stop button and rotary gear-select knob are here, as are some very well bolstered seats for the driver and front passenger. Four-zone climate control is available, as is a high-res glass (meaning digital) gauge cluster and 11-speaker Meridian sound system. The sculpted dash and door panels help to create the illusion that this SUV wraps around the driver, and the fat, leather-wrapped steering wheel reinforces the notion that this SUV was designed first and foremost for the driver.

The F-PACE’s 33.5 cubic feet of cargo space allows for a lot of stuff to come along for the ride, again making this a decent prospect for someone who wants a sports car, but who also has to live with the day-to-day realities of transporting children. Spirited drives will likely lead to one’s stroller crashing wildly around the back, but for those rare times when this SUV is empty, it can deliver some fun.

But it feels like the F-PACE is capable of more. It doesn’t need to try and be a well-balanced car with some extra space in the back — it just needs to knock one’s head back when the throttle pedal is mashed to the floor. We doubt even Urus owners comment on how well their Lambo takes on corners — they just gush about how fast the thing is in a straight line. And if you ask us, that straight-line thrill—and that signature Jaguar growl—is what’s missing from this supercharged package.

What we’re trying to say is that the F-PACE really needs the V8 from the F-TYPE SVR — and coincidentally, Jaguar actually announced such a vehicle as this review was being written. The F-TYPE SVR is coming this winter, and this writer, for one, can’t wait.