A Day on the Jaguar Art of Performance Tour

It’s becoming increasingly evident with every new model that the best thing to ever happen to Jaguar Land Rover is its sale to Indian company, Tata Motors Limited. Like an absentee landlord, previous owner, Ford, offloaded the storied British marques in 2008 and many wondered what would become of JLR.

With some autocross history in my background, I had hoped for a better showing...

As it happens, plenty.

Jaguar Land Rover is in the midst of unveiling a litany of new machines on the global markets and each one seems poised to seriously dent the sales of other high-end automotive brands. Need proof? The sales of two smart new models: the Jaguar XE compact luxury sedan and F-Pace compact luxury SUV are on track to sell more units in Canada this year than all models of Jaguar and Land Rover combined when Tata took over the company only eight years ago.

The stunningly-gorgeous F-Type sports car has been updated for 2018, as has the flagship XJ sedan. The XF mid-size sedan was updated last year as well.

But there’s more. Next year there’ll be the new I-Pace electric car that promises Tesla range and F-Type performance. Heck, Jaguar’s even heavily investing in Formula-E racing (along with other serious performance brands like Porsche, BMW, Mercedes and Audi).

Globally, Jaguar is presenting its machines to those who are familiar with the brand, and those who have maybe never considered the leaping-cat cars, at a series of events they call the Jaguar Art of Performance Tour.

In Canada, we’re being graced with four stops: Montreal, Toronto, Edmonton and Vancouver. The Toronto stop, stationed in the expansive parking lot at Woodbine Racetrack included examples of each model. The brand-spankin’-new E-Pace compact SUV and a host of others were on hand to be pored over and explored.

Sister-brand, Land Rover had each of their models present too, including the new Range Rover Velar.

Upon walking up to the tents, it’s easy to be drawn straight past the static displays for the siren song of the F-Type SVR roadsters being whipped around a makeshift road course. With professional drivers at the wheel, registered guests were offered thrill rides in the vision-blurring, 575 hp sports cars as they worked their expensive tires into rubber dust, lap-after-lap.

Equally enthralling, Land Rover had a display featuring a trio of new Discovery models showing off their agility in another way. Rather than being flogged at tire-torturing speeds, the Discos were putting their off-road prowess on show, climbing over the automotive equivalent of a jungle gym. Crawling up a 27-degree incline on an angle, instructors from the Land Rover Driving Experience Centre at Montebello, Quebec demonstrated the vehicle’s rigidity and impressive camera systems, enabling the SUV to be perfectly balanced on the tires of two opposing corners. Similarly, the Discovery was driven up a second structure to demonstrate the Rover’s ability to direct power to wheels with grip, leaving two wheels in the air.

After a warm-up of sorts in Jaguar F-Pace SUVs on a simple auto-cross course, we were turned loose, one at a time, in Jaguar XE sport sedans for a friendly competition amongst the automotive media on hand. A second autocross-style course had been set up with “smart cones”. These cones look like tiny, white tents with LED lights atop them.

The Jaguars were fitted with military-grade GPS sensors and transponders to send data back to the main computer that measured time from gate-to-gate, distance travelled, and precision (with drivers trying to pass between the cones exactly in the middle). Even weather conditions are recorded to help devise a final score. The catch is that the pattern of gates is random, meaning that you can’t plot your next few gates ahead in your mind, nor can you try to clip the corners at the apex.

With some autocross history in my background, I had hoped for a better showing, but got completely stymied by going through a blue-light gate instead of a green one, costing me valuable time and distance points. Ultimately, my score wasn’t at the bottom of the heap, but it wasn’t far off. If only I’d had a second try at it…

Of note, fellow autoTRADER.ca contributor, Stephanie Wallcraft ran a particularly clean and skillful session, earning herself the bronze medal amongst the sizable media contingent present.

The Jaguar Art of Performance Tour is a meaningful way for Jaguar to engage each past, present and potential owners in a fun environment that enables demonstration of the considerable performance capabilities of their vehicles not possible on traditional test drives. And away from any potential sales pressure.

The tour continues in Toronto until October 9th, with upcoming stops in Edmonton (Oct. 19 – 21), and Vancouver (Oct. 26 – 29). Registration can be done online at Jaguar.ca.

 

Paws to the wall. 10/19/2017 1:00:09 PM