Pros

  • Attractive interior
  • Sweet and smooth I-6 engine
  • Still looks great

 Cons

  • Cheap-feeling touch-capacitive climate controls
  • Options add up quickly
  • Unintuitive infotainment system

Our collective head knows we need to judge each and every SUV of the Year contender by six key criteria, but our heart … well, the heart wants what it wants, and for many of this year’s judges, their hearts wanted the Jaguar F-Pace, a model that benefited from a midcycle update for the 2021 model year.

Along with a handful of exterior and interior revisions, the 2021 F-Pace trades the 3.0-liter supercharged V-6 of yore for a new 3.0-liter I-6 that features both a turbocharger and an electric supercharger. The prior 2.0-liter turbocharged I-4 carries over in base P250 form, now making 246 hp, or 1 hp less, than in 2020, while the topline F-Pace SVR retains its 550-hp 5.0-liter supercharged V-8.

Jaguar offers the new six-pot in 335-hp and 395-hp guises, the latter of which the British marque sent to contend in this year’s SUV of the Year shootout. Dubbed the P400 R-Dynamic S (F-Paces with the lesser I-6 are called P340 S), the most powerful six-cylinder F-Pace separates itself from its more plebeian stablemates by way of trim-specific exterior and interior details such as its grille, wheels, and perforated leather sport seats. The cost of entry for all of this? A cool $66,350, or $5,805 more than that of an F-Pace P340 S.

Jaguar, however, pulls a page from Porsche’s playbook and asks buyers to drop additional coin for items other automakers often include as standard equipment. For instance, rear privacy glass is a $200 option. As such, this F-Pace P400 R-Dynamic S stickered for north of $80,000. We quickly pegged that sum as a strike under the value criterion.

But then we slipped behind the F-Pace’s wheel, and our heart grew three sizes. “The interior design feels premium, sporty, and refined,” Mexico editor Miguel Cortina said.

Despite its high-end materials and stylish looks, the F-Pace’s cabin was not without faults. “Give me a break, you pay this kind of money, and you get an antique form of manual steering-wheel adjustment,” guest judge Gordon Dickie said of the pricey SUV’s steering column.

The Jag’s climate controls also failed to make many friends. “I don’t know how many times I touched that Sync button to try to synchronize the dual climate control before realizing you have to push through it and make the whole panel move,” technical director Frank Markus said.

Additionally, the updated infotainment system—though an improvement relative to the previous setup—remains rather unintuitive. No doubt, our head found the Jag’s insides somewhat lacking when judged for Engineering Excellence.

Our heart, however, soon filled with joy as we placed the SUV into gear. No matter the environment, the F-Pace impressed us with its inherent balance, comfortable ride quality, and dynamic performance.

Whether clawing its way through sand and dirt, tackling twisting turns, or simply puttering along at highway speeds, Jaguar’s compact SUV was an absolute pleasure to pilot. Credit the likes of its predictable chassis dynamics, well-tuned suspension, and sharp steering, not to mention the six-cylinder powertrain’s smooth operation and progressive powerband.

Although the F-Pace certainly triggered our emotions, its driving enjoyment could not quiet our brains’ protests. “I like this thing a lot,” head of editorial Ed Loh said, “but it’s not a standout player against any of our criteria.”

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