is tJaguar is the kind of automaker that, from afar, does not make sense. You want me to buy an expensive car that will only depreciate, might be undependable, and also lacks any one quality you might call interesting? Up close, though, things are different. After spending a day at JLR’s headquarters, I began to talk myself into it.
(Full disclosure: Jaguar invited automotive journalists to their headquarters this month for a socially-distanced drive. There were only four or five of us per day, we all had to show a recent negative Covid test result prior to participating, we all provided our own transportation to Jaguar Land Rover’s HQ in New Jersey, and we all drove JLR’s cars alone. Because I was not forced to be in the same car with an automotive journalist for several hours like usual, this was easily the greatest automaker drive I’ve ever been on.)
Let’s take the interiors as an example. Jaguar’s interiors in the 2021 F-Pace and 2021 XF are largely the same, which you might call lazy, except it is not, because when Jaguar thinks about its interiors it thinks about things like where to put the embossed Jaguar leaper on the front hand rest. It thinks about how to make its drive selector sportier. It thinks about how to top its instrument panel. It thinks that, sure, the steering wheel could use a redesign. And it thinks the front and rear door casings could use some work.
On the outside, it thinks the 2021 F-Pace needed new wheels. The old hood? Let’s redesign it. The front and rear bumpers aren’t aerodynamically optimized? Let’s redesign those too. And, obviously, we need some new paint colors.
I know all of these things thanks to a detailed presentation Jaguar gave before we drove the 2021 F-Pace, which was, in my case, an $82,245 car with almost every option on offer except the V8. Mine had an inline-six that makes 395 horsepower. Was it good? Of course it was.
But Jaguar also understands that not everyone in this market wants to spend $82,245 on a luxury midsize SUV. Jaguar knows its place in the world. That’s because the 2021 F-Pace starts at $49,995. That’s asgainst the Mercedes-Benz GLC which starts at $43,200, the Audi Q5 at $43,300, the BMW X3 at $43,000, the BMW X4 at $51,600, and the Porsche Macan at $52,100.
Is the F-Pace better, on paper, than its Mercedes, Audi, and BMW equivalents? I don’t know, but Jaguar thinks it is, and anyone who’s buying the 2021 Jaguar F-Pace will likely be inclined to agree. Even after driving this F-Pace, I get the sense that Jag buyers don’t put a whole lot of thought into their purchase. I imagine anyone buying one got sucked in by the looks, or the leather, or the name, and didn’t think twice about opening their wallet for one.
The $49,995 the 2021 F-Pace starts at is also $4,795 more than the 2020 F-Pace starting price, but in return you get more standard features and fewer trim lines, or derivatives, to choose from — seven fewer, from twelve to five, with Jaguar simplifying its lineup this year.
I will take this moment to note that Jaguar’s infotainment system, called Pivi Pro, is the least annoying infotainment system I’ve used in a modern car, and I’ve used quite a few. It is simple and intuitive, with a “flat” menu structure, seemingly understanding of the fact that the person operating it is also operating a 4,471-pound vehicle.
How does it drive? It drives [checks notes] like a modern car. Everything is smooth. The engine has more than enough power, and I suspect that is true too for the 246 HP base model. The eight-speed automatic is entirely forgettable, which is what you want in a luxury car. Everything inside is very roomy and fitted and the driving experience is like sitting inside of a leather glove with a motor.
More: It is brand new, so everything works. I don’t want to be too glib about it but, let’s be honest, most people who get this thing will either buy it because they can afford to buy it or they are going to lease it because they can afford to lease it. Someone impulsive. Someone with enough money to act on their impulses without too much second thought. The 2021 Jaguar F-Pace I drove gets 25 mpg combined. Money won’t be much of a factor for the average 2021 Jaguar F-Pace buyer or lessee, who will merely be expecting a luxury car that drives smooth and feels good. The 2021 Jaguar F-Pace is a luxury car that drives smooth and feels good.
This car is not for the track. This car is not for collectors. This car is not for tightwads, because no tightwad worth their salt would ever buy a Jaguar. A Jaguar is for a person who loves Jaguar. In the F-Pace’s case, that is probably a parent. That is also probably someone with an attention to detail who can also suspend disbelief, because that is what Jaguar is.