Marketers have an arsenal of weapons at their disposal to influence purchase behaviour, but for carmakers there is nothing better than putting consumers behind the wheel—especially when those consumers are car enthusiasts, and that wheel is fixed to a fast and capable car being driven in extreme conditions.
That’s why this year, Jaguar and Land Rover launched the Art of Performance Tour, a cross-country road show where car buyers can experience the brands in a fun and friendly environment, far away from their dealer’s showroom.
(In fact, there aren’t any sales staff on site at any stop on the Art Of Performance Tour, and, even if you fall in love with the latest Jaguar XE, as I did, you can’t buy one. On-site, you’ll find only brand ambassadors who are more than willing to answer any product questions guests may have.)
The rebirth of Jaguar and Land Rover
Both Jaguar and Land Rover brands are in the midst of their respective modern Renaissances. Jaguar is on a roll, following up the success of the F-Type sports coupe with the launches of its new F-Pace sport utility and the all-new entry-level executive sedan, the XE. In the luxury segment, sport utilities are a licence to print money (did you ever think Porsche would make SUVs?).
Jaguar’s new XE sedan is an exciting new option for buyers, one that’s more emotional and even sensual, compared to the staid offerings from Germany. The XE is aimed squarely at the small luxury sedan segment that’s filled with competent and capable four-doors like the BMW 3 Series and Mercedes-Benz C-Class, but the Jaguar takes a different tack with a design that’s grounded more in emotion rather than function.
Land Rovers are immensely capable off-road vehicles, and our last test of the Range Rover Td6 was done entirely on dirt and mud. Range Rovers give your drive a sense of occasion, and with its tall seating position, your view is commanding while being coddled in an opulently finished cabin. Until the introduction of Bentley’s Bentayga, the Range Rover was the only choice for a true luxe sport utility.
While I’ve tested the full lines of Jaguar and Land Rover over recent years, the Tour was my first opportunity to not just drive the XE and F-Pace, but give them a good hustle in controlled conditions. While parking lot courses aren’t my favourite places to play with cars, the Tour offers plenty of performance-oriented seat time.
Appreciating the Art of Performance
When you arrive at the venue, you check in with registration, and I was even offered a coffee while I was waiting. The hospitality area is modern and inviting with plenty of opportunity to speak with brand ambassadors and inspect the latest Jaguar and Land Rover models on display. The Tour experience lasts about three hours and during that time, you and your group traverse from station to station.
Mine started with an autocross-style experience in the F-Pace sport utility, and like all driving stations, it was staffed with driving professionals, all of whom have extensive racing and instructing experience.
Unfortunately, the F-Pace course wasn’t timed (who doesn’t like healthy competition?), but there was an abundant amount of time for me to explore the dynamics of the sport utility.
As it turns out, the F-Pace puts the “sport” in “sport utility” because it’s got enough power to make it exciting, corners flat enough to make you think it’s a sports car, and steers with fantastic precision. Near its limits, the F-Pace settles into benign understeer, as expected, but anywhere below those limits its dynamics are satisfying for those drivers who enjoy performance.
My group next moved to the road car autocross which featured Jaguar’s portfolio of road cars, save the big XJ executive sedan. For any enthusiast, this is the most exciting exercise because you have the chance to explore all five hundred horses of the gorgeous F-Type coupe.
The new XE captured all of my attention and, again, the amount of seat time was excellent. What’s really surprising about the XE is that, at least in a parking lot environment, its on-limit balance is remarkably neutral, with a hint of easily corrected understeer. For an all-new effort from Jaguar, I came away massively impressed.
Next-level autocross and parking lot off-roading
A clever exercise that Jaguar is now rolling out globally is a timed autocross using “smart” pylons. In a relatively small space, these interconnected cones change from green to blue as you pass through gates. Each driver is scored based on time, distance traveled, and precision.
Aggression does not pay dividends, as this driver finished seventh overall that day. Since this course can be set up anywhere around the world, drivers from Jaguar events around the world will earn a global ranking.
For the event’s most dramatic exercise, I had to give up the driver’s seat to an off-roading professional. While I’m up for just about anything on four wheels, climbing the off-road simulator you see in the accompanying gallery would have me screaming for more autocross.
The angles this Range Rover was able to climb and descend was greater than anything I’ve ever experienced. While most Range Rover owners will never experience extreme conditions like these, it’s nice to know the big SUV can be called in for duty should the occasion arise.
The Art of Performance Tour certainly isn’t inexpensive to produce, but it’s perhaps the best way to put car buyers, and especially those new to the brands, behind the wheel of the latest Jaguars and Land Rovers.
From a guest’s perspective, being able to throw the latest Jaguars around a bunch of tight turns is some decadent icing on this cake. If you’re fortunate enough to be invited totThe Art of Performance Tour, don’t hesitate.