Jaguar Designs A Sports Car You Can Drive Off-Road
Their first SUV, the Jaguar F-Pace is an expansion of the brand's performance heritage
For 2016, Jaguar introduces arguably one of their most important vehicles in the company’s history. It isn’t a flagship supercar or a top end luxury sedan, it is the brand’s first SUV, the F-Pace. You might be thinking, really? Jaguar needs an SUV, too? The short answer is yes. We left New York City to drive the new F-Pace on some of the most challenging roads and difficult terrain to find out what makes it special.
Disclaimer: Jaguar flew PSFK to the picturesque country of Montenegro and paid for our stay at the incredible Aman Sveti Stefan resort, a former 14th century monastery.
Jaguar took a bit of extra time to enter the premium SUV category. Competitors Porsche, BMW, and Audi among others have had comparable models available for years. Jaguar moving into this category is about going after volume sales. With their new entry-level XE sedan, the automaker stands to more than double their market reach in the US.
What’s the continued lure of SUVs and Crossovers? They are designed to be the best multi-tasker vehicle available. They’re good on the road, good in bad weather, they seat a good number of people and can carry a bunch of stuff inside. There are distinct sub-categories of SUVs to appeal to someone looking for more robust off-road capabilities, or an ultra luxury ride, or performance specs suited for the racetrack or drag strip. The sedan was the 20th century definition of the car, the SUV is certainly redefining that for the 21st century.
If you know the Jaguar brand, it is a blend of performance and luxury and the F-Pace comes from that DNA. The roads around Montenegro proved to be an unexpected test, more so of our driving focus and attention than what the F-Pace was capable of traversing.
During our driver briefing, we were repeatedly reminded of three issues to be aware of while driving around Montenegro. First was the condition and size of the roads. The definition of road is a bit different in Montenegro than what someone for the United States is used to. Most of the two lane roads we drove on are more like the width of sidewalks or very narrow paved paths. 80 percent of Montenegro is mountainous which adds blind corners, sharp drop-offs and rock slides to the mix. There’s also occasions of near blindness while driving through a passing cloud.
The F-Pace is a large vehicle within the context of the region’s roads. Smaller vehicles tended to move over more often but each passing situation was a sizing-up match we sometimes lost.
The local drivers are pretty fearless which was another unpredictable element of the roads. They might be passing two wide around a blind corner head-on, or deeply impatient with anyone ahead of them keeping to the speed limit on a road better sized for bicycles. And then there were the goats, herds of them that cascaded across stretches of asphalt.
The impression that Montenegro roads are a bit of a free-for-all is tempered by the strict speed limits and extra vigilant police officers. Getting a ticket in Montenegro requires payment on the spot at the nearest post office which might be a considerable drive away. The twisty roads were a tempting invitation to having some fun in the F-Pace but all these variables made it an attention-taxing stint behind the wheel. Add to that Jaguar organized some canoeing, so each F-Pace ferried a giant brightly colored two-man canoe for much of the day making blending in very difficult.
If Jaguar’s point was to prove that the F-Pace was more than a smooth pavement cruiser, Montenegro showcased those extra capabilities. Some of these technologies come from sister brand Land Rover, and to demonstrate Adaptive Surface Response, we drove up a muddy ski slope. ASR basically takes control of the throttle and maintains momentum by sending power to the wheels that have traction. It is a pretty amazing system that gives confidence to a driver with very little off-road driving experience.
It may be that most future F-Pace owners never take their vehicles off-road. But Jaguar has introduced a way for F-Pace owners to explore nature or play their favorite sport without having to worry about keys or any of their stuff. The Activity Key is an optional waterproof wearable band that acts as a secondary vehicle key. If you go to the beach, you can just wear the band to lock and unlock the F-Pace and leave the key fob safely inside the vehicle.
The F-Pace is one of those vehicles that looks better in person than in photographs. It has generous surface transitions, specifically in the body side that flatten out in 2D representations. The high belt line, or side glass window line, also gives the impression of a chunkier shape in photos versus in person. The exterior draws on elements from the F-Type sports car. It is a pretty good translation, especially from the back.
The F-Pace is one example in a category of SUVs that show how car tastes are evolving. This model, like some others, aims to check off a lot of boxes spanning the fun to practical scale. While Jaguar has appealed to an individualistic breed of buyers looking for something different, the F-Pace represents a move toward mass appeal. It is a vehicle capable of handling the tough stuff and still maintaining Jaguar’s on-road performance heritage. Its looks appeal to sports car dreams with a soul that speaks to practicality.
The Jaguar team went to great lengths to find and plan a really unique venue for the launch that complimented the F-Pace. Both Montenegro and the Aman Sveti Stefan were inspiring places to see in person for their natural and historic beauty.
Sveti Stefan Beachfront.
Jaguar floated out an F-Pace into the Adriatic Sea each day.
Aman Sveti Stefan, a remarkable resort perched on a rock.
Legend of Zelda-like walkways within Aman Sveti Stefan.
More of the amazing stone architecture dating to the 1300’s.
One of the best spots to take in the deep blue hue of the Adriatic Sea.
Photos: Dave Pinter, Jaguar