Set against the backdrop of the majestic Sahayadri mountains, the Aamby Valley airstrip is as calm as calm can be. But that doesn't last very long. The serenity is soon obliterated by a loud, ripping, snarling roar that only grows in pitch and amplitude, and what you see is a red blur racing away in the distance.
We are at ‘The Art of Performance Tour’ by Jaguar and that red blur was the prodigious F-Type R Coupe. The event is a travelling performance workshop that aims to provide an experience to highlight two of the brand’s core traits –grace and pace. Joining the F-Type Coupe in this soirée is the rest of Jaguar India’s line-up – the XE, XF, XJ-L, F-Pace, and F-Type S, each of them with design cues typical of the brand including the large chrome grilles, cat-eye headlamps and low-slung silhouettes. Out of these, its the XE, XF and F-Pace that are the freshest of the bunch while the XJ, though still distinctive in its class, is starting to look a little bit dated now.
The airstrip has been demarcated to experience three different aspects of capabilities – acceleration, handling and braking.
First up is the acceleration run and here I get to sample the F-Type. Its gorgeous lines are more stunning in flesh, and I see why this is one of the best-looking cars in the world. As I strap myself inside, I notice that the exquisite design extends to the interiors as well with its airplane-like cockpit feeling at home on the pilot’s runway. One cool detail on all the Jaguars is the welcome gesture, where turning on the ignition causes the AC vents to revolve open and gear selector dial to rise.
Heading towards the start line with both hands on the steering wheel and right foot nursing the gas pedal, I can feel my heart pumping in anticipation. "Go," says the accompanying instructor – I press pedal to metal and what I experience next is nothing short of brutal. I'm pinned to the back of the seat while 0-100kph hurtles past with 200kph fast approaching. All this while, there's that growling and snapping chorus of the supercharged 550hp V8 and a broad grin plastered on my face. For the return run, we switch to the slightly ‘less’ powerful convertible which also delivers high levels of performance.
Next we hit the slalom to showcase the handling prowess of Jaguar cars. Here I get to sample the company's entire line-up of luxury sedans and the F-Pace SUV. Driving the XE and XF through the course is easy as they take the quick direction changes in their stride. However, what's noteworthy is the performance of the large XJ sedan and the F-Pace SUV as they seem to shrink in size without feeling unsettled as we drive through the slalom. Of course, in the interests of safety, ESP remains on at all times.
The final course turns out to be a driving simulation that emulates an emergency braking situation, and here too, Jaguar’s mainstream line-up proves to be more than able to handle the manoeuvre.
During the event, we got to sample a range of Jaguar’s engines including the petrol and diesel 2.0-litre Ingenium and 3.0 V6, as well as the supercharged petrol V8 in the F-Type. My pick is the 3.0-litre V6 diesel with its impressive performance and low NVH characteristics. All the engines are mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission that can be controlled via a rotary dial on the console, with an option of shifting gears via steering-mounted paddles. The cars' interiors reflect Jaguar’s minimalistic approach to design, with clean, uncluttered surfaces, and lots of leather. The newer models (XE, XF and F-Pace) also get the new Incontrol infotainment system. The quality is good too thanks to the high-quality of materials used, but there are certain plastic bits that could feel a bit dodgy.
Jaguar’s Art of Performance Tour lived up to the expectation of being a showcase of its product philosophy and performance credentials. To spread the brand promise even further, the company has been taking the workshop to various cities across the country.