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2021 Jaguar F-Pace – First Drive

The invitation from Jaguar NZ read ‘launch event 10pm – 12am’ and I assumed it was a typo – but no, thanks to multiple experiences and positive feedback from Hong Kong, a night time launch is apparently the ideal way to experience a Jaguar F-Pace in the environment that it is frequently driven – the big city. 

F-Pace Sofitel

The event began at the Sofitel in Auckland’s CBD and plenty of double-strength coffees were handed out as we were brought up to speed about the new Jaguar F-Pace (the coffees were for the drive ahead, not for the briefing of course).

Initially released in 2016, the F-Pace was arguably a far cry from a brand that seemed to specialise in two and four door, sports cars and sedans, but despite being an SUV it embraced Jaguar’s premium/performance ethos and rapidly captured the hearts of both consumers and the press alike, winning the prestigious World Car of Year and the World Car Design of the Year titles the next year and going on to becoming the brand’s best seller. So how do you top that I hear you ask – well by heavily refreshing the model’s ‘face, body and mind’ it would seem. 

Jaguar logo

According to Jaguar NZ, the ‘refresh’ has been so dramatic that some would call this a brand new car, but Jaguar are calling it a major facelift. The exterior is more aggressive and dynamic while the interior has received a huge uplift in design, finish and materials used. There’s also much better technology in the performance SUV with a 11.4-inch touchscreen, Pivi Pro, some fancy noise cancelling and last but not least, new engines and a better drive – I think that covers it all.

2021 Jaguar F-Pace

There are now quite a range of F-Pace’s on offer, starting with the P250 (which is a retained engine), a D200, a D300, a P400 and ending with the 5L Supercharged V8 SVR, AND there’s now a PHEV P400e option too, which combines the P300 engine with a 140PS electric motor, so generates 404PS and 640Nm. There’s also a new name convention S, SE and HSE, with escalating trim levels to match, but all are R-Dynamic and all are iAWD. 

2021 Jaguar F-Pace

Exterior wise, the new F-Pace has a new bonnet that merges more seamlessly with the new foil-tipped front grille, a grille that’s been inspired by the 3D Jaguar logo. There’s a new front bumper, slimmer LED headlights with Double-J DRLs and directional indicators from the SE spec upwards, overall the look is certainly smoother and more premium.

Around the tail it has new slimmer LED taillights that feature the ‘chicane’ graphic, a new lower valance and a new exhaust strategy, on the 4-cylinder models they are hidden, but the 6-cylinder show off integrated tips – making it easier for others to spot whether or not to race you at the lights I assume.

2021 F-Pace Interior

But the majority of the sizable changes have occured in the cabin. New door casing, new switchgear, new instrument panel topper, new 12.3-Inch cluster, and there’s been a significant uplift in material quality too. The 11.4-inch curved touchscreen (48% bigger than before, 3 times brighter and 10 times faster) takes pride of place in the centre of the dashboard, it comes with Pivi Pro and is connected so things like live traffic are now a feature. It will also learn your routines, so for those that predictably like heated seats in the morning, fear not your F-Pace has you covered automatically.

2021 F-Pace Interior

There’s a new drive lever that replaces the rotary dial from before (I’ll gush over this soon) and the drive mode controller dial is recessed until you wish to use it, making the console clean and uncluttered. The steering wheel is split-rimmed with haptic touch sensitive buttons and the seats have been given more foam and are ‘performance-styled’ when you move into the HSE grade. And there’s a massage function available too.

A gem of the Jaguar’s suite of new technology is the active noise canceling. Just like those expensive headphones, the F-Pace has microphones in each wheel well listening for road noise, as it picks it up, clever wizzardy reverses the sound waves and plays them back through the Meridian sound system (HSE up) ensuring you have a VERY quiet cabin. The same system has engine noise cancelling too. As a footnote, Jaguar has confirmed that the SVR’s V8 is NOT an unwanted sound.

Performance wise, the F-Pace is ‘aluminium intensive’ so lighter and more rigid. It has ‘adaptive dynamic’ that measures the position of the wheels 500 times a second and the body 100 times a second ensuring you are where you should be and there’s ‘configurable dynamics’ which is standard on D300, P400 and P400e allowing you to personalise things like throttle response, gear mapping through the 8-Speed box and steering.

Enough of all that, give us the damn keys!

One more coffee and it was time to hit the road. Now those nine to fivers will attest that driving through Auckland city virtually unhindered by traffic (just the regular roadworks) is a bit of a treat, but better still is doing it in a new Jaguar.

Jaguar had laid on two engine variants for us to play with, the P250 with 250PS (or HP) and the gruffer sounding and more powerful P400 (400PS/HP). We would be playing follow the leader along a carefully planned route that would take in some of the city’s highlights and also prowl through some upmarket suburbs, I’d say stealthily through the latter but the P400 does growl a fair bit.

2021 Jaguar F-Pace

Aside from the almost expected premium finish, including seat comfort and the new curved infotainment screen, the cabin standout for me was the gear knob. As I said before, Jaguar have done away with the dial and moved to a lever that boasts ‘cricket ball stitching’ that’s oh so very tactile and a gear engagement process that requires an almost claw-like hand operation. Seriously, there’s the reason to buy this new F-Pace right there. 

2021 Jaguar F-Pace

For the first stage I had jumped behind the wheel of the P250 and slotted in mid-pack of five. Sandwiched between two SUVs I got the best of both worlds in terms of viewing the F-Pace’s new light optics as we crossed over the harbour bridge, red chicane ahead of me and Double-J’s in the rear view mirror, I guess the lights on the bridge are ok too. Considering this was the first rung on the F-Pace ladder, the finishing felt refined and the engine more than happy to keep up. 

2021 Jaguar F-Pace

First stop was Little Shoal bay reserve in Northcote which included a brief photo opportunity, a quick gaze at the city on the far side of the bridge we’d just crossed and a vehicle swap –  which meant into the P400 for me.

The difference between the motors is immediate, there’s a satisfying deep note upon start up and although the new F-Pace comes with clever NVH tech to remove road and engine compartment noise, the 6-cylinder sound thankfully remains – maybe you can drown it out using the hefty Meridian sound system should you really want to.

2021 Jaguar F-Pace

Our next stop was a mission, well Mission Bay to be exact, with a route that included another bridge crossing, SH1 driving to Greenlane, a brief kiss of Remuera and Eastridge and a drop down to the beachside car park, a perfect opportunity to test out some of the driving modes and driver aids such as adaptive cruise.

The quick turn of the drive-mode dial to dynamic and things start to heat up. The revs increase and everything feels more responsive. I had to keep an eye on the head up display to ensure laws were obeyed. The adaptive cruise is one haptic touch away (if I could stop playing with the cricket-ball gear lever) and is simple to use. As in fact is the infotainment screen. Smartphone-like swipes has you quickly exploring things like lap times and g-forces.

2021 Jaguar F-Pace

Our shadow of Jaguars slipped easily across town and down to the beach, where we again took a few snaps and swapped vehicles, although I somehow managed to retain my spot in the P400 – lucky that.

The final drive was along the waterfront back to the hotel, again a chance to navigate the tech and resist the urge to treat the road cones as a slalom course. The noticeable thing about the new F-Pace is the fact that you don’t notice any road noise – it’s just a pleasant and smooth ride.

2021 Jaguar F-Pace

The experience was over too soon and we handed the keys back over to Jaguar upon arrival back at the hotel. The upgrades are great and a big improvement on what was already a multi-award winner, at a starting price of $99,950 sure it’s not a cheap SUV but I think that’s the point, Jaguar say they are going back to their roots, being more for the discerning buyer and providing a beautiful product for their customers.

We hope to get an extended drive soon and maybe a go in the PHEV and SVR – stay tuned.

Pics supplied – Josh Hilliam

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