Jaguar Art of Performance Tour
Christchurch Motoring writer, Ben Selby was invited to Jaguar Art of Performance Tour.
When Archibalds Jaguar flicked this motoring scribe an email with an invite to the Christchurch chapter of Art of Performance Tour 2019, naturally the response was a resounding yes.
Wigram Air Force Base
The venue for this festival of g-force and tortured tyres was Wigram Air Force Base in, spoiler alert, Wigram. The runways and surrounding tarmac once played host to a squadron of Spitfires, Skyhawks and other man-made birds of prey. However, today the sound of Merlin V12’s and jet engines have ceased, what we have instead is the earth-shattering bellow of a supercharged Jaguar V8 and the eerie silence of high-speed electric motoring.
Now, that should have given you a clear indication as to which Jaguars would be at our disposal during the day. The line-up consisted of the mid-range supercharged F-Pace V6 S, the E-Pace R-Dynamic SE P250 AWD, the XE P300 AWD S, and the thunderous supercharged 5.0-litre V8 F-Pace SVR and F-Type SVR sports car. Plus, just when you thought it couldn’t get better, the award winning all electric I-Pace was on hand for special kind of experiment, but more on that in a bit.
The Art of Performance Tour consisted of two activity stations. First of these was a strip of runway fashioned into a slalom and high-speed ABS braking course. As you might imagine, the purpose of this exercise is to allow the driver to not only get a feel for the cat like reflexes and handling dynamics Jaguar is renowned for, but also learn vital skills which they can apply on the road in case of a real emergency.
The other section was Jaguar’s trademark ‘Smart Cone Challenge.’ The name of the challenge says exactly what it means, for each driver would be sent out one at a time, at the helm of either the XE or E-Pace, and negotiated a cone course which would be generated at random by computer. With a Jaguar racing driver to act as guide, the goal was to negotiate the course in the quickest and most accurate way possible, with points being deducted for lack of accuracy and time taken to complete.
After some refreshments upon arrival, and a quick safety briefing by the Jaguar drivers, it was time to get stuck in. We were split up into two groups, which were dictated by the colour of our name lanyard. My group was first up on the slalom course, time to mash that pedal firmly into the carpet
First car to experience was the mid-range F-Pace supercharged V6 S. With 380hp on tap, and one of the sweetest sounding six pot soundtracks around, it was quite a starting point. With racing driver Jason riding shot gun, he began to explain the details of the tasks which lay ahead. Planting boot we surged forward and I tried to keep the speed up through the slalom cones as best I could. The F-Pace does have a high riding stance due to its ability to climb almost every mountain and ford every stream, but even on tarmac, it still felt poised and planted with each change in direction.
Coming to a stop, the next part was to take off at full chat, stand as hard as you could on the F-Pace’s anchors and turn sharply right into a space market out with cones, replicating the real-life emergency stop with ABS. So, off we went. The revs climbed as we rocketed towards certain death, figuratively speaking that is, then at the very last moment, we slammed on the brakes, burying one’s right foot with all the strength one could muster, and we were stationary. The hazard lights began to flicker and it was over
We then reached the end of the runway and parked up, because now was the time to repeat the sections in reverse with the F-Type SVR, Jaguar’s angriest and fastest automotive adrenalin pump on sale today. The last time I tested an F-Type, it was the limited-edition Sport 400, and it was mighty impressive. The SVR however, was very much an F-Type, as Spinal Tap would say, turned all the way up to eleven.
Burying the throttle and the supercharged 5.0-litre V8 crackled and boomed like a far-off battlefield, while providing you with the kind of acceleration capable of rearranging your fillings. Before you know it, we arrived at the braking point for the emergency stop and swerve, considerably quicker than the F-Pace I might add. Staggering is too small a word when describing the F-Type SVR. After negotiating the slalom again, which it managed flawlessly, we arrived back at the start point, too soon though, for I just wanted more and more of SVR.
My wish was soon granted, for the final challenge was upon us, a drag race between the mighty F-Pace SVR, and the all-electric I-PACE. The I-PACE, which earnt the distinction of World Car of the Year, is the absolute pinnacle of Jaguar’s all electric technology, and to have one to play with on an empty airstrip was pretty darn special. Once lined up against the SVR, the countdown began, and then it was all go.
The first run driving the I-Pace, it was pretty impressive to see that a car consisting of lithium Ion batteries was keeping ‘pace’ with a supercharged V8 SUV. The first run we finished neck and neck, however for the return race, I swapped the I-Pace for the SVR, and managed to just sneak ahead by the finish, but only just.
After that, the adrenalin was going into overdrive when we headed over to the Smart Cone Challenge. The pressure was on to be as clean, concise and quick enough to gain enough points to finish with a high score, for the highest score of the day would receive a bottle of bubbly. Plus, the highest score of the tour in Christchurch, would be flown to Auckland for the ASB Tennis Classic, courtesy of Jaguar New Zealand.
Hopping into the beautiful XE P300 AWD, the racing driver along for the ride was none other than Paul Blomqvist, son of WRC and Group B Audi Quattro legend, Stig Blomqvist. Naturally, when you a driving with a son of the “Stig” you want to ensure you do your best. Negotiating the course was difficult at first as you were constantly on your toes as to where you should position the car, how much angle you should give in each turn, and how much speed you need to carry through each cone gate. Paul however, gave clear instructions and offered plenty of tips to improve my performance. The XE’s driving dynamics also deserve a mention, for this saloon is communicative and light on its feet.
After the first run, which resulted in a score of 48521 and an accuracy of 90 percent, we swapped the XE for the E-Pace P250 AWD. Maybe a car with a shorter wheelbase would prove to be an advantage in this situation? However, due to the over exuberance of this writer’s right foot and a faulty cone not lighting up to show the way, things were going well until I missed one of the last cones, before turning around and missing it again. Needless to say, that run meant the overall score wasn’t anything to shout about.
That aside, the Art of Performance Tour was the most exciting way to spend a Sunday morning. While there was no champagne resting in the door bin on the drive home, and I don’t expect to be watching the Tennis in Auckland anytime soon, just being able to drive the new Jaguar range in a controlled environment, and really push them as hard as you dare, is an experience everyone will love. The skills you pick up not only make you become aware of just how capable a modern performance car is, but also allow you to refine your own skills as a driver in the real world. You certainly don’t need to a car buff to have a blast at the Jaguar Art of Performance Tour. Oh, and there is still an adequate amount of tread left on the tyres, just saying.