'It's a Jag, baby': Behind the wheels at Jaguar Land Rover India's Art of Performance Tour
High-end performance standards in extreme conditions make the cars in Jaguar India’s portfolio as powerful, safe and reliable as they are luxurious and meant for the well-heeled.
The words might be familiar, but it takes a certain gravity of experience to make them sound right. “It’s a Jag.” That’s right, those are the words. And you’re allowed to say them again. “It’s a Jag.”
Matter of fact, last Saturday, I was saying those words over and over again, for an uncountable number of times. But I'm still trying to make them sound perfect. I'm afraid, the only way to do so, is from behind the wheel of a Jag, screaming your lungs out at a flat-out 150 kmph.
At Jaguar's The Art of Performance Tour, a handful of car enthusiasts, auto scribes and joyriders like me got to do exactly that, in the iconic Jaguar F-Type coupé, in speed runs on the test tracks of the WABCO Proving Grounds, near Sriperumbudur. (These ‘proving’ grounds are meant for automotive testing, commonly of trucks and heavy-duty vehicles.)
Admittedly, I was accompanied by a professional — an aspiring race driver, I was told — with his finger on the power hand brake; you know, just in case. While the car itself easily clocks a cool top speed of 275 kmph, our personal manual limiters riding alongside did ensure that we kept our thrills in check.
Despite that, for the handful of us Jaguar rookies, the speed dashes made for a few howling rides. At nought to 100 kmph in less than a hair-scorching five seconds, your screams are engulfed and drowned out by the ear-splitting roar of the engine: the roar becomes your voice. That’s how the magic words are meant to sound, like a beastly growl unleashed from deep within.
The coupé runneth over
Turning around at the end of the tarmac stretch, with gasping, appreciative pats on the wheel, I drove back easy for the rest of the course, which includes some extreme hair-raising segments, especially in high-speed and hard-braking runs over wet conditions.
The tour, designed as an experience package for drivers to get a feel of Jaguar Land Rover India’s models, lets you get a few hoots out of careening about in the elegant cars. Each of us took turns driving every model in the Jaguar Land Rover India portfolio — the newly launched compact XE, the XF and XJ luxury variants, and the F-PACE sport utility vehicle, apart from the F-TYPE coupé racer.
When it comes to driving experience, the unifying factor among all the Jaguars is about ease, reliability and sharp controls. Each of the Jaguars are eminently placed when it comes to luxury, but the focus of our tour was on performance — and it helps to know that you’re in the best hands possible, when it comes to safety measures.
To make things interesting, we were put through spots of mixed conditions — dry and wet, to test out the cars’ performance and braking. The superior technology, we found, results in the car’s brakes shifting all the pressure on the dry side, effectively bringing the moving vehicle to a grinding halt, even in partly icy or slippery terrain.
The full-size Jaguar XJ (5,000 cc, V8 supercharged, 177 to 221 kW horsepower), the automaker’s pinnacle saloon car, which stands at just under 17 feet in length, turns out to be remarkably nimble and easy to drive, with an improbable turning radius, and exceptionally responsive handling.
The bottomline of the experience, it does appear, is that you’d do really well to be chauffeured around in a Jaguar, but then again, you wouldn’t be getting too far without actually getting behind the wheel. In other words, the Jaguars are as much about driving pleasure, as they are about a superior executive means to commute.
On a slalom segment of the tour, as we got to throw the cars around in zig-zags over a winding stretch, the bigger Jaguars came through like trained mammoths rollicking on roller blades — never once slipping off balance, and reassuredly grounded on every inch of the way. For drivers on unpredictable Indian roads and terrain, that’s a crucial point to make note of.
In a high-speed lane-change segment of the course, the big cars never once seemed too ungainly, or difficult to handle. On the contrary, as a driver, you’re left feeling pampered like a scallywag with more toys than he can play with.
The F-PACE SUV is a fine addition to the Jaguar line, and just as compact, luxurious and powerful as its siblings (with the same ZF 8HP 8-speed automatic transmission as the XE, and a six-speed ZF manual gearbox available on the diesel models). On the slaloms, the F-PACE never once feels like it might tip over, even at the most extreme speeds, over the sharpest turns.
That’s a heartening point to note for passenger safety, over the luxury aspects such as of an upgraded InControl Touch Pro system, a virtual instrument cluster, and satellite navigation, apart from various other engine, gear shift, steering, and suspension settings.
Notably, the F-PACE comes packed with a double wishbone suspension at the front (similar to XF and F-Type) combined with an Integral Link rear suspension system. To throw in more jargon, you also have Torque Vectoring and an Electric Power Assisted Steering system, apart from greatly reduced body weight, given a structure of 80 per cent aluminium, composite tailgate and magnesium parts, such as the cross-car beam. All that goes a long way to bestow the F-PACE with prodigious handling and ride quality.
At the end of the day, there will be reams of paeans to be written about the Jaguars, and the engines under the hood. The question of owning one would, of course, seal the ultimate driving experience.
Look out for The Art of Performance Tour across cities in India. The Jaguar Land Rover India range includes XE (starts at INR 35.99 lakh), XF (INR 49.80 lakh), XJ (INR 100.80 lakh), F-PACE (INR 60.02 Lakh), and F-TYPE (INR 134.33 lakh). All prices are ex-showroom.