Although Jaguar Landrover claims that its first ever Sports Utility Vehicle is endowed for all terrains, Motoring World International’s Editor-in-chief, FEMI OWOEYE, who test-drove the machine recently on and off the road in South Africa, discovers the truth…
“I’ve got so much things to say right now;
I’ve got so much things to say.
I’ve got so much things to say right now;
I’ve got so much things to say.”
Above modified lyrics of the late Bob Marley are in line with my recent experience during the 2016 South Africa Festival of Motoring, which I attended. Even as I tap the buttons of my lap top, reeling out this story, too many things ring up in my memory, not just about the Festival, but my experience 100s of kilometres away from Kyalami Circuit. Call them distant attractions, if you like.
True, I traveled that far, driving the new Jaguar F-Pace. Imagine, apart from being face to face with a lonely lion, I crossed a rough and flooded culvert, stopped over at very historical site and indeed had opportunity to push the F-Pace through its pace. See what I mean?
It was first day of the ninth month in the year 2016 AD and the take off point was the car park of City Lodge Hotel, Waterfall City, where I lodged for two nights.
The day’s event was a combination of test-drive with auto tourism. Breakfast time was followed by a digital briefing on the first floor of the hotel; and we toddled to the car park, only to meet at least six Jaguar F-Pace SUVs confidently waiting for whoever wanted to challenge their capability.
Before zooming off, let’s get this right. F-Pace is a Crossover sharing certain part of its DNA with Jaguar XE and XF, talking about development of largely adaptable lightweight aluminium architecture. But it is wide and taller than both. It is even wider than the Mercedes-Benz GLS and indeed Lamborghini Huracan. And it is chubbier than Porsch Maccan.
Two factors that have helped its overall proportion are short overhangs and munificent hips. Personally, facing the F-Pace before popping in at all, what I saw standing before me was a big car. But, because of its 80% aluminium structure, the version I drove weighs 80% less than its competitors.
Comfort and Space
Inside the F-Pace is spacious, as claimed by its maker. Sitting behind the wheel, I had generous legroom, shoulder room and headroom. It has got 650 litres of boot space with the rear seats up or 1,740 litres with them folded. And I tell you something. Jaguar’s claim that F-Pace’s Rear Legroom is class-leading is not far from the truth.
Before take-off, I was informed we would cover a distance of over 200 kilometres on the road and off-the-road. So I knew I was set for a journey covering a distance likened to travelling from Lagos to Ekiti State capital in Nigeria, which I had experienced severally, driving my LandRover Freelander. The only difference is that I was about to do so in an unfamiliar environment – Johannesburg in South Africa. I did not only have on board John Panas, who is no stranger to the terrain, there was also a two-way radio communication gadget, through which we received messages about direction, more like a Tom Tom.
Another thing is, just like United Kingdom, South Africans still drive right hand vehicles on the left side of the road. But, for me it was not so much a problem, given my driving experience in the United Kingdom too.
Now then, seats adjusted, seat belt activated, I punched the keyless starting button and the F-Pace answered. I turned its digital knob to Drive mode and off we went, driving through Allendale, pacing through M14, which, I learnt was recently resurfaced, all cruising towards Pretoria.
Although there are cameras along the road, which prevented one from being able to try F-Pace’s over 200km/hour claimed top speed, assisted by constant caution from John Panas, I managed to push the F-Pace through to 145km/hour.
More than that, throughout the trip, one enjoyed a palpable sense of adventure that one experienced from the moment we took off from the hotel till we returned about 1600 hours.
Yes, before I forget, the road trip was a combination of road test and auto tourism. So, before I tell you how fast, roomy, beautiful, rugged or equipped the F-pace is, I can’t wait to recall few destinations and encounters.
The Gorgeous Lion: Yep! At a point, during our return journey, we sighted a lonely lion, in all its glory, walking majestically
behind a barbwire fence. We pulled over to rest a little bit and feed our eyes. I love that sight. I wondered why there were no other animals on sight, aside the lonely king of the jungle. So the lion noticed us, but was not in a hurry to fade away. It was as if, upon sighting the Jaguar F-Pace, it said to itself: “Well, this looks like a massive moving statue of my cousins. But who cares...”
Café Alexandre Experience: We stopped over at French Toast café, a structure built specially as an
official bar in a film: “French Toast”. In the Movies, it is actually known as café Alexandre. As at then, we had covered over 70 kilometres from take-off. A bit warmer, the environment smells feels and looks like Paris. We seated at a table outside the bar.
But before cooling off with drinks, I had a reason to get up and wonder around. Why? My attention was drawn by a magnificent 12.5m tower located by the Eastern end of the café. It is known as Eiffel Tower erected on what is known as Love Lock Bridge.
Like the Biblical Moses did towards the burning bush, I made a quick visit to the site. Face to face with the tower, my camera went clicking, not because of a mere tower. It is a tower of padlocks, locks everywhere, some across the top and most by the railings running onto to tower.
Curiously, I wondered what the locks were all about. Flashed through my mind was the Biblical command, “Seek and ye shall find.” Not long, I found out that the Lock Bridge is a place, where lovers lock up padlocks of their loved ones.
“We started with one lock,” narrated a staff, who answered questions about the bridge. “Now the whole bridge is almost covered with locks.”
“What if someone breaks up with his or her lover, would he be allowed to unlock the padlock?” I asked.
“It happens, but we have had experiences in which some came to unlock their love lock, but found it impossible, because having been under the rain and sunshine for years, the lock has got so rusty and stiff that it can no longer be unlocked unless it is cut off.”
After photo snapping, some menu and soft drinks, we swapped cars. I jumped inside my F-Pace, heading for final part of our journey – off road. How did the F-pace behave?
Hold your breath; I shall definitely come to that.
Ride and handling
Like England, South African roads are equipped with ambushes of speed cameras. Thanks to John Panas, a JLD technical personnel, who was on the front passenger’s seat throughout the trip. He constantly alerted me of speed cameras.
Notwithstanding, on the highway, while F-Pace claims a top speed of over 200km/hour, I managed to push it above 140 km/hour.
Its throttle proved sharp. For about a second its changing from one gear to another feels as if being held down, which is insignificant. Once the F-Pace gets going, there is no stopping it. And whenever we were slowed down and stopped for traffic, F-Pace engine automatically stopped idling. But as soon as I stepped on the gas pedal, it came back alive, F-Pace’s clever way of saving fuel.
While cornering with speed, feedback from its steering is impressive with minimal bodyroll. But driving on a smooth and straight road, the F-Pace responds with sleek and sporty character, almost like an F-Type.
Heading for another fascinating location known as the Cradle of Humankind, we veered completely off tarred road, onto a pot-holed, snaky and sandy road. For the new JLD SUV, it was not a problem. At that point, I imagined driving an F-Type, which I test-drove in Lagos 2015. Although Mr. Panas of JLD consistently cautioned that I should take things easy; I sometimes deliberately pushed beyond caution. The F-Pace proved some points, maintaining a safe stride, despite being a Crossover.
At a point, I found myself driving through a rough road that looks more like a footpath. Not meant to take two vehicles, it’s a route to one of the world’s most historical sites.
The Cradle of Mankind : Towards this historical site, we reached a point, where vehicles can no longer get through. We were within the terrain of The Cradle of Humankind, a place that was in 1999 declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. Located about 50 kilometers Northwest of Johannesburg, South Africa in the Gauteng province, the breathtaking location, I learnt, occupies 47,000 hectares (180 sq mi) and contains a complex of limestone caves.
We did not get to the main site. We stopped at what looked like an ancient restaurant, a structure planted within a splendor of breathtaking landscape which we arrived at about 13:30 hours. As at then, the weather was about 24 degree Centigrade; cool breeze blew against my face from direction of an undulating mountain overlooking the restaurant.
Although the narrow road to the Cradle of mankind is rough enough, driving over potholes and contour-ridden road leading to the location was not so bad. Noise level also was low and pleasant, thanks to the car’s extra suspension.
But one must credit the F-Pace; we cruised over stones almost as big as a football, dropped into all manners of potholes. But not to worry, the F-Pace has enough ground clearance to accommodate them, just as its supercharged engine remained undaunted.
On the road, off-the road, across the bridge, even on a flooded terrain, the Jaguar F-Pace confirmed what JLD’s Andy Whyman said: “F-Pace is our most practical car ever. We call it our practical sports car.”
With the new F-Pace, JLD has truly created an auto machine with a sense of style, for the car is truly a combination of space and style. And the journey I had with it was indeed an adventure.
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