Iconic British brands Jaguar and Land Rover are regal rides. Even the Queen’s favourite vehicles are Land Rover models. But officials are trying to shift the focus from luxury and elegance to power and performance. To showcase their vehicles, Jaguar Land Rover hit the road for its “Art of Performance Tour” across Canada to prove Jags and Land Rovers aren’t just beauties to behold, but high-performance machines. The four-city tour, which included stops in Vancouver, Calgary, Montreal, and two locations in Toronto, wrapped up on October 23, 2016. Approximately 2,700 participants, including invited guests and media, had a chance to put the all-new 2017 Jaguar XE sedan, the Jaguar F-Type sports coupe and Jaguar’s first-ever SUV – the 2017 F-Pace – through their paces.
Ontario Place in Toronto was the last stop on the tour. Nestled in the back parking lot were four makeshift courses to test the Jags and the off-road capabilities of the Land Rover Range Rover Sport SUV. It resembled an amusement park for big kids. And a little rain didn’t stop the fun – it only accelerated it.
Cones were scattered across the parking lot for the first exercise dubbed the “smart cone challenge”. The goal: aim for the flashing green LED lights that change in the blink of an eye. Drivers were measured by time, distance and accuracy over several laps behind the wheel of a Jaguar XE. One of the best drivers was a newbie, Natacha Dupuis, Invictus Games Team Canada co-captain. She’s an injured soldier suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and a representative of the 2017 Invictus Games Toronto, which are games geared toward wounded, injured and sick servicemen and women, established by Prince Harry in 2014.
“Today was my first time driving a Jaguar and Land Rover,” confesses Dupuis, adrenaline running high after her laps on the smart cone course. “From what I heard, I placed number one on the driving course so that was really exciting! The Invictus Games in Toronto 2017 will also have a driving course challenge by Jaguar Land Rover. Hopefully I make the team and place first again!” she says excitedly.
“I never had a chance to drive such a high-end, quality car so it was really surprising how different it is from my little Honda CR-Z, a very small car. It was a different feeling. It was a really good feeling. If I had the means I would get out of here with a Jag!” she laughs.
The Jaguar XE is the big cat’s new compact sedan designed to attract a younger buyer to the brand. “The one thing that Jag is getting over is the image of the old man’s car. This is definitely not the old man’s car. They say if the same buyer that was buying the cars in the past continue to buy them, the brand will die with those people so they have to get new types of customers, younger customers,” says Robin Buck, Chief Driving Instructor, Jaguar Canada.
The Jaguar F-Type is the car to attract younger buyers. “The F-Type is the ultimate in sports cars!” boasts Buck, before he introduces me to another instructor who will ride shotgun with me on the dynamic demonstration course. My ride is an F-Type R powered by a 5.0L supercharged V8 engine with 550 ponies and 502 lb-ft of torque. At the gate, I nail the throttle hard and weave through the cones quickly. This sports coupe can hit 0 to 100 clicks in only 4.1 seconds en route to a top speed of 300 km/hr. It’s agile, nimble and fun to push on the course. After my last lap, the instructor turns and gives me a high five. “Wow! That was great – no pylons knocked down! I’ll take off my seatbelt ’cause you should be sitting in my seat!” Then, he rolls down the passenger window, bragging to the other instructors nearby, ‘Did you see that? It almost got away from her at the end, but she got it back!’”
I drive along the same route, but this time in an F-Pace. Granted, it’s not as exhilarating as the F-Type, but it’s still impressive for an SUV. “It’s only 3,900 pounds. That’s very light for a vehicle, especially a vehicle in this class. It’s very nimble and it doesn’t have that heaviness you’d associate with an SUV,” says Buck. He’s right. This Jag SUV is dynamic and spirited – it feels like you’re driving a little sports car and not a taller SUV.
The final exercise is not for the faint of heart or those who fear heights. It’s a high, steep ramp to test the Range Rover Sport’s off-roading abilities. Unfortunately I can’t drive it – that’s reserved for trained instructors like Lynda Melanson. Still, it’s scary and impressive riding in the back seat as we climb the steep ramp gingerly. “When we’re going up we’ll be using Rock Crawl to preload the systems and I’ll be using a new technology that we have in the Range Rover Sport called the All-Terrain Progress Control. It manages the throttle on all types of terrain. The vehicle will manage the amount of travel necessary to get over that obstacle,” says Melanson. On the drive down, she relies on the hill descent control system to travel slowly, about 2 km/h, without applying the brake or throttle – the vehicle does everything for you.
Clearly, the demo proved Range Rover is still an off-roading icon with impressive technology; while the Jaguar lineup embodies elegance and serious power. But one question remains: who were the better drivers on the tour – Torontonians or western Canadians? “I’m biased. I’m from Toronto I’d have to say Toronto, for sure. But right across the country we’ve had great response. We’ve had a lot of people who are just blown away by the vehicles,” boasts Buck.